It's not too early for gardeners to start getting their gift lists in order.
There are many gifts that come out of your yard that you can give to both your gardening and nongardening friends.
If you want your gifts to be a little more personal, wander around your yard and see what inspires you. Here is a start: Give gift baskets. Pick a theme and fill and decorate the basket accordingly. It's so easy if the basket is going to a gardening friend. The theme may be as simple as "perennials." Load the basket (or bucket or flower pot) with a healthy, blooming 1-gallon perennial. Add a laminated card explaining the care and cultivation of the plant along with other perennial seeds, fertilizer and a book on perennials.
Once you start thinking along these lines, the ideas are endless. What about a basketful of small hand tools for an indoor gardening friend? Add a few cuttings from your favorite plants to personalize it, along with care and cultivation instructions.
Gather seeds from plants in the back yard. With a computer and color printer, it's easy to make packages for these seeds and personalize them. These "seeds of friendship" are very popular.
Some other themes that may help include "compost," which could include instructions for composting, a compost starter (a handful of soil from your compost pile), and a compost thermometer; "Florida bulbs," including some of the species that will flourish in Florida; "Weeds away," featuring herbicide, a weed identification booklet, a hand trowel and a coupon good for one free hour of weeding from you; and "Oh, my aching back" — scented candles, a mug, hot chocolate or tea, and a container of bath salts to help soothe the aches and pains of gardening.
Others on your list who aren't gardeners may still enjoy the bounty of your garden. If you grow herbs, it's simple enough to freeze or dry a variety of herbs, place them in decorative containers and give as gifts. Both culinary and aromatic herbs are appreciated. Attach a note card with the herbs' names and uses.
If you grow a variety of aromatic herbs, try making potpourri. These may include lavender, rose petals, fragrant flower petals, citrus peel, and scented geranium leaves. Begin with thoroughly dried petals and leaves. Combine with fixatives, spices and fragrant oils available at craft stores. Store in a covered container for several weeks, shaking from time to time. After the mellowing period, place in small decorative containers with removable lids or stuff into little cloth bags.
Herbal vinegar is also appreciated and easy to make. Sterilize some decorative containers that have tight-fitting lids. Red wine, apple cider or balsamic vinegars are good choices. Cut and rinse fresh herbs, using about one cup of fresh herbs for every two cups of vinegar.
Cover the jar tightly and place in a dark location at room temperature. Shake the jar every couple of days. The herbal vinegar will be ready in one to three weeks. When the taste is right, strain the vinegar and fill the newly cleaned and sterilized bottles with the vinegar. Place a sprig of fresh herb in the bottle for aesthetics and tightly seal the bottle.
If you want to give a live plant, one of my favorites is the croton, which has spectacular foliage.
It can be used as a houseplant for a few weeks and then planted in the garden. Crotons develop their best leaf colors when planted in full sun. Plants placed in shady or semi-shady areas tend to develop a lot of green color. Soil should be enriched with compost, muck or peat moss, and the plants should be fertilized three times per year.