Subscribe for 33¢ / day

When dawn breaks exactly one week from today families and friends still filled with glorious Thanksgiving food will launch into stores’ shopping aisles to observe the spending phenomenon known as Black Friday.

As gardeners looking for purposeful gifts, we have time to get smart and do a little homework. I hope I speak for many when I confess I want the best possible exchange for my purchase. I have some thoughts on the topic.

First, for children. We want to impart a sense of wonder in the garden in a way that connects with the experience and the social world of the child. I recommend The Butterfly Adventure by Nancy Lorraine with lovely watercolor illustrations by Dorothy Herron. The author’s life work was counseling children in crisis. In the little four chapter book two ‘cousin’ Swallowtail butterflies have an adventure in a garden encountering stick bugs, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, lady bugs, dragonflies, bumblebees and a toad. Lorraine, who is also a Master Gardener, fills the book with the correctly described activities of all that live in the garden. The ‘adventure’ is one that children 4-8 surely can identify with. There is a sense of reckless wonder, the cautions of grandmotherly-caring insects, the thrill of exploration and the curiosity about meeting new ‘acquaintances’. It’s a sweet book to read to or with a child. It is available on line.

This is the best time to check your tools to be cleaned, repaired or pitched. My addiction to fine tools is well known. I want tools that will not hurt me, that can be sharpened or repaired easily, that will function exactly as promised, are well engineered and long-lasting.

Get tips on free stuff and fun ideas delivered weekly to your inbox

I feel that this spring we will be doing some serious pruning on shrubs and trees that have succumbed to too many droughty years. That means that we need good hand pruners and loppers. Pruners that are described as ‘anvil’ crush a stem rather than clean cut it as a by-pass pruner will. Save your money and look for a hand pruners and loppers with a gear-tooth enhanced leverage or a ratchet mechanism. These transfer the energy from your hands to the cutting edge which makes cutting easier. Read the tool specs carefully because they give the dimension of a stem or limb appropriate for the lopper. These tools provide a clean cut on the plant without the need to ice your hand and take pain pills later.

Another tool that should be in every gardener’s bucket is the garden knife or grubbing knife. This is an all purpose tool for weeding, making planting holes, digging around a resistant rock and more. These come in a wide range of prices and quality. If there are no young children who might play with the tools, get a fine knife with a high quality blade that can be kept sharp. Google De Witt tools (Dutch, hand-made) or the hori-hori knife. Be certain that the blade extends well into the haft of the knife.

Think of high quality tools for the garden and the gardener. With those, we are truly “re-tooled” for the coming gardening year.

Cathie Draine is a South Dakota Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in Black Hawk. She may be contacted at

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.