Plants shrivel, leaves tumble, rain arrives on the wind, and Seattleites sit near the fireplace and go to sleep for the winter with dreams of seed catalogs dancing in their heads. Those perfectly sized green beans from last summer didn't just appear out of thin air, and those luscious, juicy tomatoes did not arrive by magic. Seattleites who want fabulous produce spend the cold months planning, for it is the brainpower as well as the muscle and sweat that will reap the wonders of a backyard garden. Nudge someone into dream action with gardening-related gifts.
Tools and Accessories
Walk into your neighborhood nursery and you'll be dizzy with options (that smell of good soil should revive you). Here are just a few ideas:
First, save your loved ones from aches and pains. Visit Swanson's Nursery in Crown Hill (9701 15th Ave. N.W., 206-782-2543, www.swansonsnursery.com) for a kneeling pad ($7.99), a pair of buckle-on knee pads ($14.99), or the folding kneeling bench ($39.99), which you can flip and use as a seat. You can also choose waterproof field boots ($90) or Edgewater camp shoes ($65), but don't forget the Boot Buck ($29.99) to scrape off the gunk.
One gift set ($29.99) contains a cotton canvas half-apron and three hand tools (fork, transplanter, and trowel); another ($34.99) has a kneeling pad, trowel and cultivator, 10-inch plant markers with copper ID labels, and a pencil. Spring sprouting will call for a seedling heat mat ($49.99; accommodates two seed flats). Check out the Wall O' Water plant protector (three for $12.99): You place it around your plant and fill it with water, which then retains the day's heat and keeps the chill off.
Thinking of a dedicated gardener? Smith & Hawken (University Village, 4622 25th Ave. N.E., 206-985-8613; 12200 Northup Way, Bellevue, 425-881-6775; www.smithandhawken.com) will ship a professional redwood greenhouse ($2,950 for the 8-by-12-foot model), but you should check local ordinances first to be sure installation is legal.
The WSU Extension Web site (gardening.wsu.edu) propagates knowledge, including how to build a Poor Man's Greenhouse. A self-addressed, stamped envelope will get the plans from Hoop House, Master Gardener Program, 7612 Pioneer Way E., Puyallup, WA 98371.
Books and Magazines
Start with the Northwest Gardeners' Resource Directory (Sasquatch Books, $24.95; www.sasquatchbooks.com), and at your fingertips will be information on nurseries, clubs, seed sources, and exhibits, plant sales, and gardens to visit, not to mention reviews of books and journals.
Sunset magazine (12 issues for $21; www.sunset.com) provides all sorts of information for gracious Western living, including a monthly garden to-do list.
Edible Garden (Sunset Books, $13.57 at Amazon.com) not only has instructions for growing 70 plants, it includes ideas for kid-friendly gardening and recipes.
Seattle Tilth has informative books available, including Maritime Northwest Garden Guide ($12.50, www.seattletilth.org).
An absolute must: the Old Farmer's Almanac ($5.99 at uncountable stores), with weather forecasts, planting times, and scads of fun facts to read when the rain begins, just as the almanac predicts.
Classes and Seminars
The Comprehensive Organic Gardener Program, by Seattle Tilth, is an intensive program that blends scientific and practical information with hands-on learning and practice ($140 members, $170 nonmembers; e-mail email@example.com).
Don't overlook the local colleges. In January, North Seattle Community College offers Herb Gardening, a one-session course ($40; 206-527-3600, www.northseattle.edu).
Remember Tom Sawyer's fence? Show the kids how much fun it is to work in the garden by signing them up for the Junior Gardeners Club at Sky Nursery (18528 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline, 206-546-4851, www.skynursery.com). Membership is free, but some activities have a small fee for supplies. The club newsletter talks of vegetables, recipes, and "exciting gardening activities," and a free surprise is offered each month at the nursery (November's was a 4-inch wintergreen).
How about a package under the tree that contains everything for a garden (just add water)? Territorial Seed in Cottage Grove, Ore. (www.territorial-seed.com/stores/1/index.cfm) can set you up with many types of collections. The Heirloom Seed Collection ($104.95), which the company says invites "passion" and "sparks a sense of wonder," has 24 types of seeds, from the Early Wonder Tall Top beet to Long Island Mammoth dill. They come in a 3-quart colander with a Seed to Seed book, the Seed Master II seed sower, and one bottle each of Age Old Organics Fish and Kelp Grow Formula and Bloom Formula. Territorial's seeds are also available at several stores in Seattle, including City People's Garden Store, Greenwood Hardware, and West Seattle Nursery.
See Swanson's (www.swansonsnursery.com) for a rain gauge on a wrought-iron stand ($24.99); Gardener's Grime Away, a bar soap "with grits" ($4.99), and cranberry-orange hand treatment with shea butter ($9.99); herb-themed playing cards ($6.99); a leaf ornament ($3.99); and Gardenopoly ($29.99), where you can be sent straight to weeding without collecting any dough.