Compiled by Elena Rodriguez, Extension Master Gardener
It’s that time of year, again! If you are looking for some gift ideas for your favorite gardener, here are some suggestions of books and tools recommended this year by Extension Master Gardeners. This list combines information in previously published articles by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.
From The Master Gardener Bookshelf
New Landscaping Ideas that Work by landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy breaks the design process into parts and showing how each part contributes to a landscape that meets a homeowner’s specific needs and goals. Read more of EMG Susan Wilhelm’s review. Continue reading
Fall is the optimal time to plant trees and shrubs in Northern Virginia. If you are interested in planting native trees or shrubs, Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States: The Guide to Creating a Sustainable Landscape, by Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge, is a helpful resource to determine which native trees or shrubs will succeed in your garden. Read more of EMG Susan Wilhelm’s review. Continue reading
If reading about (or visiting) native plant gardens such as The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden near Charlotte, North Carolina has whetted your appetite for growing native plants in your own yard (or on your patio or balcony) there are many resources to consult. One book you will not want to miss is Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden by Dr. Larry Mellichamp (Will Stuart, photographer). This user-friendly book “is about Southeast native plants and how to select and use them in the home landscape.” Continue reading
The most recent edition is still divided into three main sections: Basic Perennial Garden Planting & Maintenance, Pruning Perennials, and Encyclopedia of Perennials. The first major section has been enhanced by the addition of inspiring new photos to demonstrate the progress of design projects over time. DiSabato-Aust has also included pictures showing beds in her own garden, Hiddenhaven, and in those of her clients 10 to 15 years after the original planting. Continue reading
At the time Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty was published in 2018, author Lisa Mason Zeigler had been operating a commercial cut -flower farm in Newport News, Virginia, for 19 years. Her cut flower beds are interspersed among her vegetable beds. She does not use pesticides. Instead, she has worked over time to build a garden eco-system which relies on natural processes to grow strong, healthy vegetable plants and gorgeous flowers for cutting. Continue reading
Epic Tomatoes—How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time (Epic Tomatoes) by Craig LeHoullier, is a captivating book about growing heirloom tomatoes covering everything from deciding what to grow to harvesting and eating the results. The author, a scientist by training and a long-time gardener, got interested in growing heirlooms, looking for tomatoes that were unique, had historical relevance, and good flavor. He has been growing heirloom tomatoes for over 35 years and his enthusiasm is contagious.. Continue reading
Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change is one of several recently published books addressing the “whys” and “hows” of sustainable, naturalistic garden plantings . . . In a nutshell, the book explains how to design and plant gardens based on the ways plants grow in natural settings, what the authors call “ecological gardening.” Such gardens change and evolve over time to create healthy, sustainable landscapes that support wildlife and require fewer inputs than many traditional garden designs. Continue reading
Digging, planting, and weeding tools
- Hori-hori knife – My hori-hori knife (the name means “dig-dig” in Japanese) can penetrate almost any soil. The ridged side cuts through roots. The slimness means I can use it in tight spaces. It’s the best tool for removing onion grass with the bulb attached!
- Seven-in-one tool — My seven-in-one tool is a trowel, a measuring tool, has cutting teeth, a twine cutter, and a weighty handle for hammering – LOVE it!
- Trowel — My trowel is my most used tool. It is great for putting annuals in the ground or in pots, plus mine can be used to cut roots since it is serrated on both sides.
- Long-bladed trowel — My long-bladed trowel can dig 9 inches into the dirt, has an ergonomic bright green handle, will never bend or break, and allows me to plant bulbs easily and dig out tap roots of weeds.
- Dirty Little Digger —The Dirty Little Digger is a six-in-one tool that does the work of a cultivator, trowel, weeder, scoop, hori-hori knife, and bulb digger.
