The Farmer Diaries
Good news for those with urban farmers on their Christmas shopping lists: We're an easy bunch to please. You can put urban farmers into two categories: the obsessed gardener or the soon-to-be-obsessed gardener.
I've never met a half-hearted grower of food or flowers. Either way, you're safe with these five gift ideas.
In our hard Blackland Prairie clay soils, tools get a lot of wear and tear. The Radius line of garden tools is the first I've seen that can stand up to the rigors of gardening in Texas. Made of an aluminum/magnesium alloy that's surprisingly lightweight for as strong as they are, Radius tools have a soft grip that relieves hands and wrists from the pain of a full day's work. Their lifetime guarantee is rare among hand tools, which seems to indicate that the makers are confident in their durability.
For a simple set, wrap up a transplanter, a trowel and a cultivator. They're $12 each at Redenta's in Dallas, or find them online.
Public garden memberships
The first public garden to be certified organic by the Texas Organic Research Center, the Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park demonstrates how to grow just about anything in a way that protects our natural world. The seven and a half acres of gardens show visitors how to grow landscapes of native and adapted plants, rather than the water-hogging exotics that fill most yards.
Texas Discovery Gardens members get discounts on classes covering a range of topics, including rainwater harvesting and plant propagation. They also get a jump on the limited selection during the organization's popular native plant sale, as well as free admission to the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium. Memberships start at $40 for two adults.
Another invaluable membership is with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. With the backing of the University of Texas at Austin, the center teaches about plant conservation and how to use Texas' native flora. Individual memberships start at $45 and come with a subscription to Wildflower magazine. Members also get a discount at associated garden centers nationwide.
To fully take in all the exhibits, special events, classes, celebrations, trails and gardens at the Lady Bird Center, your gift recipient will require multiple visits to the center, thus making the membership a gift to be appreciated throughout the year.
The Garden Sack from Modern Sprout is a hydroponic herb kit that lets you grow herbs year-round indoors and serves as a good introduction to soil-less growing. It uses no electricity, saves water and can produce an abundance of herbs.
There are two options, $40 each: lemon basil, sage and dill sack, or parsley, cilantro and Thai basil sack. About 60 days after the seed is sown, the first harvest should be ready. Unlike most hydroponics kits, this one's attractive, packaged in a burlap coffee bean sack upcycled from Chicago-area roasters.
Greenhouse in a box
ShelterLogic's Greenhouse-in-a-Box has everything needed to build a 100-square-foot greenhouse in one Saturday afternoon. The $229 price at Tractor Supply is the priciest gift on this list. But whether you're extending your growing season or starting transplants to set out later in the season, the potential to grow year-round and save money at the grocery may allow you to recoup the expense.
Every list of gift ideas for the gardener must include seeds. No one who grows food or flowers ever looks at a gift of seeds with disregard. When you give the gift of seeds to a gardener, you're adding pure ounces of joy to their life.
The selection offered by Seed Savers Exchange is pleasantly overwhelming. Preserving heirloom varieties of beans, carrots, melons and other veggies, along with gorgeous flowers. Seed Savers Exchange puts out a huge catalog that your urban farmer will enjoy perusing for hours each evening until spring finally gets here.