By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
We know that it isn’t Thanksgiving yet, but there are only a few weekends left until Christmas. Here we go – our picks for 2023:
Gardeners can’t have enough gardening equipment! So, equipment-based gifts first:
*Gardening Stool & Kneeler. Debbie’s personal favorite, it doubles as a kneeler with handles to get back up or flip it over and it is a handy bench. Both sides are padded which is wonderful for older knees.
*Potting Table. Lots of places sell these and they are widely available online. I (Debbie) made mine out of an early 1900s double enamel sink with built-in drains on each side. I put it over a 5-gallon bucket. As I mix potting soil with organic additions, water the fills the bucket. I add that to one of my raised beds. Mine (Emmy), which gave up the ghost after 30 years was attached to a hose bib and the sink drained into a garden. Having water at a potting table is a plus; you can rinse off produce or tools before bringing them into the house or putting them away.
*Food Dehydrator. Most gardeners in West Texas grow tomatoes and some kind of peppers. A dehydrator might let them enjoy the feast even in the winter. There are many types of electric food dehydrators. For our climate, I (Emmy) was interested in a solar dehydrator. My first one was a modified cardboard box which lasted until the first major rain! For over ten years, I have used a solar food dehydrator which I hang outside. All my excess produce from A to Z, apples to zucchini, goes into the dehydrator. I love the dried figs and raisins and the texture that dehydrated vegetables bring to a dish.
And, if you want an outside gift try these suggestions:
*Binoculars and Hand Lens. To get the most out of your garden you also need tools for your eyes! Binoculars help you see at a distance while hand lenses help you see close. What kind of binoculars are best depends on what you want to see, so you need to do your homework to make the best choice. If you are interested in birds or butterflies here are two good places to start, the Audubon Society and North American Butterfly Association (NABA) have both published their recommendations:
Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org/gear/binocular-guide
But what if you want to observe closeup? If you want to read small print on bottles or seed packets, find a magnifying glass. If you want to get a close look at the life in your yard, get a hand lens! Hand lenses, also called loupes, are an indispensable tool to identify and observe the small life around you. But, like binoculars, not all hand lenses are the same! So, once again do your homework before you buy.
*”Birdbaths”. “Birdbaths” are not just for birds! Think of a “birdbath” as a breakroom for all that lives in your backyard: a place to go for a refreshing drink or rejuvenating bath. And traditional bird baths are not the best way to provide water for birds. Birds need shallow water sources; a birdbath can be as simple as letting a milk jug with a small hole drip into a shallow container. Whatever kind of birdbath you choose, it must be kept clean. If you want to attract butterflies or other pollinators, try making a puddling station which provides water and moisture in a way they can use. There are many resources online to help you decide what you need and what to buy.
So, give your gardening loved ones a gift they’ll enjoy and enhances their gardening passion!
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700. Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.