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7 Cheap but Perfect Gifts for the Compulsive Gardener in Your Life

Luckily, compulsive gardeners are easy to please. You don't have to spend a lot of money on them to make them happy. As long as it makes their gardening easy or fun, they will appreciate it. Here are just a few creative cheap gift ideas for gardeners.
  1. Compost and Manure - No matter where you live, you can probably find someone around with animals who is just dying to give away a truckload of manure. Horse farms, dairy farms, even small farms with rabbits and goats, usually have enough poop to go around and then some. Municipalities or county facilities in many areas have free compost available year around. Even a couple of cutely wrapped recycled paint buckets full of manure or compost for a small garden would be a welcome gift to any serious gardener. Of course, this involves delivery in person. If you do have a truck, you can give them a handmade gift card for a trip to the supplier of the free compost or manure, and help loading and unloading.
  2. Shared Seeds from Your Garden or From Trading - If you have tons of saved seeds from easy to grow annuals or perennials in your yard, or leftover seeds from trading, these can be a great gift. Cute printable seed packages are available online or just make them yourself out of magazine pages or other scrap paper. Make sure to label them well. Put these into a gift bag with a gallon zipper bag of some shared seed starter mix or vermiculite, and you have a gift any gardener would love.
  3. Ceramic Pots from Dollar Stores - Every dollar store has a variety of cute pots available during the growing season, and you can gather a few of these throughout the year and give them as gifts. These are especially popular among those who grow African Violets and other small indoor plants.Stick a pair of $1 gloves and a couple of $1 tools and a pack or two of seeds, and VOILA! A wonderful gift.
  4. Toilet Paper Rolls and Seed Starter Mix - This sounds insane to someone who isn't a compulsive gardener, but for your friends who are, this is a great gift! Simply cut the rolls in half, fold the bottoms in to make little "peat pots", and stack together. Package them in a plastic plant tray (you can get these free or cheap from garden centers in big box stores) or in a gift bag with some seed starter mix, and you have a wonderful inexpensive gift.
  5. Cheap Garden Clogs - Discount dollar stores like Dollar General usually have cheap garden clogs for less than $10. Trust me, we got through a lot of these shoes!
  6. Pumice Hand Soap and a Nail Scrub Brush - Real gardeners don't use gloves a lot of the time, so they are always getting their hands filthy. Most serious gardeners keep a bar of pumice soap and a nail scrubber handy. Add a bottle of lotion from the dollar store and the combination makes a lovely gift.
  7. Old Vinyl Blinds Cut Up for Plant Stakes - You can usually pick up old vinyl blinds cheaply from thrift stores or yard sales, or free from the side of the road. Just cut them into 6" or longer pieces, bag or tie them up, and give them to our favorite plant collector. If you want to make the package complete. toss in a package of thin tipped Sharpies or china markers. They'll love it!
These are just a few ideas. If you use your imagination, I'm sure you can come up with a lot more. It doesn't have to be expensive to please a true gardener. It only has to be from the heart, or from your garden to make them happy.

South Florida Gardening: Tricks and Tips for Growing Tomatoes in South Florida

Tomatoes are the favorite garden vegetable of all time. If there is only room for one vegetable in a garden, gardeners will invariably choose tomatoes. I recently considered moving to the beautiful great Northwest, but decided not to when I found I could not grow tomatoes there without a green house.  

When Can I Grow Tomatoes in South Florida?

Growing tomatoes in Florida can be frustrating, especially down here in South Florida, where it's so hot and humid. Regular tomatoes won't pollinate at temperatures over 85 F, so they won't set fruit in our hot, humid summers, which last from May through August. It's best to grow your tomatoes from September through December, and then plant a second crop from starter plant in January to get more tomatoes by April. Just about any northern variety will grow during our South Florida winters, with heirlooms being particularly popular.

There are a few tomato varieties that are hybridized strictly for heat, such as Heat Wave, Solar Fire, Florida 91, Solar Set and Sunmaster. Gardeners' impressions are that heat tolerant tomatoes do not bear well, and don't have much taste.

