When it comes to holiday gifts for the gardeners on your list, doesn't it seem like the "same old, same old"? You know: gardening tool kits, gardening gloves and potted holiday plants wrapped in foil and a bow.
Why not change your strategy this year and choose presents that are not only good for the recipients, but for the Earth as well? You'll find a wide variety of eco-smart products for controlling insects and pests, creating an organic garden, reducing waste, conserving energy and enjoying the outdoors in a more healthy way.
Wrap one of these gifts in recycled paper and tie with twine (which has lots of uses in the yard), and you'll help the environment this holiday season.
Some Home Depot garden centers and other nurseries sell small bags of live lady bugs from Ladies in Red (www.ladiesinred.com) for less than $5. You can also find live bugs at Twigs and Leaves (1013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S, St. Petersburg.) Let them loose in the garden, and they'll eat unwanted pests, not plants. Or provide a cozy home for garden toads and lizards with the whimsical Toad Trailer ($19.95), modeled from a vintage camper, from Gardener's Supply (toll free 1-800-876-5520; www.gardeners.com).
Organic garden kits
Forget the holiday Chia pet. These organic gardens help support the Earth, plus you get great-tasting produce. The Salsa/Chili Kit ($34.95) and Pesto Herbs Kit ($39.95) from Agromin, a California-based soil company (toll free 1-800-247-6646; www.agromin.com), come with bagged soil that contains recycled green waste materials, including lawn clippings, leaves and tree limbs that are chopped, cleaned and naturally composted. Each kit contains planting pots, seed packets, cookbook, herb garden wheel featuring 16 herbs and their usage, plant labels and a 4-quart bag of organic potting soil. Gardens can be grown indoors or out. Agromin recycles 20,000 tons of waste each month into organic soil products.
Outdoor solar lighting
Stop wasting electricity and start tapping the energy of the sun to power fun outdoor lights from Gardener's Supply Co. (toll free 1-800-876-5520; www.gardeners.com). Choose from more than 20 lights, including the cute 10-inch tall, bearded Solar Garden Gnomes ($39.95), whose lantern and crystal ball are lit by a solar-charged battery, and the magical glass Fairydust Balls (3 for $23.95) that softly illuminate the night. Or shop local home improvement and discount stores for solar lighting in a range of styles and prices.
No garden is complete without a composter to recycle yard and household waste to make rich soil amendments. With nearly 50 models priced from as low as $19.95, Green Culture Inc. (toll free 1-800-233-8438; www.composters.com) is a good source for bins and tumblers. Some are even stylish, including the All-Natural Bamboo Composter ($69.50), made from sustainably harvested bamboo; the Blue Planet Smart Composter ($239) that looks like a royal blue globe; and the Scrap Eater Living Machine ($459), made from a recycled wine barrel and dome that doubles as a garden planter.
Who needs a gym membership when you can use your energy to power a push-reel mower? Clean Air Gardening (www.clean airgardening.com; (214) 363-5170) has more than a dozen reel mowers to choose from, priced from $119.99 for the bare-bones Prison Reel Mower to $1,299.99 for the professional Putting Green Reel Mower ideal for a backyard putting green. Add a pair of spiked Lawn Aerator Sandals ($14.99) that fit over your shoes, and you can aerate your soil while you mow. Local Ace Hardware stores also carry reel mowers.
Keep water flowing in fountains and birdbaths with environmentally friendly and safe water features from St. Petersburg-based HealthyHome (2894 22nd Ave. N). There's a Copper Solar Birdbath ($239.95) and Solar Cascade 4 Tier Fountain ($99.95) made of natural terra cotta. Throw in a jug of Fountain Fresh ($19.99) to keep water naturally free from algae, staining and green water. Visit the store, call (727) 322-1058 or toll-free 1-800-583-9523 or shop online at www.healthyhome.com.
Survive water restrictions with a specially designed barrel that collects rainwater from your home's downspout. HealthyHome's 60-gallon Great American Rain Barrel ($99.99) is made from recycled plastic and comes with all the accessories. For store details, see item above. Wilcox Nursery (12501 Indian Rocks Road, Largo; (727) 595-2073) sells several styles of 55-gallon rain barrels for about $100. Another option is contacting your county extension office, many of which offer low-cost rain barrel workshops complete with a rain barrel to take home.
Yvonne Swanson is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg and a master gardener for Pinellas County.