7 Gifts for the Gardener on Your Christmas (or “Just Because”) List

Winter may be on its way in, but the gardener is most likely already thinking about the next gardening season. Fall is when the garden gets put to bed, and winter is when the seeds and plants are ordered for spring.

If you have a gardener on your gift list, the 7 suggestions below are sure to be a hit with him/her. And if you’re also a gardener, feel free to treat yourself as well.

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Garden gloves
A good pair of garden gloves is a must-have for any gardener. They will protect your hands from thorns, dirt, and other potential hazards. Look for a pair that is comfortable to wear and made from durable material. Leather fingers and palms with a breathable fabric on the top is, in my opinion, the best. A soft leather works best as it gives more mobility, plus a better fit.

When I find a good pair of gloves, I tend to buy an extra pair the same; simply because styles are often discontinued. (That said, I should go to my local UFA and get another pair.)

Garden tools
Every gardener needs a good set of tools. Look for a set that includes all the basics, such as a trowel, rake, shovel, and pruning shears. If you are looking for a more comprehensive set, look for one that also includes a wheelbarrow and gardening hose.

For the indoor gardener, a set of mini tools is ideal. A full-size rake and spade are not the best choice for miniature gardens. A tool that’s often overlooked is a wooden platform (rectangular of circular) on wheels; ideal for moving heavy pots and planters.

Gardening books or journals
If the gardener in your life is always looking to learn more about gardening, give them a few good books on the subject. A few popular titles include The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, The Flower Gardener’s Bible, and The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control.

One of my personal favourites is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. It has taught me a new way to garden in less space, yet have a bountiful harvest.

(If your gardener is into ebooks, grab them a copy of my gardening books over in the sidebar.)

A gardening journal is also a wonderful gift. Your gardener can keep records of their very own garden: seeds, plants, crop rotation, harvest dates, tools used, photos, and more.

Garden tools and journals. Image generated by Jasper Art.

Seeds or bulbs
For the gardener who loves to start their own plants from scratch, give them seeds or bulbs that they can plant in the spring. Some popular choices include sunflowers, tulips, daffodils, and lilies.

Putting together a combination of flower and vegetable seeds, along with blank plastic labels and a permanent marker, in a basket makes a wonderful gift.

Garden statue or birdbath
A garden statue or birdbath can add beauty and interest to any garden. Look for something that fits the style of the gardener’s garden. Popular choices include classic Greek or Roman statues, whimsical gnomes or fairies, or elegant angels or cherubs.

If the gardener on your list loves birds, a birdbath and bird feeder can be bundled together, along with a bag of bird seed.

Gazing globes are also a pretty addition, and are perfect for small gardens. I have a cherub with a 3 inch globe, but would love a 6 inch (or bigger) globe. The beauty of the gazing globe I have is it is made from a virtually unbreakable material. This is ideal because there’s no danger of pieces of glass everywhere when a rock from the mower hits it.

Garden furniture
If the gardener in your life enjoys spending time in their garden, consider giving them some new garden furniture. A comfortable chair or bench is perfect for relaxing in after a long day of gardening. A patio table and chairs would be ideal for entertaining guests in the garden.

A wrought-iron bistro set is a nice addition to a small garden, and can be purchased in green, white, or black (that I’ve seen). I have a white set that I bought over 10 years ago, and it has weathered well.

Gift certificate to a nursery or garden center
For the gardener who has everything, a gift certificate to their favorite nursery or garden center is always appreciated. This way they can choose exactly what they need or want for their garden.

Gardeners aren’t hard people to buy gifts for. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Give us some seeds, potting soil, and a book about plants and we’ll be forever grateful.

So the next time you’re wondering what to get the gardener on your list, go back over this post and you’re sure to come up with a gift they’ll love.

What is the best garden gift you’ve received?

Small Space Gardens

When my kids were little we had a sandbox in the corner of the yard for them. As they got older they spent less time in the sandbox so I converted it into a garden. I don’t recall the exact measurements but I want to say about twelve feet by twelve feet.

I utilized the Square Foot Gardening Method (by Mel Bartholomew) in it and had fantastic results. I was amazed at how much I was able to grow in that little space. The only thing I wish I could have changed was its location in the yard. We built the sandbox under a big tree so the kids would have shade, but the shade wasn’t exactly welcomed by some of the vegetables.

