Is it just me or does the Christmas machine crank into gear earlier and earlier each year? Increasingly, the holiday season feels more like a multi-week shopping extravaganza, its original meaning clouded by a fog of consumption and commercialism. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a Scrooge. But wouldn’t it be great if we could concentrate a little less on the ‘stuff’ side of things?
For me the most memorable Christmas gifts are neither expensive nor glamorous. The presents that please most are those that come with imagination and a little personality of the gift-giver within them. That’s why I love homemade presents, because they show that someone’s taken the time to come up with something original.
As keen fruit and vegetable growers there’s lots of scope to make gifts that reflect our passion. Grow-your-own themed gifts may be tailored for all levels of gardening ability, creating truly imaginative offerings that are sure to bring smiles all round. So here, then, are a few ideas to get you started.
Themed Seed Collection Gifts
You can pick up any number of seed collections with a particular theme to them: annual flowers to attract bees, patio vegetables, heritage tomatoes and so on. Create your own themed seed collection then present the seeds in a personalised, home-decorated box. You could even include ‘how-to’ instructions for each seed packet, sharing your own top tips and ideas, along with seedling pots, a small bag of compost and some pretty labels.
Example collations include a salsa collection (tomato, coriander and red onion seeds), a chilli pepper collection (any number of heat-blasting varieties!) or perhaps an unusual vegetables collection (purple-rooted carrots, striped ‘zebra’ tomatoes and red Brussels sprouts, for example).
Herb Lover’s Christmas Planter
Everybody loves fresh herbs, so why not plant up a stunning pot of hardy herbs to brighten up a nearest and dearest’s cooking? You can use any container for the job, so long as it has adequate drainage holes in the bottom. My favourites are rustic-looking wooden crates. If you can find original wine crates you’re very lucky – these really look and feel the part. Otherwise there are plenty of websites offering wooden crates that can be personalised with names and dates for a little extra.
Line wooden crates with plastic, remembering to cut adequate drainage holes into the bottom of the liner. Fill the crate with a soil-based compost. If you’re planting Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme then add a handful or two of grit or horticultural sand to the compost to further improve drainage. Plant up your crate with a chef’s larder of herbs, opting for evergreen herbs that can be picked straight away.
Sprouting Seeds for New Gardeners
Sprouting delicious, nutrient-packed sprouting seeds and beans is an excellent way to enjoy a near-instant growing hit. They’re ideal for young children who love watching the sprouts grow on an almost hourly basis! This is a great way to introduce them to the wonders of growing – a surefire way to instill that incredible sense of awe we all experienced when witnessing seeds germinate for the first time.
While you can of course buy ready-to-go sprouting seed kits, it’s far from demanding to make your own. Start with a beautiful, patterned glass jar then include some squares of muslin or cheesecloth so that the soaking water can be drained off. Add in a couple of sprouting seeds packets: sunflower seeds, alfalfa, fenugreek, mung beans, adzuki beans, lentils or even radish sprouts. If you’re not sure how to sprout then check out my article on growing sprouting seeds for winter salads. Present the whole lot in a home-decorated box.
Make a Bee Hotel
Bee hotels attract a host of these beneficial insects into the garden, improving its biodiversity while stepping up pollination. These easy-to-build hotels make the perfect gift for nature lovers and gardeners alike.
These hotels are designed to attract solitary or mason bees, which prefer to set up base inside hollow stems. The secret behind any good bee hotel lies in ensuring its contents remain dry. The easiest way to do this is to stuff sections of bamboo cane into a waterproof casing – five-star accommodation by any bee’s standards!
To ‘pretty up’ your bee hotel for giving, accessorise it with a roof of wooden shingles, a thick bow of raffia or hearty string, or add a non-toxic wood stain in an eye-catching colour. Take a look at this easy-to-follow project to make your own bug hotel.
Clearly you’re only limited by your imagination. I’m sure plenty of you have some ingenious ideas for home-made, home-grown holiday season pressies – if you do, please share them with us all by telling us about them below. Get creative and give the gifts that keep on growing!