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Last Minute Gifts for Gardeners

A YBYG tradition at this time of year! Some of the things I'll mention can be purchased in stores (remember stores?) and online. We're running tight on having things in hand from online sources for The Big Day, but if it doesn't show up on time, you can give them a picture and a promise. OK? Let's go kats and kittens!

• My number one gift idea for many years has been baseball batting gloves. Not your ordinary garden gloves, batting gloves fit so tight 'you could pick up a dime' while wearing them. (Maybe; I personally can't pick up a dime without professional assistance.) They come in a wide variety of sizes, youth and adult in small, medium, large and extra large for the adult version. Sporting Goods stores should have them in stock. Ask your gift recipient if you can trace their hand for a mysterious project you're starting.

• Pruners! Everybody can use a new pair (or dozen pair) of pruners; heck, even I need new pruners! (Growing up I was told that I was quote "hard on clothes", which continues to be true.) My personal preference is Fiskars line of ergonomic pruners, but there are other high-quality brands out there. Note: This is not a Dollar Store gift! Go for high-quality no matter what the brand. Your friendly neighborhood independent garden center should have them on display. Please don't go to a Big Box store; your neighborhood garden center is as endangered as small family farms and deserves your support!

• Batting gloves AND pruners! (Just in case you didn't think of it yourself.)

Bigger stuff

• A Worm Tower. No, not a worm BIN. I can't comprehend how people manage a bin. How do you know when stuff is done if you're constantly adding new material? A worm tower has a base unit with a spigot and stackable trays. You fill a tray with kitchen waste (no meat, no bones and go very light on things like bread, pasta and rice) with shredded newspaper on top. New trays go on top and the worms below in the finished and half-finished trays migrate up. My unit is from Gardens Alive! (Yes, they help support the show but that doesn't mean they should get frozen out; and they have lots of cool stuff.) Not sure if they or other online suppliers can ship the actual worms in winter, but you can get starter worms anywhere they sell live bait for fishing. Make sure you get Red Wigglers ("the Cadillac of Worms") and not nightcrawlers. And no, it doesn't smell and they don't get loose; and kids LOVE feeding the worms.

• No room for a Worm Tower and/or a little too squiggly for you? Vita-Mix (the people who make those amazing high-end blenders) sent me a product to test early this year that is a real game changer. I don't usually rave about new products, but The Empress Diane and I love this thing. It's called the Food Cycler. You get a heavy-duty metal bucket with a lid that has a charcoal filter in the top and you fill it with your kitchen waste. When it's full to the indicated line, you drop it into the machine (roughly a square foot in size), lock the lid and turn it on. Two massive replaceable charcoal filters control any potential odors while the machine, chops, grinds and then dries the material, reducing it to 10 percent of its original size. I mix this Cream of Compost into my potting soil and/or spread it lightly around my house plants. It's the perfect complement to my Worm Tower, especially when all the trays are full. Originally priced at 400 bucks, everyone who sells it seems to have reduced it to 300 for the holidays. If that seems a bit high, you should know that Vitamix products are built like tanks; I'm still using one of their all-metal high-speed blenders that I got back in the nineties. Every pint of tomato sauce we have produced in the last 30 years was blended in a classic Vitamix blender. You can buy The Food Cycler from the official Vitamix website, Amazon (of course!) and a surprising number of 'brick and mortar' stores for three hundred, including Best Buy, Wayfair and Crate and Barrel.

• A rechargeable leaf shredder. Advances in battery technology have made rechargeable hand-held blower/vacs lighter in weight with a longer running time. Hey! Now you get to go to one of those Big Box stores, you Devil you! Look for a unit that has a blower attachment AND a different swap-out funnel for sucking up leaves (these will all come with a shoulder held collection bag). Look also for a good warranty and if you're lucky you might find a package that has two rechargeable batteries inside. Note: Some units are sold without the battery; make sure it says, 'includes battery and charger'. A great way to collect and shred your leaves without bending over. Santa says, "bending is for chumps!"

• And finally, give what Mutts creator Patrick McDonnel calls 'the gift of nothing': Make a donation to a charity in the name of your giftee. My personal preferences are local homeless shelters and your local outpost of "Feeding America", a group that helps people who face food insecurity. There's way too many of them.

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