Throwback Thursday- Green Christmas: A Gardener's Wishlist

by - Thursday, April 07, 2016

In the summers, my Aunt Joanna spends her time at a Giving Garden in State College, PA. A Giving Garden grows food specifically to give to charities and food banks, to give fresh food to people who need it. This is a truly amazing idea, and lots of cities and towns are starting them (Seattle even has a group to organize theirs), so if this sounds up your alley, check into your hometown! You can follow Joanna's Instagram to see all of the great things she is growing and making with fresh food, and she has some simple advice for us all: 

"EVERYONE should grow something, even if it's just spinach and lettuce in a flowerpot on your porch!!!!"

She's right. If you are growing your own food in your yard, on your patio, in your kitchen, it has a MUCH shorter trip to your plate! Growing and preserving food is one of the most eco-friendly things we can all do. Not to mention, growing food can create an appreciation for what you eat and provide food that is clean, healthy, and pesticide-free. And what you can't grow, buy local and seasonal! Just another thing that is good for your body, good for your home, good for the country, and good for the Earth. It's a hard logic to fight with! 

Because Joanna does this amazing thing (among other things, but let's focus on this one) by growing food for others, she has LOTS of experience gardening. She had tons of good ideas for things she would like to have to work in her garden and the Giving Garden, and her wisdom could be helpful for lots of us! I know I was taking notes, as we are just learning to grow food in our own yard. 

Thinking about gardening too? Joanna has some suggestions to add to your Christmas List (or to gift a grower in your life). Here's her list: 

Gloves and Sunhats
DIY Decorations
Pocketknife/ Cutting Board/ Kitchen Knife
Canning Jars and Supplies

Joanna had way more effective advice than I can give, so I will let her do most of the talking and just chime in here and there. 

Plants-  "Nourse Farms for berries, White Flower Farms for flowers, trees from a local nursery if you can.....Gift certificates are awesome!"

Just to Add: Can I second the thought on gift certificates? It can be tough to anticipate what someone would want to buy for their yard months from now, but a gift certificate for a local nursery makes for a gift that keeps on giving!

from Fisher Blacksmithing

 Tools- "Green Heron is the best..they are expensive, though. A narrow shovel , hand weeder, or a swan necked hoe are wonderful gifts, better than another shovel :)"

Just to Add- Green Heron, based out of Pennsylvania, does look awesome, and they make some of their tools to ergonomically work better for women? That seems cool. For other large gardening tools, Bully Tools are made 100% in the USA and have great reviews (my only concern would be their fiberglass handle). You can also check out Gardex

If you are looking for hand tools for the garden, Fisher Blacksmithing makes their collection in Montana (not the cheapest, but gorgeous and lasting. You can also buy Trowel Pal shovels, which are super cute and USA-made. Ashfield Tools also look beautiful and are well-loved by their owners. Flexrake also makes cultivators and small hand tools here in America.
from Amazon
 Gloves and sunhats- "At least buy them from an American company, but it may be hard to find ones made here. Womanswork has good stuff along these lines."

Just to Add- Womanswork does have American-made gloves, but not all are, so check before you buy. Teals Prarie, a store which makes lots of appearances on this blog, makes a personalized pair for the gardener you love in your life. I also found vintage leather work gloves from ReDigIt, which is really the best choice if you can get a good pair.

You can also find some Made in the USA options for sun hats. You could get GI sunhats that are made in the US- not super cute, but it gets the job done! Etsy also has a couple of floral options- this one from Seattle, this one from Freckles California, or this one from Ono Fish Mama. If you can sew things yourself, you can also get a pdf pattern for a hat so you can make the perfect gift!

 Poles-  "Always choose bamboo, or at least plain metal. Plastic coated stakes always, always, always shed the coating, and then rust."  

from storenvy

Just to Add- Alright, I am going to put myself out there and say I have no idea what one does with poles while gardening. I put it into bing, and this is the coolest thing I found, but I suspect Joanna is giving much more practical advice. Something to grow on? Hit things? Use them to hold up sad, tired plants? I am not being facetious here, I genuinely don't know. But the plastic-coated advice sounds on point, I endorse using bamboo for things.

 Twine - "Again, no plastics or metal. They just make a mess later Hemp or jute are easy, cheap, and biodegrade so youdon't have to clean up. You can never have enough."  

Just to Add- Don't buy twine Made anywhere but the US! And don't buy plastic! The price difference is minimal, and you have myriad options: this onethis onethis one (from a Gardening Gal- good place to browse) or this one. Seriously, so many good choices.
 Baskets- "The ubiquitous tub trug is plastic, BPA free made in Spain. . It's pretty, and relatively cheap and extremely handy, so it gets longevity points. Better choice is a classic wood bushel or 1/2 bushel basket. Most orchards sell them , or will sell you one if you ask. Ours were $4 and then Patrick spray painted them so we could tell ours from other peoples' . They last forever, and when they finally fail, use what's left for kindling. The only downside is they arent washable, and you can't carry water in them.  Burlap bags are good for storing onions, garlic, and potatos. And dahlia bulbs! When they fall apart, you can compost them."

