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Give a gardener a gift grounded in reality

The Sacramento County master gardeners' calendar includes
a wealth of information. It's just $10.

Well-made tools and value-added accessories are appreciated
and Debbie Arrington

Real gardeners don't using matching pink tools. OK, maybe if the gardener in question is 6 years old.  But those little gift sets of tools that pop up in stores this time of year are not made for the abuse, er, energy that real gardening requires.

If you've been asked for gift ideas, gardeners, hand the list below to the asker. It won't seem as rude as saying "Don't give me anything I can't use." There's a range of prices here, so some good stocking-stuffer ideas, too.

-- Tool-sharpening stone, about $3 to $5. Most gardeners don't sharpen their tools often enough. Even many experienced gardeners don't know how to do it. At a Fair Oaks Horticulture Center Open Garden this fall, the master gardener who was giving the tool-sharpening demo noted that several of his MG colleagues asked him, "Oh, could you do mine, too?" Giving a gardener one of these stones is incentive to learn, and to use it. Saves buying new tools, too.
This tool-sharpening stone and hori-hori knife
were found at Green Acres Roseville.
Photo: Kathy Morrison

-- Hori-hori knife, about $20 and up. That said, this tool is a terrific gift even if a gardener already has one. As with pruning shears, one's never enough. This
multi-purpose knife typically has one sharp edge and one serrated edge on its 7- or 8-inch blade. It can be use to dig holes, cut roots, slash open amendment bags and prune small branches. The fancy ones come with a scabbard or holster and a sharpener.

-- A really good bucket and a padded cover for the handle, about $15 total. A bucket's useful for so many things, from garden cleanup to compost-tea brewing. But carry a heavy bucket around the garden and you'll wonder why the handles are so uncomfortable. Padded handle covers can be found, however. There's this solid-looking one at ; other places including Amazon sell the Bucket Boss handle grip.

-- Nail brush, $3 and up. Even when you're good about wearing gloves, your nails will take a beating in the garden, so this is a must for cleanup. An adult-size one, please -- so many seem designed for children's hands. The Lola brand is a good basic one, carried locally and online at Ace hardware stores.

Debbie gets a lot of use out of her goatskin gauntlets. (Photo:
Debbie Arrington)
-- Mud Gloves, about $15. Speaking of gloves: Dipped in rubber, these are flexible and waterproof, great for wet-season chores. (Mud Gloves is the brand name.) Available online , but also locally at Whole Foods Markets and some of the area nurseries including The Secret Garden.

-- Goatskin gloves, $20 and up. Debbie the master rosarian swears by her goatskin gauntlet gloves. Rose prickles can't penetrate the leather; a must for pruning season. Look for Bear Wallow or Wells Lamont brands for quality.

Give gloves; the gardener will supply the dirt.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)
A note about buying gloves: Be sure you know your gift recipient's hand size. Kathy has a wide hand and gets frustrated with gloves supposedly designed for women but that are too narrow in the palm and make no allowances for fingernails. (Her go-to gloves for basic gardening, with reinforced fingers and a Velcro cuff, see photo at right, come from Womanswork , carried locally at Green Acres Nursery & Supply. They come in large!)

-- A UCCE master gardener 2020 gardening guide and calendar. Sacramento County has a beautiful one, with "Blooms" as the picture theme; just $10 for a whole year of gardening expertise.  These can be found online or at many of the area nurseries, including Plant Foundry and Talini's. Placer County's theme is "Gardening With Purpose." It is sold out online, but still available at many area retailers; see the list here . Base price is $10, but price may vary by site.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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