’Tis the Season’: WSU Master Gardeners share garden gift ideas

By Mary Fran McClure
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener

Wheelbarrow with bush for transplanting.
WSU Master Gardener Mary Fran McClure’s hori hori knife with a serrated edge is great at slicing into a rootbound plant as pictured, plus digging, measuring spaces and many other handy projects. This same well-made wood-handled knife has been a mainstay for McClure for at least 30 years and is still going strong. – Provided photo/Mary Fran McClure
Mary Fran McClure
Mary Fran McClure – WSU Extension Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – photo by Don Seabrook, Wenatchee World

“Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a hori hori” was the headline of my garden gift column 14 years ago. This year, it remains the same, as 18 WSU Master Gardeners quickly answered my email request for their favorite gardening gifts. Nearly half included that ever popular and useful Japanese farmer’s knife.

“The hori hori knife is the one garden tool that I never knew I needed,” states Russ Hemphill, who received one as a birthday gift this summer. Anne Dubosky explains how it’s marvelous at rooting weeds out, removing rose suckers using its serrated edge and even measuring distances between bulbs for planting. Mine has a wood handle with a 6 ½-inch blade and remains sturdy and useful after some 30 years of usage.

We all recommend going for high quality but more expensive hand pruners. “A few quality tools are better than many cheap ones,” says Mike Hammer. “… A decent hand pruner will change your life.” Be aware there are pruner sizes to fit various sized gardeners, as Susan Peterson emphasizes.

Master Gardener policy is not recommending a specific brand, although we’re serious gardeners and generally find the best quality items stay sharp, last longest and are valued long-term investments, albeit more expensive. That goes for loppers, pruners and those tools that are used day in and day out.

For instance, small snipping tools make harvesting vegetables and flowers easy, advises Andy Kahn. His has a long-tapered tip and is light weight, strong and stays sharp.

Other recommended tools include a tulip-shaped trowel made in Holland — a favorite of Mark Kulaas. Susie Stenkamp, Cheri Garrett, Mona Kaiser and Craig Lawrence recommend claw-like weeders of various names. Some have one claw, while others are multi-pronged. Their pulling action helps root out weeds, dig, or even remove river rock from tough places.

A couple of saws are helpful for me. The Japanese saw is excellent at cutting small branches with its fine teeth, while a root saw with jagged teeth is great for down-and-dirty projects.

Gauntlet gloves are important in tackling rose bushes. They protect arms as well as hands for tough, prickly jobs.

Garden vests and aprons with multiple pockets are helpful. Linda Herrington says, “After too many frustrating garden outings when I inadvertently laid aside a tool … I bought a multi-pocketed gardener’s apron. Voila! No more lost tools!”

Drip irrigation supplies are handy kept in an organizer, such as a fishing tackle or bead box, according to Marilee Smith-Lorenson. “They have many little cubbies for all the different parts and tools necessary.”

Terra cotta plant watering spikes are winners for Martha Bean, as well as high-quality, seed-starting trays and self-watering seedling pots.

Yet another category of handy garden items includes garden harvest totes and small tarps with sewed corners. Kathi Scheibner says she likes her garden totes because they’re ridged enough to stand up when being filled, easy to carry and can be rinsed off at the end of a project.

Books are always a nice gift and Linda Christianson recommends “Gardening for a Lifetime; How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older,” by Sydney Eddison. Another book recommended by Bean is “Gardening in the Inland Northwest,” a WSU/Master Gardener publication.

An unusual idea comes from Nancy Murphy, who recommends a good wireless speaker that can be carried outside to provide music or radio listening while gardening or just relaxing on the front porch.

All in all, a great group of suggestions that may help you sort out just the right gifts for those gardeners on your gift list.

A WSU Chelan and Douglas County Master Gardener column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. To learn more, visit bit.ly/MGchelandouglas or call (509) 667-6540.