After trimming a few branches I was able to provide enough morning and early afternoon sun to keep the garden happy. The tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers were grown in my greenhouse which had more exposure to the sun, not to mention protection from the elements.

Jump ahead a divorce, several years, and a few gardens later. When I had a traditional garden the soil was mostly clay, which made it difficult to grow. Plus the weeds always got a foothold which was more discouraging. When we had wet summers it would be days before I could venture into the garden, so I ended up losing some of my produce.

My first raised bed garden experience was a success. Although we had the space for a traditional garden I decided I wanted to try raised beds instead. I made three of them four feet by four feet, which gave me sixteen square feet of growing space each. The others I made two feet wide by eight feet long. They were easy to plant, easy to weed, and easy to harvest.

One thing I didn’t do was leave enough space between the beds. (Mistake #1.) I couldn’t easily get my lawnmower or a wheelbarrow between them, which made my maintaining the pathways harder. I suggest three feet between the beds along the long side, and two feet between them on the short side. And don’t get all fancy and make a design with them: straight lines and longer rows are easier to navigate and maintain. (Mistake #2.)

When I do my beds this year I am going to keep all of the things I listed in mind. Plus I’ll be using mulch in between them instead of having grass. That’s also going to make maintenance easier. Sometimes one doesn’t know how it’s going to work out unless you try it, and when I made my first ones I really had no idea how to do them. I found some old lumber, got some nails, and started building.

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When making your raised bed, which is ideal for small space gardening, be sure to make it no wider than four feet if you have access all the way around it. If it’s going to be along a wall or fence, cut the width in half. You want to be able to stretch across it comfortably to maintain it. Plus when it comes time to harvest, you will want to get every last pea pod, carrot, or tomato.

If you don’t have the means to build a raised bed, you can still garden in your small space. Utilizing large containers which can be moved if necessary will also yield some good results. The key is to have good soil in them and proper drainage. A friend of mine (and co-contributor) has made and used self-watering containers. I have asked him for an article on how he made them, so will hopefully be posting that in the not-too-distant-future. It’s not something I have made, so I only feel it’s fair to get the right information from someone who has done it.

Now that our snow is finally melting I can begin construction on my greenhouse. I’ll be posting updates on it as well, so stay tuned. You can also like my Facebook Page for more updates, photos, and progress.

The view of our yard from the middle of the driveway.

Have you tried Square Foot or container gardening? Let me know in the comments below. If you have questions feel free to contact me and I’ll answer in a post or my FAQ page. (FYI, my FAQ page is looking a little bare. Let me know what you’d like to know about small space gardening so I can add to it. Thanks!)

Happy gardening,


p.s. If any of the links in this (or any other) post don’t work, please contact me so I can fix them.

Planting to Save Space and Grow More Food

Much of Canada is still under a blanket of snow but that’s not stopping me from thinking of warmer days. In fact, it’s the dreaming of warmer days that are getting me through. I have to admit, I’ve about had enough of winter.

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The little tips and tricks used to get more bang for your buck (or in this case, more food).

Compact Gardening

As someone who has had gardens of different sizes over the years, I prefer the more compact ones. My reasons are two-fold.

Firstly, saving space is a big concern for anyone who has limited real estate. I am a big fan of Square Foot Gardening (a method designed by Mel Bartholomew) because it serves more than one purpose.

  • Space Saver. His method encourages close planting. In his book he states, “most gardeners are not farmers”. We don’t have tractors and big equipment to get between the rows to keep the weeds down. As a gardener who has spent countless hours trying to get a handle on the weeds after several rainy days, I am with him one hundred percent.
  • Better soil aeration. Anyone who has had a traditional row garden will know the consequences of walking between the rows, especially after a rain. You sink into the soil and it is no longer light and fluffy; it’s compacted with every step. That’s not healthy for the roots because it inhibits air circulation and encourages drowning in wet conditions. And if your soil is mostly clay, you’re just asking for trouble. (Ask me how I know.)
  • Less weeds. I have to admit, this is my favourite part of this method of gardening. I hate weeding, especially when the weeds are more prolific than my crops. That in itself has caused me to throw my hands in the air, say a few choice words, and walk away. Of course, that didn’t solve anything, but it did make me feel better for a few minutes.

Secondly, a bumper crop is more easily achieved. That’s what I have found in my experience anyway. The reasoning for a better crop not only comes from what I mentioned earlier, but also because there’s less chance of the plants being stressed.

