Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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If you have a gardener on your holiday gift list, here are a few ideas to show that person you care.
For some gardeners, tools are the ideal gift. "Probably my most favorite tool is the spading fork. The handle is the right length for leverage, but more importantly, the tines help break up each lift of the heavy clay," said Carol Booth Fox, a local master gardener. "The tines cultivate as they dig and slip between the stones in the soil. Indispensable!"
For shaping a vertical trench, leveling a walkway or edging a garden bed, the garden spade is the perfect tool. It has a flat blade and comes in several handle lengths. Also helpful in the garden is your garden-variety shovel with its pointed blade. A garden shovel is lighter and smaller than other shovels, which is a big consideration for smaller gardeners. It's perfect for double-digging your soil so plant roots can move deeper into the soil.
Among my favorite tools is a trowel with a nicely balanced, comfortable handle. I use it for transplanting seedlings and bulbs, digging up weeds and loosening the soil around my root vegetables when it's time to harvest my bounty.
My second favorite tool is my curved, short-nosed pruner. I use it for deadheading spent plants and trimming away unruly branches on my shrubs.
If your gardener has all the tools he or she needs, perhaps a book would be a better choice. Among the recommendations from local master gardeners is the "Sunset" series of Western Garden Books. Audrey Enever uses her copy as a regular reference at home, as well as at the Yampa River Botanic Park, for the gardeners who select and learn how to grow various plants and trees. Two books that many master gardeners often use are "Weeds of the West" by Tom Whitson and "Best Perennials for the Rocky Mountains and High Plains" by Celia Tannehill and James E. Klett.
My favorite reference books about pests and insects are Whitney Cranshaw's "Pests of the West Revised" and "Garden Insects of North America." "Insects and Diseases of Woody Plants of the Central Rockies," published by Colorado State University Extension Service, is another must-have for the gardener's bookshelf. One other recommendation is the small booklet put out by the local Cooperative Extension office, "59 Days, 39F at 6,770 Feet." It contains articles written by various local master gardeners, including yours truly, about topics related to our high mountain environment. You can find these books at the local bookstores and through the Cooperative Extension service.
Now, if the gardeners on your list have all the tools and books they could use, you might consider a donation in their name to the Yampa River Botanic Park's new Trillium House, which opens to the public this spring. Donations may be made at the Community Foundation by credit card, or you can mail a check. This park, donated to the community by Bob and Audrey Enever, is constructing a small building to house public bathrooms, the staff office and meeting space for community groups. It would be a wonderful tribute to the Enevers to have as many local supporters as possible contribute to this capital campaign, even with a small donation.
Deb Babcock is master gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Where trade names are used, no endorsement is implied nor is criticism implied of those products mot mentioned. Questions? Call 879-0825.