The past few years have been difficult for many people - whether it’s isolation, finances or personal loss. While not wanting to be too gloomy, those things can and do affect how you view the Christmas season. Giving however can be a therapy for some and anathema to others tired of the endless commercial pressure. This year my usual gift of homemade lemon curd has been a step too far to make - mum’s favourite and only request. So I was thinking about what to do for those relatives who are gardeners - or who enjoy food or even if there is anything I could request - which would be a wanted gift.
If you find the financial side of giving difficult then you may want to try some alternative approaches. Martin Lewis recommends having a gift amnesty, some suggest adults get one present in the family group - so fewer presents to buy. However you manage the season it’s worth a look at why you buy and who you’re buying for.
I’ve been looking at making my garden and my gardening easier. Ongoing back problems and lack of time over the past couple of years have taken a toll on both me and my garden. It struck me that there are different challenges as a gardeners, apart from the usual pests and weeds, and presents could be tailored for these individual needs.
For the gardener who is time poor
In the rush of life, with longer commutes, more households where both partners work, and children with extra activities, many people are rushing around with little time to spend in or on the garden. What time there is has to be fitted round not only the daily activities but the inclement weather.
When I was working in the education sector I would lament the garden getting out of hand and dream of how nice it would be to have a group of friends come and blitz it. So if you have the time or know someone who does - maybe they can give a hand whether it’s a voucher for weeding or lawn mowing it will probably be appreciated.
Window ledge gardening can bring the garden indoors with herbs such as sage and thyme which require less watering. Sprouting seeds are also a great way to provide fresh greens on a smaller scale especially during the winter months. Sprouting seeds require regular reviewing and rinsing which possibly can be delegated to a conscientious or interested child? It only takes a few minutes and the time from start to harvest is quite quick and will give a regular and tasty fresh garnish. Try starting with a sprouting pea but then there are lots of different seeds to try, for example, fenugreek, mustard seeds and beetroot.
Encouraging wildlife may also be a high on the agenda of many people and with a spare patch of ground that needs filling a Bees Seed tins or Bee or Butterfly seed mats would make an easy gift for the recipient to enjoy.
Money poor but time rich?
Invest in or request good quality basics such as seed trays that can be reused and good quality tools such as secateurs and other tools that will last. This is Grimes boots theory of buying quality things that will last as in the long run you will spend less. If you can gift tools then buy the best you can afford. Darlac tools have a range of secateurs that have red handles which I find great for tracking down in the undergrowth and also do diamond sharpening files to keep the blades in good condition.
Buying a propagator could be another option depending on space for those who sow from seed or want to give their seeds a head start. Propagators range from simple seed trays with lids to electric versions which provide a gentle source of heat. Heavy duty plastic seed trays will last longer than some of the cheaper ones that are available and come in standard and half sizes. They can be re-used for years.
Seeds can also work as a gift especially for a new allotment holder. Whether that’s a good range of basic vegetable seeds or something a little more unusual like melon or cucamelon or some of the specially bred F1 varieties.
As I get older and gain a few ‘wear and tear’ conditions I’m looking at how to lighten the load. Health can change gradually or suddenly. My mother while she was still gardening would use a bucket rather than a large trug for weeding into and moving things about the garden. Even as a child I remember comments on a lazy man's load - taking more than you can safely manage - and often dropping things in the process. Her tactic may have meant more journeys but were manageable for her. Suitable tools for the job can include long handled and lightweight tools such as Darlac lightweight shears and their telescopic loppers.
Help! If you are time rich then doing things in the garden alongside relatives or friends will benefit you both as well as creating a sense of wellbeing and community..
Compact or indoor gardener
Houseplants at the ready…! House plants need smaller tools and repotting. Add a conservatory or balcony and the choice is increased as to what you can grow.
Seeds for balcony gardening such as dwarf runner and dwarf french beans, bush and cordon tomatoes, strawberries, pollinator plants such as marigolds and nasturtiums - both have edible parts too.
Indoors crops such as sprouting seeds take up relatively little room if you grow them vertically in a Johnson’s Microgreen sprouter, ready to sow herb pots, amaryllis, hyacinths as well as chilli pepper varieties come in gift packages. Smaller varieties can also be grown indoors varieties such as chilli pepper Spangles and Basket of Fire are bush varieties that can be accommodated indoors and give lots of small vibrant coloured fruits.
Compost and pots that are easy to store such as compact compost blocks and coco dots are ideal for the houseplant gardener.
New and experienced gardeners
If you are an experienced gardener then it can be easy to overwhelm a new gardener with lots of varieties. If you can talk to the recipient about preferences as to what they want to grow or need that is ideal. I like french and runner beans but some of my family will only cook green beans if they look like the supermarket pencil varieties!
Here’s to a happy and hopefully productive present giving?