The water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, the close proximity of the plants inhibits weed growth (and any weeds that do start to grow are usually spindly and easy to pull), and by companion planting more can be grown in the small area.

What is Companion Planting?

Planting vegetables, fruits and flowers together helps them benefit from each other. For example, planting runner beans at the base of sunflowers not only saves space but it also provides a natural “pole” for them to climb. A little tidbit on this strategy though: give the sunflowers a head start, or else the beans will soon be too tall for the “poles”. (Yep, you guessed it; I did NOT do that the first time.)

Planting flowers amongst the vegetables will also attract the pollinators. Sometimes they need to be bribed to come to the garden, especially if it’s a new one. I’m going to be ‘bribing’ more bees and other good bugs this year since I’m changing where my vegetables are going to be planted.

Other plants are pest-deterrent, such as onions, garlic, marigolds, and nasturtiums (all of the above are edible by the way). With the method explained in Mel’s book, no matter where in a block you plant it’s close enough to be beneficial.

When I first implemented this method of gardening, I made sure I had at least one square of marigolds in each section to help keep the mosquitoes away. I would brush my hand along the flowers as I walked by to release whatever it is in them that deters the mosquitoes.

One thing I did learn (the hard way of course) was to NOT plant a watermelon and zucchini in the same bed. Funny story: I was super excited when fall came along and my watermelon was almost the size of a football (but more oval). My mouth was watering just thinking of how good that watermelon would be. Imagine my dismay when I cut into the watermelon to find it the same colour as the zucchini.

Lesson learned: they cross pollinated and I had an oval zucchini and a regular zucchini. Aside from the outside, nothing resembled a watermelon. Now I have yet to figure out just how far apart I should plant the two so it doesn’t happen again, but I will say eight feet is too close. Maybe this year I’ll try again but with a much bigger distance between the two.

Succession Planting

In the SFG method, new crops can be planted in squares which have been harvested. The key to remember is to not plant the same type of vegetable, otherwise you’ll most likely end up with soil-borne diseases. This is known as crop rotation, just like the farmers do when they plant their fields year after year.

By filling in the squares with plants you have waiting in the wings you’ll be utilizing your growing space. Not only will you not end up with blocks of weeds, you’ll be producing a lot more food per season. I have harvested radishes, then planted tomato plants in that spot. I essentially was able to get two completely different crops out of one square, where in a traditional garden I would have had separate rows for each.


Interplanting works well in this method. For example, a pepper plant can be put in the middle of a square because it needs twelve inches of space when it’s mature. Adding some radishes or lettuce in the same square will utilize the soil and space. By the time the pepper has grown enough to fill in the space your radishes and lettuce will have been harvested and enjoyed.

Remember the sunflower and bean example I used earlier? That’s a perfect example of interplanting. Another is to plant vining crops on the north-most side of your garden bed and install a support, such as a trellis. Lower crops can then be planted in the front part of those squares. For example, cucumbers for climbing and say, lettuce to help shade the roots.

In-ground or Raised Beds?

In Mel’s book he shows the system in place in an in-ground format. I have tried it and it does work well. However, with that being said, using raised beds also works well for anyone with mobility issues. Sometimes it’s not easy to get back up after being on your knees for any length of time. And if you have bad knees or a bad back, you’re not doing yourself any favours by subjecting yourself to injury.

Raised beds is my preferred method, and for more than just the safety aspect of it. The soil heats up sooner in the spring so you can begin gardening sooner. And to extend the harvest, you can easily add hoop houses to each bed. (I’ll be talking more about hoop houses in a future post.)

When I had my raised beds several years ago, they were only a few inches high. That was fine for the warming aspect, but it would still be too low for the ease-of-access aspect. My goal this year is to build my garden beds almost waist-height to make planting, maintaining and harvesting easier on my knees and back. I don’t consider myself old, but my body sure feels it.

The options for raised beds are becoming more readily available, and easier to build. The key to remember is to use pressure treated lumber and not chemically infused (such as railroad ties). The best option is to use naturally rot-resistant wood such as cedar, but that can become quite pricey if making several beds.

Granted, by using the Square Foot Gardening method, less really is more.

In Conclusion

Planting a huge garden isn’t necessary when you know the tricks to get more produce from a smaller space. Saving water, time and energy by compact gardening will give you more time to stop and smell the flowers. Stay tuned for how you can design your garden beds to accommodate relaxation features as well as being practical.

If you have enjoyed this post, please share so others may benefit as well.