Published on 12/12/12

Last minute gifts for the gardener in your life

By Merritt Melancon

Gardeners love rich soil, rain and the outdoors. Unfortunately none of those things are fit for a beautifully wrapped holiday package.

Fortunately, the University of Georgia’s most fervent gardeners have a few last minute gift ideas for your green-thumbed loved ones that go beyond gift certificates to the local nursery or new terra cotta pots.

So many ways to dig a hole

Some of the top requests from the panel of gardening experts from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences include what non-gardeners may classify as fancy shovels.

One Clarke County Master Gardener included a Hori-Hori garden landscaping tool on her wish list. It looks like a broad, serrated knife with a wooden handle. It has about a 7-inch blade marked with millimeters, so gardeners can measure planting depth, and a pointed tip to rip open fertilizer bags.

Online reviews hail the multi-use gardening spade as the best thing since sliced bread for transplanting and weeding, and there are several brands available online for between $20 and $35.

Another multi-use shovel, one favored by CAES horticultural researcher Matt Chappell, is the Crovel.

The Crovel is just one brand of multi-use shovel tools, but Chappell believes it to be the best on the market. Online reviews dub the Crovel as a multiuse tool on steroids because it includes not one, not two but 13 different tools in one. It features a crow bar, a saw, a bottle opener, an axe, a hammer and, of course, a shovel.

Also, it’s lightweight, so it can be easily thrown into a truck or a backpack for on-the-go gardening.

“Dig holes and survive the zombie apocalypse,” Chappell wrote in his eloquent description of why the Crovel is on his wish list.

The souped-up shovel retails for between $80 and $100, but other shovel multi-tools are available from military surplus stores and websites for less.

A third and more specialized digging implement was suggested by Wilkes County Cooperative Extension agent Frank Watson. For serious gardeners, Watson suggests a soil probe — the perfect tool for digging up soil samples to be sent in for testing.

“There’s lots of jokes about Extension agents and soil tests,” Watson said. “But really, at least 50 percent of the time, when you have a problem with a plant, the soil test usually shows that you would not be having that problem if they would have done a soil test before planting.”

If you know a gardener who dutifully sends in their soil for testing every spring to the UGA Extension Soil, Plant and Water Analysis Laboratory, a soil probe could make the process easier and more precise. The probe costs $40 and is available from the lab by calling (706) 542-5350 or by emailing

Pruning, sawing and clipping

Other big hits on our UGA gardeners’ wish lists were high quality shears, saws and pruners.

Several mentioned Felco as a good brand, but it’s more about quality than the brand, said Amanda Tedrow, UGA Extension agent in Athens-Clarke County.

“I would just encourage gift givers to buy quality rather than what is on sale,” Tedrow said. “On more than one occasion I have purchased a $10 pair of pruners or loppers that I have worn out in a single day, but my $50 pruners have lasted me for eight years with proper care.”

Hand shears, 30-inch pruners, pruning saws and pole saws were all on the gardeners’ wish lists.

Making the job easier

Other big hits were durable work gloves and heavy-duty carts to haul soil, bags of fertilizer and weeding scraps.

Several gardeners, notably Chappell and CAES horticultural researcher John Ruter, were really looking to make their garden chores easier.

They suggested the same top gardening gift idea this year: a really nice hammock.

“Relax, and watch someone else do the work,” Chappell wrote.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension before joining Terry College.

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