Gifts for the Gardeners on Your List

What would be the perfect gift for each of the gardeners on your list this year? I mean true gardeners, people with a passion for cultivating and nourishing the soil, gardeners who do their own digging and planting. What would they really like?

Asparagus, Rhubarb, Berries, and a Good Cause

Just-picked raspberries.

Just-picked raspberries.

For the Maine gardeners on your list, enroll them in the “Grow It Right!” Benefit Plant Sale sponsored by University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers. At this online sale, you can purchase of any of the following: Killarney raspberry plants, Chester blackberry plants, MacDonald rhubarb plants, high bush blueberry bushes (your choice of four varieties), strawberry plants (your choice of three varieties), and Jersey Supreme asparagus plants. Your gift recipients will receive expert online advice on growing their plants at every stage, and a take-home package of instructions from Extension staff and Master Gardener Volunteers.

All proceeds from this plant sale benefit the UMaine Master Gardener Program. For complete details, including pick up dates for your orders, visit:

Black Gold

Composted goat manure, ready to be spread over the garden beds.

Composted goat manure, ready to be spread over the garden beds.

For the midcoast Maine gardener, give a gift certificate for a pickup load of composted goat manure to be picked up at the farm, spring through fall. A promised pile of aged manure is sure to bring a smile to any gardener’s face.

Lynne Ahlblad and Barbara Brooks, owners and operators of Seal Cove Farm in Lamoine, Maine, have gift certificates for the finest aged goat manure compost that money can buy. Come spring, you or the recipient of your gift can pick up the “black gold” at their farm, located on Rte 184, and meet the goats, all for $45 per cubic yard load – a real bargain compared to the cost of bagged compost. Be sure to call ahead, 667-7127, so Lynne and Barbara know that you are coming.

Tools and Gardening Supplies

For the gardener who prunes, consider a personally assembled Pruning Tool Care Kit. It should include a sharpener for the blades of hand pruners and loppers, a small can of oil (Felco 980 spray or 3-in-one motor oil) for lubricating the moving parts of pruning tools, several balls of steel wool for removing rust and pitch, a bottle of isopropyl alcohol for sterilizing tools after each use, and a spray bottle for the alcohol. The sharpener and oil should be available at garden centers or The Felco Store (

A scuffle hoe.

A scuffle hoe.

Marjorie and I recommend Lee Valley ( for a wide variety of quality gardening tools at reasonable prices, including all styles of Felco hand pruners for both left- and right-handed gardeners. Lee Valley also sells the scuffle hoe (“Hula-ho”), our favorite weeding tool, and an adjustable rake that allows you to expand or contract the fan head to suit the job.

The best gardening gloves Marjorie has ever owned, made by Atlas Glove, have rubber palms and fingers for a sure grip and a Nylon backing that keeps her hands dry. She came by hers at a garden show, but they are also available from several online suppliers.

Any serious gardener will appreciate a roll of natural jute twine, at least 500 feet or more. It has dozens of uses around the garden, from tying up tomato plants to binding bean poles, and it is biodegradable. Pieces too short to be saved will eventually rot, or find their way into birds’ nests.

A roll of Velcro self-gripping tape to use as plant ties will make your favorite gardener happy. Strong enough to hold tomato plants to their stakes or to support a vine against a trellis, the green tape can be cut to any length and reused year after year. Find it at Gardener’s Supply Company (, if not at your favorite retailer.

For staking tall annuals and perennials, any gardener would welcome a package of 25 Gardman circular plant supports (available at Each green stake is 40 inches tall with a circular top that slips easily around the stem of the plant. The same retailer sells the 36-inch-long Panacea plant support, also with a circular top, in packages of 24 green stakes.

Put a Mailbox in Their Garden

The mailbox in Marjorie's Garden.

The mailbox in Marjorie’s Garden.

A large mailbox mounted on the garden’s front gatepost is a true timesaver, cutting down on those trips to the basement for hand tools and garden supplies. I use ours to store often-used small tools and other necessities, including a short-handled three-tine cultivator, a ball of twine, the velcro tape we use to stake tomatoes and cucumbers, a carpenter’s pencil and pencil sharpener, a garden journal, and the soil thermometer. Drop the door while your working in the garden and you have the perfect perch for your coffee cup.

Books for the Gardener

Some gardeners, when they cannot be in the garden, read (and possibly write) about gardening. They may read about the many forms of life to be found in the garden, and about the garden as refuge for all forms of life. To this end, I recommend the following books and one very special magazine.

Consider giving that special gardener a subscription to Orion, a magazine devoted to nature, culture, and place. Orion is published bimonthly by The Orion Society, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Recent contributors include Wendell Berry, Robert Michael Pyle, Elizabeth Kolbert, Terry Tempest Williams, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Brian Doyle, and Scott Russell Sanders. For more insight, visit:

The perfect gift for New England gardeners.

The perfect gift for New England gardeners.

Of course, every New England gardener, veteran or beginner, should own a copy of The New England Gardener’s Year by Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto (2013, Cadent Publishing, ISBN 978-1-937644-14-7). Winner of a 2014 Maine Literary Award, our book is a month-by-month guide to gardening throughout New England with an emphasis on gardening in tune with nature.

I also recommend Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas W. Tallamy (2007, Timber Press, ISBN-13: 978-0-88192-992-8). Tallamy, an entomologist and wildlife ecologist, will change the way you view your garden’s role in the larger landscape.

Insects and Gardens by Eric Grissell (2001, Timber Press, ISBN 0-88192-504-7) is required reading for any gardener interested in the role of insects in garden ecology. The text is supplemented by dozens of excellent insect photographs taken by entomologist Carll Goodpasture.

An excellent read for the gardener interested in soil life is Teaming with Microbes by Wayne Lewis and Jeff Lowenfels (2010, Timber Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-60469-113-9), two gardeners who learned first hand how to apply an understanding of the soil food web to garden care.

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About Reeser Manley

I was born in Laramie Wyoming but moved to the southeast at an early age. I was educated through my B.S. in Biology in the Columbus, Georgia area, then crossed the Chattahoochee River to earn my M.S. in Botany at Auburn University. For the next ten years, I worked as Horticultural Manager for the George W. Park Seed Co. in Greenwood, S.C. At 40 years of age, I decided to return to graduate school and in 1994, I earned a Ph.D. in Horticultural Science from Washington State University, Pullman, Washington. Fast forward through 10 years at university (7 at UMaine, Orono) and you find me teaching high school science in Eastport, Maine, the edge of the world, and writing a weekly garden column for the Bangor Daily News. My new book, The New England Gardener's Year, a Month-by-Month Guide for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Upstate New York”, will be published later this year by Cadent Publishing. You can learn more about the book by visiting its Facebook page: