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The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners - 2022

Folks often wonder what gift they should get for novice or advanced gardeners. To help non-gardeners with this task, I'm sharing some of the gardening toys I wouldn't be without...or wish I had.


Crockett's Indoor Garden Crockett's Flower Garden

Crockett's Victory GardenMost gardeners love books with lots of colorful photos of vegetables and flowers and solid gardening advice. My go-to gardening book for years has been Crockett's Victory Garden. It covers most vegetable gardening issues, is written in an easy to understand way, and is beautifully illustrated. A used paperback copy of the now out of print book typically runs around or $5 or $6 shipped from either Amazon or Alibris. If you have just a bit more to spend, round out the Crockett collection with Crockett's Indoor Garden and Crockett's Flower Garden. While the photo at left is of my copy of Crockett's Victory Garden, I also picked up a used, hard cover version of the book a few years ago for just $12, as my paperback was getting a bit worn after thirty years of use.

Current Growing Garden SeedsAmazonAnother title that is getting a bit worn is Rob Johnston, Jr.'s Growing Garden Seeds. Johnston, founder of Johnny's Selected Seeds, was also instrumental in the growth of the Seed Savers Exchange. So it's no surprise that he wrote an excellent, simple guide for seed saving. At just $1.95 plus shipping, it's a great buy.

Rounding out my short list of essential gardening books is the late Nancy Bubel's The New Seed Starter's Handbook. This title pretty well covers everything involved in starting, hardening off, and setting out flowers and vegetables. It's chock full of useful tables, too, helping gardeners get transplants started on time. Of course, if you want to go cheap, you could just give folks the link to our how-to story, Growing Your Own Transplants.

Like Crockett's Victory Garden, I have two copies of the Seed Starter's Handbook. With both, I keep one copy in my office and another downstairs for easy reference!

Ball Blue Book to Preserving Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Amazon - old edition The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking

Moving into the kitchen, I couldn't do without the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving. It is THE ESSENTIAL SOURCE about safe canning, freezing, and other methods of preserving. Besides the old, time honored paperback version, it's also now available in the Kindle Digital Edition.

With the cover of our old Blue Book tattered and falling off, my lovely wife got me the new Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for Christmas.

Our main cookbook has always been The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking. Our copy is held together with duct tape. While also out of print, new copies are still available, although used copies seem to be the better deal.

If you're looking for a brand new cookbook still in print, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book is a good one. It's where we got our recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles.

Tools and Such

Our regular Shopping Guide for Gardeners has a pretty complete listing of the standard tools needed for gardening. Since this page is a gift guide, I'll try to stick with stuff you can wrap and put under a Christmas tree.

3-piece garden handtoolsA gardener never seems to have too many trowels. The things break at the handle, get lent out and not returned, or simply grow legs, wonder off and hide somewhere. Good ones with strong handles and a grip that doesn't cause blisters are a treasure. I'm lucky to have three or four trowels now, with three of them being what I consider good ones.

Surprisingly, one of my good trowels came in a Fiskars 3 Piece Softouch Garden Tool Set. The wide trowel quickly broke (at the handle when working hard ground), but the soil scratcher and narrow trowel have held up well and the grips are easy on ones hands.

One of my current wide trowels is a no-name one I got at a favorite garden center. While you can order good trowels online, going to a garden center or hardware store and trying out the handles for comfort is a good idea. Of course, during the holiday season, many garden centers don't have much of a selection of hand tools, replacing such stuff with Christmas decorations. My other, good wide trowel is surprisingly another Fiskars (now unavailable).

Two more hand tools that I think any gardener would appreciate are the CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator and the Esschert Design Dibber/Bulb Plantericon. Both tools look a tad dangerous and probably should best be kept out of sight of little ones.

AmazonAmazonI wrote about using the CobraHead in an August, 2013, posting about cleaning up some nasty grass weeds in our East Garden. Since then, I've used it a number of times in similar situations to remove well established grass weeds in the garden and in our flowerbeds. At around $30, it's a bit of an expensive one trick pony, but it really works when removing nasty weeds.

We got our Dibbler from Burpee, although Amazon carries them too, but often at a slightly higher price. Our dibbler required a bit of repair and improvement before it became a really good tool. It, or similar tools, really speed the process of planting garlic cloves (or flower bulbs). Note that I refer to the tool as a "dibbler" with an "L," as its name really comes from a dibble or dibble stick, something you use to make a hole or furrow in the ground.

For Those of Us Getting Up in Years

Bad hips, bad knees, arthritis in the fingers and back, it all comes with the territory of getting older. Fortunately, there are some adaptive devices that can make things a bit easier on not-so-gracefully aging bodies. A Large PVC Kneeling Pad or something similar saves a lot of wear and tear on ones knees when working in the garden. Similarly, any kind of portable kneeling bench may also be helpful. I couldn't do without my kneeling pad, but my kneeling bench has never made it out of our basement plant room, as I find it to be so useful there. While stuggling to garden with meniscus tears in both knees, I found a cheap set of kneepadsicon to be helpful. I added what I call my butt cart this year (2022) to my adaptive devices.

Amazon - Large Kneeling Pad Garden Kneeler Non-skid  Kneepads Garden Work Scooter

Ames Garden CartWhile it would be difficult to wrap one up to put it under the tree, a good garden carticon, especially one that is easy to clean and holds water, is a great garden helper. I haul all sorts of stuff with ours and also use it when soaking and washing carrots. When transplanting, I load it up with plants, buckets of fertilizer water, and my garden tools to save trips to and from the house and garage. Our cart is an Ames brand, possibly because that's what the hardware store had when we bought it, and it was cheap.

Since I do an annual nag on the subject, I can't omit suggesting sun protective clothing for garden gifts. Lightweight shirts and sun hats with serious UPF ratings (50 or so) can help gardeners with skin cancers keep on gardening.

Food Preservation Stuff

Food preservation tools are a bit more expensive than most of the items I've listed above, usually in the $50-100 price range.

Nesco Food DehydratorSpreading sliced garlic on food processor traysWe didn't buy our food dehydrator. It was first a loan and later a gift from one of our daughters who didn't use it. Even though we didn't pick it out, our Nesco American Harvest Four Tray Dehydrator has turned out to be just what we needed to dry all sorts of herbs and spices. Its product description says it can be expanded to twelve trays, although the add-on trays are a little expensive.

With our reduced sized garden this year (2015), we didn't grow any herbs, spices, or peppers for drying. Our dehydrator's only use this summer was drying garlic to be ground for garlic powder.

A pressure canner makes a great gift for gardeners. Ours is a 17-quart Presto, big enough to both pressure and water bath can quart jars. (Note, Presto's 16-quart pressure canner isn't tall enough to water bath quart jars!) Besides its dual use, I've been thankful that parts for Presto canners are readily available in stores and online. Over twenty years, I've had to replace the main seal and the handles for the lid.

Presto 23-quart Pressure Canner Granite Ware 21.5-quart Water Bath Canner Victorio Steam Canner

While a pressure canner is a great tool, a water bath canner is usually lighter and easier to handle for canning high acid foods such as tomatoes and pickles. Another option is a steam bath canner. Although not FDA approved, we used a steam canner years ago for our tomatoes and pickles until its top rusted out. (The base of the steam canner still shows up on our blog, being used to bottom water our hanging basket plants on our back porch.)

Squeezo Strainer Using Squeezo Strainer to separate applesauce from seeds and peels

Canners are an area where you can spend as much as you want. I found an All-American 41-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner on Amazon for $414.95! Update: Since writing this guide several years ago, the price of the monster canner has shot up to $888!

If you're looking for a moderately big bucks garden gift for someone who cans a lot of garden produce, a Squeezo Strainer might prove to be the perfect holiday gift. My first Squeezo was bought new and did a terrific job of making tomato juice and tomato puree during my farming years. Sadly, it went at the farm auction when we lost the farm. My second Squeezo is a used model that now leaks a bit, but still separates tomato skins and seeds from pulp and juice, or apple skins, cores, and seeds, from applesauce.

The Squeezo Strainer is one of those tools that makes canning some vegetables a snap! Note that the Squeezo site now lists nine weeks before shipment!


A Big Gift

Garden Tower 2 50-Plant Composting Container GardenRotating Garden Tower 2The Garden Tower 2 Starter Bundle should thrill most patio gardeners. The rotating Garden Tower 2 can grow fifty plants in just four square feet of space. It also composts kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer!

The Garden Tower 2 features food grade USA-made HDPE (non-toxic, BPA & PVC free plastic) components, FDA-approved dye and UV-protection antioxidant package for health, durability and recyclability.

While a bit pricey, this item is manufactured in the United States. A group of guys from Bloomington, Indiana, started the Garden Tower Project several years ago. Since I'm a Hoosier and have traded emails with the guys over the last few years, I'm sorta rooting for the project to be a smashing success.

Some Fun and Silly Stuff

Gardening - Cheaper than TherapyHummingbird T-shirt iconUnder the silly heading, there are a lot of mugs, T-shirts, and hats that feature humorous gardening messages. Both Walmarticon and Amazon carry quite a few funny gardening novelties.

iconNot pictured, but certainly a lot of fun to wear out are the Bo Muller-Moore created Eat More Kale shirts. Bo fought and won a trademark battle with Chick fil-A to trademark and continue making and selling his shirts. The fast food giant seemed to think that "Eat More Kale" infringed upon its trademarked "Eat Mor Chikin" slogan. Muller-Moore's site now also offers a "Kale Isn't Chikin" design!

My wife, Annie, gave me a bunch of Eat More Kale shirts several years ago for Christmas. Whenever I wear them out, especially when shopping, the shirts usually draw a comment or question.

Shallow well pumpAnnie's pretty good at finding gardening gifts I like and can use. She long ago gave me a pitcher pump and a stainless steel well point. After using the pump in its box for a doorstop for several years, I finally got it installed in 2016, as well as making a new, raised herb bed around our shallow well.

Stocking Stuffers

A Soil pH Tester, a bottle of Clonex Rooting Gel , work gloves, or some garden anchor pins should easily fit into most Christmas stockings. A quality set of stainless steel shears work great in the garden and break down for washing. The AcuRite Big-Read Rain Gauge iconand the Droll Yankees Bird Feeder will need a rather tall stocking, but should still light up your gardener's eyes.

Soil pH Tester Clonex Rooting Gel Work Gloves Landscape Fabric and Garden Anchor Pins Lamson Kitchen Shears Acu-Rite Rain Gauge Droll Yankees Bird Feeder


Galvanized bucket under pitcher pumpBucket of peppersAnyone who has farmed for a few years will tell you that good buckets are an essential tool. We used to get all of our buckets with some product in them, but now have to shop for them. I occasionally pick up used icing buckets from a local grocery, but their plastic handles quickly get brittle and break, usually when the bucket is filled with a heavy load of kitchen scraps or used cat litter.

I occasionally buy good five-gallon buckets with metal handles from Walmart. But my darling wife gave me a whole bunch of buckets for my birthday last year. Among them were an assortment of galvanized steel buckets. One of them fits perfectly under the pitcher pump of our shallow well. A couple of larger ones function for a variety of uses, most often involving picking tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. If you have an avid gardener on your shopping list, these buckets may just bring a big smile to their face on Christmas morning.

Garden Hoes (again)

I won't tell my story again here about a good hoe, I'll just give you a link. But let me offer the advice that a good scuffleicon or a quality garden hoe with a bow on it makes a dandy Christmas present. One can usually find them at a good hardware store.

Rain Barrels

iconWalmartRain Wizard 50 gallon rain barrelMy lovely wife gave me a Rain Wizardicon fifty-gallon rain barrel several years ago for my birthday. It was an excellent and timely gift, as some of our growing seasons run very dry. Rain barrels seem to run cheaper through the winter months with as much as twenty to thirty dollars difference in cost over summer prices, making them a really good Christmas gift idea.

Another great gift from my wife was our Earthway Seeder. It makes jobs such as broadcasting buckwheat and or hairy winter vetch over a large area fairly easy.

Didn't Find Any Ideas?

Amazon  Amazon 

I also maintain a page of more common gardening tools that might spark a gift idea or two. Amazon also has pages and pages of suggested gifts for gardeners.

Something New

This is our eighth year of publishing a holiday shopping guide of possible gifts for gardeners. Many of the items on this page are ones we currently have or have had in the past and have used with some regularity (other than that $888 pressure canner Grin). We also have another Shopping Guide for Gardeners page that covers more mundane tools, chemicals, and seed starting items.

Please note that your experience with the products listed above may vary from ours.

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From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening
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last updated 11/15/2023