My second book recommendation for holiday gifting (and yes, you can certainly give to yourself) is a perfect read for the short and gloomy days of winter when gardeners yearn for dirt and something to grow. Better yet, this book shows and tells how to grow and eat healthy right through the winter and beyond, but indoors. If you’ve ever listened to Garrison Keillor describe winter in Minnesota, you know that it’s not the kind of place where you grow vegetables in January. Not unless you read “Indoor Kitchen Gardening” by Elizabeth Millard (Cool Springs Press), who proves otherwise.Ms. Millard soothingly eases the reader into the reality of indoor farming and cautions us not to delve with haste into the seed catalogs. She tempers us with the best advice available for just about any garden project … relax, enjoy and set up a plan. From here we read how to identify the right place to grow our bounty and how to provide the light and room for expansion as things fill out. And if you’re worried about space, she started in a small bungalow. The instructions are simple, sensical and, well, down to earth. The book moves from advice to instruction in a smooth and comforting way that is so unassuming and without intimidation that even the most fearful of black thumbs will be eased into a confidence that will allow them to relax and grow indoor vegetables.
She’s covered it all from seeding and sowing to dreaded molds and bugs, making your own soils and making everything happen. Then it’s on to the crops and part two of the book brings us into the world of microgreens, shoots, herbs, wheat grass, sprouts and mushrooms. Microgreens are hot stuff these days, and with simple illustrations each of eight microgreens is described and presented—and here, as elsewhere, the book is so well planted with pictures that just about every step and process has a photograph to show the progression and result.
But as promised early on in the book, the author brings all the growing efforts together by giving us details on many wonderful ways we can use and prepare these bounties. And here again, the pictures are as tantalizing as the text. Each section of the book that covers a different category of produce has a corresponding section on how to harvest and preserve that group and even some serving suggestions.
In addition to the microgreens, Ms. Millard covers lettuces, radishes, carrots, kale and chard, spinach, beets, hot peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. All indoors! This is really a wonderful book and a great resource. For those of us who need to grow on a year-round basis it’s nothing less than inspirational. As a gift it’s a great winter read and will open the door of indoor farming to any who are tempted to enter.
You know I’m a fanatic about labeling plants in my garden. I won’t get into why I’m so manic about this, but I think the labels I use make great stocking stuffers. The particular label that I like comes from the Everlast Label Company (everlastlabel.com), and the style I prefer is their “A” Hairpin label. The label itself is 3 ¼ inches long and 7/8ths of an inch wide and it’s fastened to a double wire stake that’s 12 inches long. You write on this label with a Number 2 pencil and so long as you don’t get it mangled in a mower the label and writing on it will last years and years. The cost varies based on the number you purchase, but in lots of 100 they’re only 44 cents each. There are other sizes and styles, but I’ve found that the “A” works well in my garden. Many local garden centers carry them or you can get them directly online.
Now, my labels are intended for my use only so it doesn’t matter how neat and tidy they are. But for those a bit more fastidious you can print your labels by using a Brother P-Touch labeling device and attaching that label onto a Paw Paw. You can buy a P-Touch labeler online or at Staples and a machine like the PT-H100 costs about $35. The label tapes run about $15 and each tape will produce more than 100 labels. Tapes are available in a variety of colors and depending on the labeler you buy you can get very creative with type styles, type sizes and special effects.
When I first started using this system I was very dubious, but in 2000, 14 years ago, I needed a way to ID 135 apple trees in an orchard. I experimented and used a P-Touch printer and labels, then used the label adhesive to wrap the labels around the top of 4-foot fiberglass snow markers. Well, I have to say these labels are about as durable as anything I’ve seen. Every one is still intact and as readable as the day they were printed. Yes, some are beginning to delaminate, but are still completely legible, and that’s pretty impressive considering all those scalding summers, freezing winters and whatever got sprayed in the orchard and has to have gotten on the labels at some point.
You can use this combination in the perennial border, rock garden, orchard and even the vegetable garden. So for $35 (or more) you have a great label maker that goes under the tree and for $15 a label cassette that fits nicely as a stocking stuffer.
Now, every gardener should have a good pair of gardening gloves. But finding that right pair can be a lifetime pursuit. For years I’d try a new style and every few years it seemed a new material was being used, all toward the end of a perfect gardening glove. Now you can buy gardening gloves that have the tips of the fingers cut off, or rubberized grippers on the fingers or palms, while others have special cuffs to keep your wrist from being mangled by rose thorns and hawthorn barbs.
But after all these years I’ve settled on a simple and nearly indestructible leather glove. They cost about 25 bucks and I keep few pairs around, but they’re just about indestructible.
No, they’re not waterproof, and no, they have no special knobbies and nubbies to help grip and grapple—but they do protect my hands from bruises and abrasions and even the moderately aggressive thorn or splinter. These gloves, Boss gloves #6023, are available at most garden and hardware centers and are made from premium-grade cowhide. They’re great for under the tree or in the stocking. When is doubt, get medium.
Now, I promised to tell you about a gift that would allow you or your intended to get high in your garden. I’ve saved it for last because some may consider it frivolous and some think they should be illegal. The one I have is a DJI Phantom 2 Vision. It’s an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), more commonly referred to as a drone.
In the garden, you say? Yup, that’s exactly why I bought one. I’ve been obsessed with being able to see my gardens (and yours) from above and from slightly higher than my 5 feet 9 inches. This marvelous little craft will set you back about a grand, but it will take still pictures and video of your garden (and your neighbors’) like you never imagined. And if you’ve got a large property you can train this device to fly a predetermined flight pattern while you take pictures all along the route.
The Phantom will hover at any level you want, allowing you to take 360-degree shots or videos of a landscape or garden bed and when done at weekly intervals you can create quite a retrospective of how your garden grows and fills (or doesn’t) through the season. While there are legal restrictions on where you can fly these, how far away you can fly them and how high you can fly them … there are certainly some amazing opportunities.
I’ve also been able to use the Phantom to spot deer on a 130-acre property so they can be escorted back outside the fence. This was a job that used to take four guys an hour at least every day. Now, 10 minutes and one little drone. Great for estates, not so practical for that quarter acre on Meeting House Lane.
Indeed, this does give getting high in the garden new meaning, but it’s so very cool, so much fun and it opens a whole new dimension to seeing things. If you’re interested drop me a line. In the meantime, smile when you look up and of course, keep growing.