Friday, December 18, 2009

Never fear! Garden gifts if the garden is all closed up

Now, before you say to yourself, "I've already done the end-of-the-year chores, AND it's snowing!" there are some options if you can't get gifts from your own garden this year.

Head over to the Farmer's Market to check out the selection of herbs still on hand. These may already be dried and prettily packaged to boot! Without a doubt, lots of other terrific gift items will be available for perusal, too.

According to the Farmer's Marketer (check out What's at the Market This Week on the left), it looks like apples galore can still be found. Why not whip up a batch or two of applesauce, can or freeze it and give it away? Talk about a refreshing taste of sunshine when the temperatures drop!

Create a tea blend from the great selection of herbs at a bulk grocery store section like the one at the People's Food Coop or Arbor Farms.

Make a super top secret hot cocoa mix for friends and family. Just think of how much fun you'll have "testing" the different recipes! (This could also be done while catching up on garden reading...and ok, you can't grow cocoa ingredients in your garden, but it's still homemade and still yummy.)

Amaryllis make a great gift for everyone from the non-gardener to the novice gardener to the botanist on your list. The thrill of watching the leaves emerge and the final trumpets of color move even the most curmudgeonly.

Give a selection of herbs for the windowsill. Fresh herbs are even better than dried ones, and the cheerful green leaves will be a welcome sight in anyone's home. Tailor the herb selection (seeds or seedlings) to the person in question, along with a cute pot or two. How much fun is that?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review of New Gardening Books

Just in time as a follow-up to a recent post on gardening books comes this review from the New York Times. Reviewed are a total of 10 new books covering a range of topics - landscape gardening in Japan, historic gardens in England and America, parks and urban landscaping, bulbs, and good old fashioned garden reference - to match the whims and interests of any gardener.

And for those wanting a list of more recent vegetable-focused books, check out this terrific compilation/review from Spring. Reviewing and summarizing 12 books in total, this list would make a wonderful check list for building a gardening library.

And finally, for the whipper-snapper's on your list who might be shy (or even those who are not!) about gardening, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, is sure to inspire everyone.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gifts from the garden

As gift-giving season fast approaches, the stress of remembering who's on the list, what they like or don't like, not to mention the cost of many items can make the season more stressful than might be ideal. Here are a few ideas for this year (or to keep in mind for next year!) to ease the situation.

Dried herbs.
Dried herbs make fantastic presents! Whether it's a sprig of rosemary, a sweet little jar of oregano, dried mint and lemon balm for tea, or lavender sachets for a drawer or for a plunge in the bath, these are sure to delight. Drying herbs is easy as hanging them up to dry in the house or popping them in a low, low oven spread out on a cookie sheet.

Garden preserves.
If you've got a nice bundle of goodies canned, dried, or frozen consider dolling up the packaging a bit and giving them as gifts. Dried tomatoes (or tomato chips!) make a fantastic present that could probably be given multiple years in a row without any complaints, not too mention some of that pesto in the freezer!

Garden crafts.
How about a wreath from the wild grapevine growing along the back fence? Or a bouquet of dried flowers? How about some seeds saved from a garden favorite? Here's a good list of ideas and how to do them, or check out this upcoming movie about handmade gifts and crafts to release that crafty gene just lurking in your veins!

More Ideas?
Send along some of your favorite garden gift ideas. We'd love to hear how you share the bounty of the garden during the holidays.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A garden reading list

A great joy of northern gardening is the off-season. While the cold winds blow and the last of the leftover turkey simmers in the soup on the stove it's a great time to do a little reading. The following list of a few good new, old, and revised gardening classics should be a great start.

Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron L. Engeland.
Filaree Productions, 1995.
Considered a classic and must-have for anyone growing garlic, Engeland offers detailed information on more than 200 varieties of garlic along with instructions on how to go about growing a terrific harvest.

The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds by Amy Goldman.
Artisan, 2004.
The second of Goldman's three books on gardening and heirloom varieties, The Compleat Squash is a must-read for anyone wanting to meet other members of the Cucurbita family. Recipes, growing information, and other fascinating tidbits about these New World vegetables abound in this beautiful and informative book.

The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (Revised Edition) by Eliot Coleman.
Chelsea Green, 1995.
Another definitive work from the author who brought us the Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook, Coleman in this revised edition of offers even more detailed instruction and advice for those growing organically in smaller spaces.

The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy Without Chemicals edited by Barbara Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley.
Rodale Press, 1996.
Pests and disease can visit any garden and wreak a bit of havoc. This book, edited by two extremely experienced, knowledgeable, and engaging gardeners and garden writers, offers time-tested solutions for maintaining an organic garden while identifying and managing a few troublemakers.