A gift guide for the gardener who you suspect already has everything, or for the gardener who is just starting out. This is a short list of some of the best tools and books available.
NOTE: all listed prices were pulled at time of publication, and may have since changed.
--- TOOLS ---
These tools were selected for their usefulness in the garden, and the quality of their construction. My personal experience with these 5 tools is that they will satisfy 90% of a gardeners needs.
Don’t worry that the giftees might already own them; if they consider gardening a group activity, there is no such thing as too many hands on deck (particularly when it comes to weeding), and boy, does the right tool for the job make things easier!
$18.97 The classic pruner if there ever was one. Small enough for small hands, yet sturdy enough to easily cut through hardwood. This tool was built to last and comes with a lifetime warranty.
I’ve used mine to deadhead flowers and prune trees, and abused it by leaving it out in the rain, digging up weeds, prying up rocks, and opening beer bottles...yet it is still going strong after 15 years and 2 sharpenings.
Don’t go into the garden without it in your back pocket!
$29.99 An amazing all purpose tool. Engineered to withstand 300 lbs of pressure, the blade can be used to dig up weeds, or displace small boulders! The serrated edge is great for cutting through roots, and the depth markings make it easy to determine how far to dig when planting.
Stop using your kitchen knives to pull plants out of pots, or loosen rootballs. It even has a twine cutting notch to save you the trouble of walking around with scissors. Also, having this tool on your belt kinda makes you feel like Indiana Jones.
$6.64 Ideal for digging up deep rooted weeds, such as dandelions, it is also one of the best tools to carry around when working with compacted or rocky soil. If gardening is a family affair, you can’t have too many of these weeders around. It is a safe tool to introduce kids to gardening, and won’t break after 2 uses like most hand trowels. And, if like me you tend to lose tools mere seconds after laying them down, the bright orange highlights on the handle make this one easy to find.
$49.99 This is not the cheapest tool for sure, but its construction is irreproachable. If you practice no-till vegetable gardening, or work with densely planted raised beds, this will likely be the only tool you will ever need.
It slices through weeds just below the surface, is precise enough to maneuver through tight plantings, is ideal for soil prep and trenching for seeding. It is also one of the coolest looking tools around, where form and function combine so perfectly that you will want to leave it lying about just because it is...well, the coolest looking tool around.
$29.97 Ever tried to dig out a mature pokeweed root? Well, this is the only tool that will do the trick. Most spades and shovels are designed for moving material, but are too broad to go deep without disturbing a lot of soil.
This spade is precise enough to use in established flower beds, yet sturdy enough to transplant mature shrubs. I wish the handle was made of a stronger material to match the otherwise robust construction.
--- BOOKS ---
This short list of books offers something for everybody. It includes plant references and practical guides, as well as options for your hard-core envionmental friends and lovers of history.
The writings are of superior quality, and each book is considered to be amongst the best in its genre. An influential collection that is not likely to become out of date any time soon.
$14.48 Historical non-fiction, complete with references and quotes, yet at times reads like a “whodunit” filled with suspense and political intrigue. This book explores the Founding Fathers’ relationship with farming and the environment, and how it affected their approach to politics, governance, and the development of a national identity...or maybe it’s the other way around.
A true page turner and fantastic read.
$14.67 At the risk of going all religious on you, if growing native plants was a religion, then this book would be its Bible, and Tallamy its God. He moves beyond the early, and now widely discredited notions of the movement - that native plants require less water, fertilizer, and are more pest resistant than exotics - to describe how native plants are just one part, albeit critical one, of a healthy ecosystem that must include all life forms, from fauna to flora, the very small to the very large (and yes, that includes the so called pests known as bugs).
The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden
By Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy
$25.27 Have you ever tried to argue that gardening with native plants is a lot more than merely growing glamorized weeds? Well, this book will provide you with all the talking points you will ever need.
It addresses the importance of biodiversity and plant communities, while presenting planting guidelines and landscaping solutions that will satisfy gardeners of any ilk, even those with the most serious aesthetic attitude.
Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs By Michael Dirr
$51.42 Know someone who already has a bunch of books on plants and a sturdy bookshelf, or someone who appreciates encyclopedias and how opening them at random is a guaranteed learning experience? Then this is the perfect gift. Thorough, comprehensive, impeccably written and beautifully illustrated.
The ultimate reference material, identification guide, and planting manual for woody plants.
$29.30 Although this book is specific to plants native to the southeast, it made it on this list because it is the perfect example of how to do it right. Aside from its value as a reference guide, it offers solutions for challenging garden conditions that can be applied regardless of where you live.
Also, Dr. Mellichamp is one of the most knowledgeable, yet unassuming experts in the field of botany that you are likely to ever come across. An overall cool dude deserving of higher accolades.
$20.36 The decline of pollinator populations is of great concern. Everybody should try their best to provide habitat and sustenance for these critters that play a critical role in our food chain and the overall health of the environment.
This comprehensive guidebook offers easy solutions, whether you are an ornamental gardener, small farmer, or involved in large land management projects.