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Alabama Gardens: DIY holiday gifts

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DIY holiday gifts, from and for gardeners

If you love to garden, you probably also love to share the gardening experience with others. So why not turn your passion for gardening into holiday gifts?

Hundreds — more like thousands — of crafty do-it-yourself ideas for garden gifts and projects abound, some so easy that even the least handy of us (that would be me) can make impressive gifts for friends and loved ones. Here are just a few easy ideas, though you can find many more on the Internet, at your local craft store and even in books and publications at your local library. Just spend a little time poking around to find ones that fit your needs and skill level.

Top among my gifting picks is a container filled with an assortment of helpful gardening items, from small, inexpensive goodies to more expensive must-have or didn’t-know-you-wanted-till-you-got-them items. You can buy new containers or use this as the perfect opportunity to repurpose all those old baskets and tins or pots you’ve
been collecting. Watering cans, burlap bags, plastic milk crates and even an old (or a new) wheelbarrow — anything that you have on hand or that strikes your fancy — will work.

It’s also a great way to pick things that are specific to the recipient’s needs. You can include basic hand tools, seeds and how-to books for a novice gardener (or a child), or you can find more advanced items for someone who has lots of gardening experience. These gift collections can also be tailored to the style of each gardener, from frilly to sensible to even manly.

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Among the gift goodies that can be included in these containers are books, magazines, sunscreen, bug and poison ivy sprays and lotions, hats, gloves, bird seed and feeders, plant seeds and bulbs, hand tools, water bottles, kneelers, gardening aprons or anything else that catches your eye and fits your budget. Put them in the container, add a little straw or tissue paper, tie it with a ribbon and you’re done.

Another easy and fun gift option is to either grow small plants from seeds or cuttings or buy some small potted plants (jade plants, ivy, herbs and orchids for example) that can be used indoors or planted later in the yard.

You can embellish those plain little plastic pots with ribbons and tissue paper or slip small potted plants into oversized coffee mugs rather than potting them in more expensive containers to keep the cost down. If you want to make them extra special without spending too much money, use burlap, decorative muffin tin liners (if the pots are small enough), foil or get some heavier-gauge decorative paper (scrapbooking paper works particularly well) and use Martha Stewart’s pot wrapping technique: set the pot in the middle of a square sheet of decorative paper, fold two opposite sides of the paper up and secure them to the pot’s sides with double-sided tape, then repeat for the other side for a neat wrap. Tie festive cords or ribbons around the pot for a final touch.

Use a pre-made plain wooden birdhouse to make an edible gift for bird lovers.
Use a pre-made plain wooden birdhouse to make an edible gift for bird lovers.

And here is an idea that can be a gift for your bird-loving friends and for the birds—an edible birdhouse! All you need is an unfinished wooden or cardboard birdhouse (available at most craft stores if you’re not into woodworking). Drill or carefully poke holes on either side of the top center the birdhouse, insert a thin rope or strong ribbon or twine through the holes and tie securely to form a loop so it can be hung in a tree or on a stand.

Coat the outside of the house with peanut butter, homemade suet or an edible paste (one recipe I found recommends using 3 cups wheat flour, 2 cups water and ¾ cups honey for the paste). Sprinkle or press birdseed, sunflower seed, millet, etc., on the coating and then add further embellishments. For example, a sprinkling of coconut can look like snow and thin slices of dried oranges or apples can be used as roof shingles. Nuts, cranberries, raisins and other healthful, edible dried foods can be used for further decoration.

Of course you can also use large pinecones, gumballs and other natural items to make edible ornaments, too — a great project for kids. And these birdhouses or other items can always be recoated over and over again as the birds peck away all the yummy foods.

This is just a small sampling of the many ideas that are out there, so don’t hesitate to find or create fun projects of your own. In fact, I’d love to hear about your creations and ideas, so send photos and messages to me at katielamarjackson@gmail.com or share them with us on the Alabama Living Facebook page.


DECEMBER Garden Tips

      • Wipe dust from the foliage of houseplants and keep them in more humid areas of the house, such as the kitchen or bathrooms.
      • Transplant trees and shrubs and plant roses, spring-flowering bulbs and hardy annual plant seed.
      • Protect tender flowering shrubs from freezing weather by covering them with a sheet or blanket. Uncover them when temperatures begin to rise.
      • Spot-treat weeds in the lawn.
      • Apply winter-protective mulch to garden beds and around newly planted trees and shrubs.
      • Prune hardy deciduous and evergreen trees and summer-blooming shrubs.
      • Sow seeds for winter or cool-season vegetables.
      • Plant cool-season annuals such as pansies, ornamental cabbages and kales and snapdragons.
      • Water lawns, shrubs and small trees if the weather is dry.
      • Keep bird feeders and birdbaths clean and full.
      • Begin planning your 2016 garden.


JACKSON, KATIE Gardening 2013

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.