- Garden Bandit — What we like most about this loop weeder is how easy it makes weeding in a congested garden bed. Its thin, rigid stainless-steel blade tapers to a rounded point, allowing precise, targeted weeding. Since you can always see the edges of the blade, it also helps you avoid accidentally nicking the stems or roots of the plants you want to keep. The broad blade can also be used for trenching or furrowing when drawn at an angle. It is 12″ long overall with a UV-resistant plastic handle. Made in Canada by a small family business, it is a rugged and reliable tool.
- Classic Dandelion Weeder with Fulcrum — One of my favorites is the standard weeding stick/dandelion weeder but with a fulcrum to give leverage – it works great.
- Jagged-edged shovel — A jagged-edge shovel is great for digging through dry, rocky, or compacted soil and is perfect for uprooting English Ivy.
- Short D-handle shovel — A short D-handle shovel is easy to use for smaller digging jobs.
- Transplanting shovel — I love my small transplanting shovel. I use it for many tasks including turning my compost, distributing county leaf mulch around my yard, and–of course–planting small shrubs and other native plants. When I get tired, I use it as a cane for stability.
#2 Felco bypass pruners/Corona ratcheting anvil pruner — I can’t decide between a classic #2 Felco bypass and the stunning ratcheting Corona anvil pruner I received as one of the best gifts ever. The Corona is amazing for getting through larger pieces that you would otherwise need a lopper for, but I’m still loyal to my Felcos for routine smaller work.
- Corona’s ratcheting clippers (RP4224D) — As an older gardener, I like it that this clipper allows me to cut larger branches from shrubs and trees without getting out the loppers. It successively ratchets so that you do not need much hand pressure to cleanly cut a thick branch.
- Felco rotating handle, bypass pruners — It is ergonomic and durable.
- Extended pruner — I have a professional one that I use on my five trees and those of surrounding neighbors as well.
- Pocket snips — It has an ergonomic design and makes precise cuts.
For carrying stuff around
- Garden trug —The garden trug is light and flexible, making it easy to carry when weeding or when transporting mulch to heavily planted sections of deep garden beds.
- Yard barrels — Yard barrels come in varying sizes and some accordion down to flat discs for easy storage. I use them to carry soil, leaf mulch, and other soil amendments.
- Plastic bin — I use a 2’x3’x8″ plastic bin for debris as I weed, for re-potting, and for cleanup.
- Wheelbarrow — My wheelbarrow makes it easy to transport yard waste, leaf mulch, equipment, and other things.
- Nitrile garden gloves — I’m a girl who likes to feel the dirt.
- Nitrile-coated gloves — I used to not wear gloves because I couldn’t find ones that fit right, but now nitrile-coated gloves come in several sizes. They are thin enough to really feel what you are doing, but still offer protection. Downside: I put holes in the right-hand index finger and thumb very quickly. I need to find a size-large-wearing lefty to trade with.
- Gloves of all kinds — I use latex-coated knit gloves, light suede gloves, heavy suede gloves, and rose thornproof pruning gloves.
Heirloom gardening pants — My Heirloom Gardening Pants from Duluth Trading Company. I slip the kneeling pads in and can get down on the ground without damaging my knees or worrying about toting around a kneeling pad. It has pockets galore to stash stuff, and a high-rise waist in the back so I can bend over without exposing anything I do not want to expose.
- Kneepads — A good, thick, sturdy kneepad because I love myself more than I used to.
- Garden Kneeler — My Garden Kneeler is a two-in-one tool. It can be use as kneeler and bench to prevent straining back and knees.
- Dispersing 2-gallon watering can —It holds more water, sprinkles it out on tender seedlings, or take diffuser off, and it pours water at base of more mature plants.
- Flexible hose — A lightweight, expandable, flexible, retracting garden hose is a boon for those who need to move hoses easily.
- Hand rake — My hand rake is about 12 inches long, with a red handle and turquoise prongs. I use it a lot for cleaning out around bushes, raised beds, and other small areas. I especially like the red handle since I am prone to losing things in the garden.