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The Winter Gardener | Garden Compass

The Winter Gardener - Gift Ideas for WinterIn the Rockies, across the sagebrush steppe and high desert areas, winter is made up of crystal blue skies, snow flurries or piles, short days and long nights. As we move toward the shortest day of the year, December 20th and the Winter Solstice, Mother Nature herself takes a much needed break, often under a quiet white blanket of snow. A few things to keep in mind as we close out the gardening year in our part of the country:

  • Place your orders for hard to find fruit trees.
  • Seed catalogs start to arrive now in December. Order hard to find and popular seeds for gift giving (and for your garden) as soon as possible.
  • If your garden is not already under a thermal blanket of snow, water fruit trees and cane fruits deeply this month. Once is enough.
  • If you have potatoes, squash, carrots, apples, and any other edibles in dry storage, inspect them now and remove any with soft spots or signs of decay.
  • New and young fruit trees (first, second and third seasons in the garden) are very susceptible to sunscald. Our extreme day to night temperature swings, cold winter weather, dry air, and bright sunlight is tough on the tender bark of the trunks of young fruit trees. Apple, cherry, plum, crabapple and peach trees are especially vulnerable. When the thin trunk bark areas are exposed to warm sunny south and southwestern sunlight, they are often tricked into believing it is spring and begin developing spring growth tissue. This fragile tissue will freeze and thaw, creating a “wound” on the tree, leaving it prone to disease and injury. There are several inexpensive, easy options for preventing sunscald. You can purchase white or light tan trunk wrapping paper at a local nursery or garden center. Start at the base of the tree, wrapping upward, and overlapping by one third as you move up the trunk. Wrap to the second branch. Wrapping should be done the first of December and removed by the end of March. Never leave the wrap in place as it will collect moisture as well as provide hiding places for unwanted insects and bacteria. If you don’t mind the look, you can create an inexpensive, reflective tree trunk shield by painting the trunks with white latex paint instead of wrapping them.

After taking care of the garden, don’t forget the gardeners. Here are some thoughtful gift ideas for the gardeners and garden lovers in your life.

  • Give a gift certificate to your favorite gardener or gardeners for an heirloom fruit tree or a selection of special cane fruits or fancy Mara des Bois strawberries to be delivered at the proper planting time. Include a note recommending they order immediately for best selection.
  • Gifts that are “sown” are gifts of seeds or tools meant to encourage the growing of new or experienced gardeners. Make your own seed packages and stamp or draw the corresponding vegetable image on the packet. Take a tip from the established seed companies and create your own special planting collections.
    • A salad bowl garden includes seeds for green, red, romaine, speckled, ruffled and smooth lettuces.
    • A stir fry garden could include seeds for bell peppers, green onions, Asian greens like bok choy and Tatsoi.
    • A salsa garden would consist of onion seeds, heirloom tomatoes, hot and mild peppers, and parsley and cilantro seeds.
    • The “herbalicious” collection might have parsley, dill, chives, cilantro, and mint seeds.
    • A Three Sisters Garden is the historical, traditional planting combination made famous by the Plains and Southwestern Native American tribes. It includes heirloom pole beans, heirloom corn seeds, and squash seeds. Include the memorable history of this planting method with complete instructions.
    • How about some hired assistance for someone not able to get out and build their own garden? Companies are willing to plant, tend, maintain and harvest your garden for you for a fee.

For the gardener who needs no gift, consider making a charitable donation in their name to your local botanical garden.

Sharing the garden’s bounty carries the spirit of gardening well into the New Year. May all your gardens be fruitful, delicious and abundant.

About the author

Mary Ann Newcomer

Mary Ann Newcomer calls herself “a garden scribe, scout and speaker.” She shares everything she loves about gardening on her blog, gardensofthewildwildwest.com. She’s known as the Dirt Diva on the River Radio, 94.9 in Boise, ID and often co-hosts on Boise Radio (Talk Dirt to Me). Her articles on gardening have been published in MaryJane’s Farm, Fine Gardening, American Gardener and Leaf.