Choosing Christmas Gardening Tool Gifts

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Yellow Dramm watering can. Dramm watering cans look great and are well balanced, so they're easier to handle.
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Blue Dramm watering can.
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Red Dramm watering can.
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Make easy work of your gardening chores with a string trimmer and attachments, like this John Deere split boom model.
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Hand pruners, including this Felco model, are a must for any gardener.
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White model SP518 Shindaiwa backpack sprayer. With a handle that folds out of the way, the Shindaiwa backpack sprayer might be just the thing for the gardener on your list.
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White model SP415 Shindaiwa backpack sprayer.

A reader shares his list of Christmas gardening tool gifts that work.

Have you ever cringed while opening a gift from a well-meaning friend or loved one, and thought, “What will I ever do with this?” I’ve raised this question many times — to myself — while doing my best to register complete pleasure on my face. It’s the thought that counts, after all.

Those closest to me know my passion is gardening, and they have attempted to purchase gardening gifts that address this zeal. But after watching me put the rechargeable pruning saw up for bid at the garage sale and the super weeder on the scrap metal pile, they’ve labeled me a tool snob and aborted further attempts to satisfy my tastes.

I really am not a tool snob at all, but everyone wants Christmas gardening tool gifts they can use. I just want tools that work in the garden, since this is where I spend much of my time. It’s sort of like a gourmet cook shuddering at the idea of using my $14 blender to create a special delicacy.

Since I know many folks who share my excitement for gardening, and many more looking for gifts to please them, I have created a Christmas gift list of tools that would delight the most particular, finicky gardener.

At the top of the list is a good pair of hand pruners. They’re a must — not the anvil type where a blade presses against a piece of metal to complete the cut, but the bypass type, where the blade slides by the metal anvil similar to a pair of scissors. The bypass pruner makes a clean cut without crushing the stem.

My top choice for hand pruners is the Felco Model 2, which offers a replaceable blade and spring. It costs around $45, but if you watch your local nurseryman or professional landscaper at work, they are most likely using this pruner.

Felco also offers special models for left-handed gardeners and those with smaller hands; the company even makes a model where the bottom grip swivels to relieve hand stress for those who do excessive pruning everyday.

You won’t go wrong by purchasing a pair of Felco’s for your favorite gardener. I still have my first set of the Model 2 pruners I got more than 20 years ago.

Trimmers are another can’t-go-wrong gift item, even with a price tag of several hundred dollars. My wife gave me a John Deere string trimmer several years ago that has what is called a split boom — you can change out the trimmer portion for other accessories such as an edger, pole saw or mini-tiller. At first, the tool snob in me started to come out. The string trimmer was not quite as powerful as I would have liked, but I gave it a try anyway. I liked it and discovered that the attachments give the trimmer a unique versatility that more than made up for my reservations.

The pole-saw attachment is not nearly professional quality, but it will hold up well for what the average homeowner puts it through. The edger works great for keeping my bed lines manicured. And the mini-tiller is useful for those small areas where full-size tillers are too bulky. This tool is just the ticket for those like me who need each of these tools but really don’t want to purchase or store the individual power units.

A number of different manufacturers are now offering similar units to make gardening work easier.

Spraying Tools for the Garden

Every gardener should have a backpack sprayer, whether you grow organically and need to spray insecticidal soap, or you’re going after the dandelions in the turf with phenoxy herbicides. While the spraying outfit might look a bit awkward, once you’ve used one you will never want to use anything else. There is no stopping and setting the sprayer down to pump the pressure back up, and the weight is toted easily and evenly from the middle of your body rather than from one arm.

There are several manufacturers of backpack sprayers. Solo’s sprayer is the one that sits in my tool shed. But lately I have been looking at a unit made by the Shindaiwa Co. The Shindaiwa sprayer has a pump lever that folds completely up so storing the unit takes very little room. My Solo unit has a lever that permanently sticks forward from the tank, requiring about three times the space to store as the Shindaiwa.

Backpack sprayers come in sizes from 3 to 4 gallons and prices that range from $60 to $100. This gift and a fertilizer spreader are all you need to fire the lawn care company forever.

Would you ever spend $45 for a watering can as a gift? Have you even thought of it, or realized that a watering can could cost that much? Your answer would probably be no, unless you’ve used the one I have in mind.

Dramm watering cans are unique in the way that they are balanced. I can completely empty my 2½-gallon can without ever moving my hand on the handle. The balance of this watering can makes it easy to carry and to pour, and the high grade plastic construction makes it nearly indestructible.

The Dramm is another gardening tool you’ll see professionals using. The price tag may be higher than most people would like to pay, but the design and longevity of the product will more than make up for the cost.

Dramm watering cans are available in four sizes: from the half-gallon houseplant can to the 2½-gallon can that can be used for those outdoor plantings. Prices for these cans range from $20 to $50.

Another “must-have” tool for any gardener is a folding limb saw. These handy little saws fold like a pocket knife to protect the edges as well as the user when not in use. Blade lengths vary from 6 inches on up, but the most utilitarian size is likely the 10 inch. Folding limb saws are very handy since they can be slipped into a back pants pocket and retrieved for use at any time. The blades lock into place when opened to prevent them from closing on your fingers.

The Corona 10-inch Folding Razor Tooth Saw has a curved blade and razor sharp teeth for a fast, clean pruning cut. These saws are available for about $25.

If you have a gardener on your gift list, make her or him happy with one of these tools as a gift this season. I’m not selling these tools, mind you; I just know what would fit best in my tool shed.