Atlas nitrile gloves

With Christmas just three days away, what’s a desperate shopper to do?

Head for the garden gifts, of course.

While the mall is likely sold out of the latest electronic gizmos and toys, most garden centers and home improvement stores still have plenty of loot. The following items are sure to delight anyone who loves digging in the dirt, from beginners to experts, from youngsters to seniors.

These items are affordable, too, ranging in price from less than $5 to upwards of $100, with a few pricey suggestions thrown in.

Gloves

Gloves are always a treat because they inevitably wear out. And because it’s annoying to toss a pair when only one glove is shot, many gardeners wear gloves well past their useful lives, or mix and match odd gloves.

Lovely in lavender

My favorite, day-to-day gloves are made of skin-tight nitrile. Nitrile is a synthetic latex, slides on easily and is so form-fitting that I can easily pull the smallest of weeds. Interestingly, folks in medicine are switching from latex gloves to nitrile gloves to cut down on allergic reactions to latex. For the garden, Atlas makes durable, lightweight nitrile gloves that sell for $6 to $7 a pair and are widely available.

With rose pruning coming up in January, gauntlet gloves that reach all the way to the elbows are a timely gift. While gauntlets don’t provide the same dexterity as nitrile, they offer heavy-duty protection from thorns.

Original Mud Gloves are too bulky for every-day gardening, but they’re perfect for the rainy season. The thick, cotton gloves are waterproofed with a coating of latex on their outsides, and they really do keep your hands dry. They’re machine washable and cost $7.

Tools

Fiskars bypass pruner

Who can resist a set of super-sharp pruners? Corona and Fiskars make good, long-lasting bypass and anvil pruners that range in price from $20 to $40. A nice, premium (dare I say heirloom?) Felco pruner will set you back $45 to $65.

Kitchen scissors are often easier to use than pruners for snipping salad greens and dead-heading delicate flowers. Skip the cheap ones at the supermarket and go straight to take-apart scissors from the likes of Chicago Cutlery, Henckels or Wusthof. The scissors will cost $16 to $35 but last much longer and make far cleaner cuts.

Or splurge on long-handled loppers or hedge shears. A good set will cost $50 or more. The extra cutting capacity will handle branches up to 3 inches in diameter.

Weeding is the most tedious task in my garden, and I spend a lot of time on my knees. I’ve never been fond of strap-on knee pads, which tend to be stiff, uncomfortable and bunch up the legs of my jeans. Instead, I double up on low-end kneeling pads that cost a few dollars apiece. Orthopedic versions cost $30 or more.

Easy on the knees

My mother swears by her garden kneeler, which is an upscale kneeling pad with arms at each end. In the down position, she can lower herself onto the pad, do some weeding or planting, then push on the arms to stand back up. When the kneeler is flipped to the up position, she can sit on it like a bench. A basic model sells for $35.

As for weeders: $2.99 “pokers” are decent, and inexpensive crevice tools work well between bricks and along sidewalks. But my favorite hand tool is a Winged Weeder, which has a sharp, flared-wing triangular head that slides right into my heavy clay soil and either slices through the roots below-ground, or lifts them out, depending on what I’m trying to do. It sells for $25. I don’t ever expect to replace it.

Watering

All gardeners will appreciate a nicely balanced watering bucket that can withstand being left out in the garden year-round. Expect to spend at least $25 for a durable plastic bucket with a 3-gallon capacity. Galvanized metal watering cans can cost $100 or more, but are expected to last a lifetime.

Colormark Rain wands

When they work well, watering wands are a wondrous thing. The cheap plastic ones may have fancy spray patterns, but they leak almost from the get-go and rarely last more than a year. Instead, splurge for one with brass fittings. My favorite is the Dramm Colormark, which comes in half a dozen rainbow colors, has a brass shut-off valve and costs $35.

Or go for a non-nonsense, brass hose nozzle, which works well and sells for $10.

For mucking around in the garden in winter, nothing beats a pair of garden clogs or rain boots that your giftee can hose off afterward — perhaps with their brand-new brass hose nozzle. Plain rubber clogs start at $20, while rain boots in cute patterns like ladybugs and zebra stripes that appeal to kids and grownups may run $75 or more.

Books

Bob Perry's weighty tome

Bob Perry’s encyclopedic “Landscape Plants for California Gardens” would be at the top of my list if I hadn’t bought it earlier this year. The landmark book features 3,100 color photos and detailed descriptions, irrigation requirements and growing tips for 2,100 plants. The book weighs nearly 8 pounds and retails for $87.50.

The Sunset Western Garden book continues to be a good reference, especially for novice gardeners. Unfortunately, however, the latest version, published in 2007, has no plant index. It retails for $35 in paperback.

For folks who save plant tags, shoot photos of their garden or record their horticultural experiences, consider a garden journal. The scripted albums are most commonly available at craft or scrapbook stores, and may cost $25 to $35.

Big Ticket Items

Large garden ornaments, like bird baths, fountains, trellises, benches and outdoor lighting, can set you back several hundred dollars or more. Styles and colors can be quite personal as well. You may be better off giving a gift certificate, accompanied by photos of what you have in mind and an offer to do the installation.

Smaller-scale sun dials, bird houses, pretty pots and the like are easier on the budget and are more likely to work into any size or style of garden. Expect to spend $15 on up.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Long-handled version of the Winged Weeder

Just how cold is it? Even if there’s no gardener on your list, most people like to know what the temperature is — or what it was earlier in the day or the previous night.

A simple outdoor bulb thermometer may cost a few dollars, while complex digital weather stations with remote sensors that record temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and more may be $50 and up.

In between are min-max thermometers, which are a fun, low-tech alternative to the digitals and are often found in hardware stores.

These been-around-forever thermometers are composed of a U-shaped channel containing a temperature-sensitive liquid sandwiched between two magnets. When temperatures drop, the liquid swings up the left side of the U, pushing one of the magnets ahead of it. When temperatures warm and the liquid swings down and back up the right side, the magnet stays behind, marking the low. The other magnet, on the right side of the U, measures high temperatures the same way, but in reverse. The thermometers range in price from $20 to $30.

Visit Joan’s website at www.SantaBarbaraGardens.com, or post a comment by clicking on “Leave a Comment” back up at the top.

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