Give the gift of compost to be
It may not be shiny and sparkly, but any real gardener would love to find a professionally made composter under the tree — specifically a large sealed unit in which you can mix kitchen waste with shredded leaves.
Two that adorn my landscape are the “Redmon Green Culture” unit (inexpensive at around $60; it offers lots of airflow) and the classic “Soilsaver” (around $100; more durable and with a firmer locking lid for raccoon prevention).
Both are made of recycled plastic and ship flat in boxes that can easily be wrapped. More importantly, both can process a lot of kitchen waste (as long as you have shredded leaves to mix in with that waste). Perhaps equally important is that they are attractive and thus perfect for areas where open bins will annoy neighbors (and/or invite vermin).
Stay away from tumblers: Their lack of ground contact keeps out helpful earthworms. And you’ll get bored spinning them after about three days.
C’mon — who doesn’t want worms for Christmas?
Many gardeners come to composting to do something constructive with their kitchen waste, but outdoor garbage needs to be put in a specialized bin (with a locking lid) to avoid rats and raccoons — and it needs to be mixed in with lots of shredded leaves.
That makes indoor worm bins a better idea in many cases, especially where outdoor areas are small. (And in snowy winters when shoveling out the composter gets to be a real drag!)
I personally rely on “The Worm Tower” to process most of my kitchen waste: It has a series of trays that are stacked where you place vegetable leavings, coffee grounds and shredded newspaper for bedding. Then, the specialized redworms do the work.
No muss, no fuss, no smell, and the worm castings that are created are a better plant food than actual compost. The mail order firm Gardens Alive sells this “Worm Compsoting System” for around $100. Makes a great gift!
Instant raised beds
Everybody knows that raised beds are the way to grow, but excuses abound: “I don’t have time to do it. I’m not handy at building things …” The list goes on.
Well, you can erase those excuses and give a flat earth gardener on your list the perfect gift: a pre-made raised bed that the gift receiver can just plot down on a (scalped) lawn (covered with a single layer of cardboard) or patio. They fill it with a combination of compost and potting soil, and grow away. They’ll harvest twice as much in half the (now really good-looking) space.
The mail order firm Gardener’s Supply has a dizzying array of choices: traditional cedar-framed beds; “forever” beds with frames made of wood and recycled plastic; and highly artistic — and very inexpensive — beds made of colorful corrugated metal. Pick one that you know is perfect, or punt by giving them a gift certificate and a catalog.
Melt ice, not your lawn
Brrrrrrr! That sure was an unwelcome preview of winter now, wasn’t it? Luckily for most of us, nights should stay above freezing for a while after Friday night — and that makes this the perfect time to make sure you have a plant-safe ice melt in the house, because these products can get hard to find after the second deep freeze.
You’re looking for products that are just calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and/or magnesium chloride. Read the packaging carefully — some products that scream “calcium” or “magnesium” on their labels are actually mostly rock salt. Look for the list of ingredients, which may just be a series of letters, and take a pass on bags that list the letters NaCl.
Your lawn and plants will thank you.
Pre-treat for ice prevention
Rock salt is cheap. It’s easy. It’s everywhere. And it’s probably why the edges of your lawn are dead and brown after a hard winter.
Rock salt is hard on plants, especially lawns, so be sure to have a supply of plant-friendly calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and/or magnesium chloride on hand before the next ice event.
Don’t worry about the price difference: You only need a little bit of these alternative products to melt ice effectively, especially if you “pre-treat.” When icy conditions are predicted, spread some ice-melt in advance so that the surface never freezes.
When dealing with the ice left behind after a heavy snow, shovel first, then apply the ice melt. And make sure that any snow that did see rock salt is never shoveled onto your lawn. (Although clean snow is fine to toss onto your turf.)
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