Gift ideas for the gardener in your life

Gift ideas for the gardener in your life

Events often remind me of my garden geekiness. Recently, a master gardener shared her excitement over a pending Christmas gift from her husband — a shiny new chipper/shredder. As we shared her forthcoming expansion in garden work capabilities, I realized others might find our enthusiasm for increased work a bit odd or perhaps a bit insane. After all, the prospect of a shiny, new vacuum cleaner as a present would likely yield a snort and a "you've got to be kidding" stare of disbelief.

Most husbands would be stymied at this apparent inconsistency in our nature. With apologies to philosopher/mathematician Rene Descartes, our significant others must remember "I garden, therefore I am." It isn't "I do housework, therefore I am."

So it is perfectly OK (and highly encouraged) to give gardeners tools as gifts. Even though the gardener on your list may have many years of "down and dirty" gardening under their belt (and often under their fingernails), many new designs and styles make the joy of gardening more fun.

There are many new garden tools advertised as ergonomic. Keep in mind, a tool is ergonomic if it fits the gardener. One size does not fit all.

An excellent outcome of any garden tool usage, no matter the age or capabilities of the gardener, is to maximize muscle power and minimize stress to joints.

A few basics when it comes to tool selection:

Consider the weight of the tool. Of course, we don't want tools to be flimsy, but in general, the lighter the tool, the better and easier to use. I love my stainless steel spade with the wooden handle, but it is heavy to lug around. Many new designs include lightweight materials of aluminum, fiberglass and heavy-duty plastic. Aluminum tools also don't rust, which translates into easier maintenance.

Consider the height of the gardener. To prevent backaches, gardeners should stand or sit upright. Taller gardeners may need longer handles. Gardeners shouldn't have to bend over because handles are too short. Many tools now come with telescoping handles to accommodate our needs and tasks.

Vertically challenged women like me often require smaller tools. Presumably everyone has pulled their stares away from smartphones long enough to also notice women are not shaped like men. Tool manufacturers have finally responded.

For example, HERShovel is a new HERgonomic shovel-spade hybrid reportedly designed scientifically and specifically for women by Green Heron Tools. The wider D-shaped handle allows the usage of both hands for better leverage and is available in three different lengths (greenherontools.com).

Ergonomic hand tools are now readily available. With any hand tools, the goal should be to keep the wrist in the all-important neutral or natural position. Just think of the position of the hand and wrist while giving a thumbs up or shaking someone's hand.

Radius is one brand that offers many tools from trowels to shovels with their recognizable brightly colored curved or round handles. Their snappy colors of bright pink, purple and aqua add a new flair to the traditional forest green "I will never find you again among the garden debris" handles (radiusgarden.com).

Every gardener from the dabbler to the determined needs a good set of scissor-type (also known as bypass) hand pruners. Quality ones such as Felco, Fiskars and Corona offer replaceable parts. New designs for hand pruners include a ratcheting action, which requires less strength from the prunee.

Be sure to include a gift certificate to always smile when we share our insanity of garden triumphs over the bunnies or the bugs.

Sandra Mason is unit educator, horticulture and environment, for the UI Extension, Champaign County. Contact her with questions or comments at 801 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign, IL 61821, call 333-7672, email slmason@illinois.edu or fax 333-7683.

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