Green Black Friday

Nov. 26, 2010

Make Black Friday green with organic gardening gifts

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

Today is that heralded day — among retail establishments anyway – when shoppers turn out in droves to buy Christmas gifts.

It’s called “Black Friday” because retailers look to turn profits (in the black) after today.

But shoppers can turn Black Friday green with organic gardening gifts for that special grower on their lists.

As usual, although I may give website info so people can peruse different items online, hopefully readers will visit local garden supply stores. We really do believe in shopping locally whenever possible.

Here are a few items to jog your shopping instincts.

How about a cheap, but effective beekeeping suit? Even longtime “beeks” can use an extra protective outfit for visitors who want to see hives up close without getting stung. Bee suits can be pricey, but you can buy painter’s coveralls made of Tyvek that work great (it’s slippery so the bee can’t “grab on” to sting). They are considered disposable, but since they aren’t worn often will keep for a long time. And they’re cheap: often under $10.

Gadgets: Electronic Soil Tester for pH ranges; or meter for sunlight, soil moisture, and soil fertility (each under $50 in

Can-O-Worms. We wrote about this earlier. We love our worm composter in the kitchen. The worms do the work, odor-free! $120 or so, plus worms.

Compost tumbler. They come in various styles and prices, but all spin on an axis to quickly compost food scraps. Sturdy ones cost about $200.

Rear-tine tiller. We use the Troy-Bilt Bronco (about $700). Even with a small plot, I would not recommend anything but a rear-tine tiller. I’ve had both and using a front tine is like wrestling a mule. Spend a few more bucks and have something you can use for years.

Some good books:

Artistic gardens: How about a unique, new design? Most folks plant veggies in rows because they expect that’s the way it’s done. At ShooFly Farm, we plant spirals, waves and circles. Why? Because they’re pretty. And, since we don’t use big farm machinery, there’s no need for straight rows. A good book on the subject with lots of photos is Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom (Mitch Press, 2004), paperback, $19.95.

One of my favorite books is Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark (Broadway, 2009), $14. It’s about a man living in New York City who decides to grow tomatoes because he can’t stand the tasteless ones in stores. A hero!

On artisanal cheeses: Immortal milk: Adventures in Cheese by Eric LeMay (Free Press, New York, 2010), $22.

Basics of organic gardening? A new book is Talking Dirt: The Dirt Diva’s Down-to-Earth Guide to Organic Gardening by Annie Spiegelman (Perigee, 2010), $15. The style of writing is a bit “perky,” but it covers the basics and then some.

Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad (Chelsea Green, 2007), $36.

When all else fails, how about a gift certificate? It can be from a store, or better yet, make one yourself. Just draw a plant, or if you’re artistically challenged, a green stick figure of one, and fill in whatever amount “Good for Organic Gardening Supplies.” That should merit a smile, and possibly a purely organic and sustainable hug!

Check out gardens for kids, with The Edible Schoolyard: According to its website (, ESY was established in 1995 at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, Calif. It is a program of the Chez Panisse Foundation (, a nonprofit organization founded by chef and author Alice Waters. ESY envisions a school curriculum and lunch program where students learn how to build a humane and sustainable future.

It started as a cover crop in a vacant lot. More than a decade later, it is a thriving acre of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers tended by schoolkids. ESY has affiliates across the country. Yesssss!

Contact Jim Ewing  on Twitter @OrganicWriter or @EdiblePrayers, or Facebook:

on the web

Burpee Seeds School Gardens Contest (Deadline Dec. 3):


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