Just to Add- The Black tub trug is also recycled plastic, so if you are going to trug a tub, pick this one! The colors are prettier, but really, how pretty do you need this to be? 

I also love the idea of buying someone bushel baskets for a Christmas gift. I have never seen that before, but tie a ribbon to a stack, and that would be so cute! 

 DIY Garden Decorations- "Paint a rock, label with plant names and use as markers in the garden. I've seen them on pinterest and they are totally cute. I have no time to make them...Or homemade soap, since we are always washing the dirt off Prep materials."

from Garden Garnish
My Thoughts- The painted rocks are really awesome, and they might make a perfect gift for a gardener in your life. I also found cool reused spoon markers on Etsy. This might be tougher to make yourself, but they would be neat if you don't craft!

If you want to go the soap route, I will address this AWESOME gift option for anyone later this season, but you could go for one of these gardener soaps, wrapped in gardening gloves as a gift. 

Cutting Tools"Gardeners need a pocketknife, a cutting board, and a good kitchen knife. I have a single blade folding Kershaw (made in the usa) knife, and my cutting boards are bamboo and one is made of recycled husks, bought at Bed Bath Beyond...Chef's knives are good all purpose, but I prefer a santuko (sp?) because it's smaller and I have little hands. Mine is a cuisinart, cheap and effective."   

Just to Add- I discussed knives and cutting boards at length in my Wedding Registry blogs, but I will point to a few of my favorites for this blog. Our favorite cutting boards would be these recycled ones from Epicurean. If recycled plastic cutting boards aren't your thing, consider buying bamboo instead of wood (better yet if its sustainable). 

Canning Supplies- "Canning jars and supplies from Ball, which is a made-in-USA company. Glass jars are better for the food, and better for people, but don't ever preserve things on your own -- borrow The Blue Book (the Ball guide to canning; it was blue, once) from a library or a friend."
Just to Add- More serious canning supplies can also be found Made in America, but I am not sure you want to jump in without solid recommendations from someone who already cans. Also, those Ball Jars are perfect for all kinds of crafts and gifting. Cheap, Made in the USA, and available in tons of sizes- this is a dream eco-friendly product, because you still have tons of choices. 

 Seeds and whatnot- "My professional botanist/grower friend says Johnny's 
Seeds (Maine) and High Mowing Seed Co (Vermont) are the very best in the country if not the world. Organic and ethical and good seeds, literally. Those packets in stores from Large Seed Companies have a very poor success rate as seeds. 

A Few Other Ideas that might be Good

from Timberlane Gardens
Raised Beds, Pots, or Hanging Gardens- Not everyone has a big backyard or a public garden to grow in, but everyone can find some way to grow something, even if it's small. If you know someone who might love to garden, this might help them get started or find the space. I know I would love getting some raised beds for our yard!

For small raised beds, you could get Together Farm Blocks, which basically look like giant legos for your yard (bonus- made in the US out of recycled plastic). Tierra Raised beds are also made of recycled plastic. For wood options, none are as pretty as the Timberline Garden planting beds; they are based out of Illinois, and this is one to seriously consider the efficacy of the shipping. If you want to make your own (which would be awesome), you can get pdfs of illustrated plans for great looking options from Etsy stores like John Marc 33.

from Roped on Cedar
These vertical gardens from Roped on Cedar are both adorable and a great option for someone with lots of space or just a little patio! This could work for so many people, so if you are thinking of going big this Christmas (and they are on sale right now).

For smaller spaces, you can get hanging gardens made out of 100% recycled polyester (my favorite are these Planty Pockets, which are made of 100% recycled fabric, but do have to travel all the way from Israel) or, my favorite, Panda Pots which are made with recycled plastic here in the US.

from artifact bag co

A Gardening Apron- My mom is also a pretty intense gardener, and I know she sometimes finds a small apron helpful to carry her supplies around and for jobs like weeding, so she isn't up and down as much. I love this one from Artifact Bag Co, which is pretty but also looks like it will last for a long time. These ones, from Such a Pretty Dress, are a little more affordable. I like this one from Lady Overboard in Wisconsin. But there are plenty on Etsy between 20 and 50 bucks, so you are bound to find something perfect. 

A Super Cool Music List- I know, a mix cd or a music list may seem like the kind of thing you stop gifting when you graduate high school, but aren't we all on the lookout for cool music? And I find working in our yard to be a kind of zen activity where I can listen to music and just get work done. Something upbeat and fun, whether listened to out loud or on headphones, might be the best gift you can give (bonus points if you can make it gardening themed). 

Thank you so much, Aunt Joanna, for your list which was really fun and inspiring to read and research! I hope you all are feeling inspired to get out there and grow, or at least nail your earth-friendly gifting for your Earth-Friendly loved ones! 

Check back in a day or two for our next Christmas list, and if you are looking to get inspired now, check out the Mega List of Shopping Inspiration 

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