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Gifts for the novice gardener

July 17, 2021, 2:00 PM UTC

Gardening is a profound connection between human and earth, and a lot of people picked up the hobby during 2020’s homestead year. Lessons learned in elementary school, such as watching a seedling germinate in a Dixie cup, were revisited for the sake of understanding the land’s potential, growing food, or adding vibrant blooms to a pale landscape. The ups and downs of gardening are lessons in life—from nurturing those gentle seedlings and caring for a growing crop, to the mishaps that sometimes feel like grief. The reward when something succeeds, however, is a true gift.

For your friend or loved one who is digging in for the first time, the triumphs come easier with the right gear and guidance. Founder of Crop Swap LA—a gardening collective aiming to eradicate food scarcity in underserved neighborhoods—Jamiah E. Hargins lends his “gardengineer” hand for a few items any gardener, especially a novice, needs to usher a budding plot into harvest.

Barebones Living classic leather work gloves.
Courtesy of Food52

Gloves: Gardening, after all, is joining the earth with hands, which means getting dirty. However, in some instances (pruning a thorny rosebush or checking in on a spiny squash plant), shielding the digits from an injury is important. “Getting a splinter can ruin your gardening experience, so always use some quality leather gloves that protect your hands through the motions,” advises Hargins. “Find gloves that strap closed on the wrist, so debris won’t fall inside easily. Also use them for de-weeding and heavy shoveling exercises to prevent unnecessary calluses.” This leather duo from Barebones Living fits the bill with an elastic wristband and heavy-duty leather. Suggested retail price: $20

Courtesy of Fiskars

Pruning shears: Pruning blooms and vegetables can be a meditative practice if using a solid pair of shears. “Being able to trim back space for your new garden is a first step, humbling yourself to the task at hand and allowing sunlight in life to thrive where it hasn’t recently,” says Hargins. Having the right tool for the job—like the curved, sharp blade of a Fiskars pair—helps being efficient and thorough. SRP: $38 for the well-rounded PowerGear2 Softgrip Pruner

The Floral Society vintage-inspired watering can.
Courtesy of Food52

Watering can: A gentle pour from a curved spout controls where the water flows (preferably the soil near the base of the plant where water is needed most). It is important not to drench leaves while nourishing a plant or seedling, so a mindful stream is important. “Finding a gentle way to irrigate your garden will allow baby seedlings to stay hydrated and give you the practice of regular caring for them by hand,” says Hargins. He believes a watering can is a simple way of doing this by giving plants the careful attention they need. Even when bottom-watering, a can like this helps avoid splashing. The vintage-inspired spout from The Floral Society is an easy-to-carry companion and beautiful addition to the mounting collection of gardening gear. SRP: $105

The Floral Society essential garden tools.
Courtesy of Food52

Garden tools: Hopefully, the novice gardener in your life started with some tools, but just in case, this set from The Floral Society will get them straight. Hand-forged in Holland from boron steel with ash hardwood handles, these necessities are sturdy and long-lasting. “Hand tools in the garden allow for precise planting, and separation of mulch from the soil areas,” explains Hargins. “Once you get good at moving things around with these tools, it becomes second nature and an extension of your hand.” SRP: $308 for the five essentials: potting trowel, three-tine cultivator, weeder, forged fork, and trowel

The Varden Kit
Courtesy of Varden

Wall garden: Sometimes gardening in the ground isn’t an option or you’ve noticed the beginner is struggling with ground-level critters like bunnies and squirrels. While it may seem extravagant to purchase an entire wall garden, it may also be just the thing your friend needs. “Wall gardens can go up in small places and grow dozens of plants. They allow anybody to grow food and can be easily installed on your own,” Hargins says of this type of garden that Crop Swap LA recommends for homes/apartments in cities. Varden Vertical Gardens provides everything a new green thumb needs to start harvesting food at home, along with how-to videos on installation. So, help your pal find a convenient place in the sunlight, pour a garden spritzer, and set one up within a couple of hours. SRP $289 for a full two-by-three-foot vertical gardening kit

Weatherproof plant markers
Courtesy of Gardener’s Supply Company

Plant markers: Nothing is more bamboozling than planting something and forgetting what and where it was planted. And that will absolutely happen, especially when the beginner horticulturist goes on a planting frenzy and loses track. Plant markers help avoid that confusion. These don’t affect the soil (i.e., wood or bamboo often grows mold) and easily carry over season-to-season. SRP: $20 for a set of 25

The Panama straw hat in ”natural.”
Courtesy of Layd

Sun hat: The sun is nourishment for the leaves, providing necessary nutrients. But that ray of sustenance can quickly become a foe for the gardener’s face and neck if they’re not properly protected. This straw hat is lightweight and breathable, delivering great coverage and airflow when tending, pruning, amending, and harvesting the glories of the garden. With Layd’s Panama hat, made with straw and lined with silk (an easily detachable accessory), the sun will remain a quintessential friend. SRP: $262

Gift card for Native Seeds: Growing from seed can be a tricky feat, but once the skill is established, it is a miraculous thing to witness. Native Seeds is a nonprofit seed conservation organization that has preserved 2,000 varieties of crops adapted to arid landscapes extending from southern Colorado to central Mexico, many of them rare or endangered. According to the mission statement, the vast seed collection “represents cultural heritage and farming knowledge of over 50 indigenous communities, as well as recent immigrants like Spanish missionaries and Mormon homesteaders.” Giving a gift card supports a great cause and gives the gardener access to rare corns, wildflowers, herbs, chilis, lettuces, and other vegetation that has been cultivated and preserved for generations. SRP: Gift cards start at $10

Earthworms for composting: Yes, you read that right. Imagine the pure joy and surprise of unwrapping a box of earthworms! Then imagine the gardener’s bliss as those friends irrigate compact soil and churn last night’s dinner leftovers into rich compost. “Every garden needs its little helpers, and earthworms can transform your food scraps from the kitchen into fresh compost to reuse in the garden,” says Hargins of the wiggly dirt heroes, which he suggests be purchased from a local farm or garden. “Be sure to pick up some redworms, then dig a hole in the backyard to keep wet and turn periodically for the little guys to give an extra boost the garden needs.”

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