Cherry Tomatoes - Summer Garden Candy

Cherry tomatoes love the heat of South Florida summers. Favorite varieties include Sweet 100, Husky Cherry Red, Matt's Wild Cherry, and Grape Tomatoes. If you can lay your hands on some Everglades tomatoes, do it. These are a native Florida tomato that is tiny and sweet, and you'll fall in love with it.

How to Plant and Grow Tomatoes in South Florida

You need fertile, loamy, acidic soil to successfully grow tomatoes. The soil in Florida is generally either sand or marl, both alkaline and lacking in nutrients. You can take the time to amend your soil to make it suitable to grow tomatoes, but most Florida gardeners just grow them in 5-gallong or larger containers with a good potting mix. This keeps them from being killed by root-knot nematodes or contracting soil-borne diseases.

Use an acid-based fertilizer such as Miracid or one made just for tomatoes. A good azalea and camellia fertilizer is acceptable if you can't find anything else.

Buy Water Soluble Miracid Acid Loving Plant Food, 1-Pound

Growing tomatoes in South Florida can be a challenge. There are insects and diseases galore that want to destroy your plants, but it's well worth it for the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes on your table.

Top 5 Reasons to Landscape With Native Plants

Asclepias_tuberosa By H. Zell GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
With development comes destruction, and native plants are the biggest victims. Dozens of plant species disappear every day, become extinct, due to over-development and clear cutting of forests. People and businesses need places to live, and the places that remain are often less than desirable. Lots have to be built up, or paved over to make them useable, which necessitates removing all plant life. The clear cutting of building lots destroys millions of native plants yearly. While municipalities attempt to force homeowners and builders to replace a certain percentage of these trees and plants, it's only a drop in the bucket to what is lost. Many times these plants are replaced with non-native ornamentals and lawns that not only require more resources to maintain, but do not even come close to having the beneficial properties that native species have developed over thousands of years in the same environment.

What can we do, however small, to undo some of the damage that is done? We can use native plants in our landscaping. In the present economic and ecological climate, native plants have several advantages over non-native species. Landscaping with native plants can save our resources, help protect our environment, and save you money.

  1. Save Water because they are acclimated to the normal precipitation rates of the area. That is not to say that in periods of extreme drought you will not have to water them, but normally, you can forego the hoses and sprinklers.
  2. No Need for Fertilizer because they have learned to live and thrive on what nature gives them. As a matter of fact, some native plants will actually not survive heavy fertilization. The slash pine is one such plant. When left standing on building lots that are sodded and fertilized heavily, the slash pine will invariably die.
  3. More Insect Resistant so they rarely require chemical insecticides. The insects that native plants do attract are largely only attracted to that particular plant. This is usually because it is a larval plant, meaning they lay their eggs on it. One example of this is monarch butterflies and milkweed. Even when the milkweed is completely stripped of leaves by the monarch larvae, the plant recuperates quickly and becomes fuller and more beautiful, providing more flower nectar for the emerging butterflies, and more food for the next crop of larvae.
  4. More Disease Resistant. It is a well known fact that hybridization destroys the disease resistant properties of many plants. Native roses, for example, do not suffer from black spot or other fungal diseases common to their hybridized counterparts.
  5. Attract Wildlife and Pollinators. Native plants in the wild provide shelter and food for wildlife and insects. Without this symbiotic relationship, neither species would be able to survive. When native plants are used in the landscape, you will see an increase in butterflies, bees, and other beneficial species in your yard.

Large scale chemical fertilizer, insecticide, and pesticide usage has been proven to be the major contributor to the declining quality of our potable groundwater. Scientific experts in Florida now admit that runoff of high nitrogen chemical fertilizers from lawns is the greatest contributor to the red tide algae that destroys millions of living ocean organisms every year. We all know what chemical spraying, disposal into rivers and streams, and releases from factory smokestacks are doing to our environment. It has recently been found that a chemical pesticide named Clothianidin may be largely responsible for colony collapse disorder in bees. We must stop the chemical pollution that is killing our planet.

Native plants were here long before man, and only man can save them. Research native plants for your area, and consider replacing less environmentally friendly species in your landscape. There are many beautiful and easy to grow choices available.