Story last updated at 2:46 p.m. Thursday, December 19, 2002

Garden-related gifts always in season
During this holiday season, which is always so fraught with commercialism, offering a gift of friendship and an open heart is more valuable than anything money can buy.

What about signing up for one of the available spaces at the WKFL Park, a space that I consider to be our "Town Square." There has been a decline in the volunteerism for the Pioneer Avenue Beautification Program. I don't have any statistics for that, but just from my observation, I can see spaces that are lacking attention.

What about a senior citizen who can no longer hold his/her own out in their garden, they could use a hand come spring. A note from you offering to do some of the heavy work would be a gift that will ease their mind all winter long.

There are multiple piles of manure out there just waiting to be hauled away. Start on that now, and the gardener on your list will have aged manure by this spring.

Scout around for someplace that will give you pallets, those ubiquitous platforms that freight is loaded onto. They make excellent compost bins once you knock them together.

Same goes with milk cartons. If you can get a hold of any, they make great storage for onions, Small Sugar pumpkins, potatoes and tools. Perfect for a gardener.

The offer to take over the mowing for a whole season would indeed be a gift of love.

Taking the trash to the dump once a week.

There, I have just given you ideas that will not cost you a cent. Just effort.

Now for those of you who insist on spending money: this list is easier, money has smoothed the way for centuries.

You can upgrade that compost bin to rough cut lumber. Add a cover to keep the rain from turning the compost to a pile of muck and you will be loved forever.

While you are getting lumber for the compost bin, think of building raised beds. You may need to consult with the gardener to determine just what size beds are wanted.

While you are at it, get enough to make one or two flowerboxes. Mine is made of rough cut with a couple coats of paint. I love it dearly. The brackets came from SBS.

A bag of alfalfa pellets under the tree (with a red bow) may take up a lot of room, but the thought of mixing that with the manure you have already started stockpiling will be sure to impress your gardener.

Now, let's start thinking about gifts that cost a little more money:

How about a beehive, a flock of chickens or a rabbit hutch, complete with rabbit?

Have the nonfunctioning car (that you have promised to get running for the last 20 years) towed away.

Have a gorgeous iron arbor and/or gate made to order, or make one yourself from copper pipe, a roll of solder and a propane torch.

A beautiful copper birdbath (I think anything copper is beautiful, so I'm just a little biased here).

Birdfeeders and houses, either that you have made yourself or have picked up locally. Of course, add the birdseed so it will be instantly functional.

Now I'm thinking really big, which usually equates with spendy: Rocks for a wall or a point of interest.

A pond. There it is. The ultimate. There are liners out there to make the work somewhat easier. Then you will need to landscape around the pond. All of this will involve a strong back and much time. You just might consider hiring to get this done.

And while you are at it, hiring -- that is, contract with someone to do the mowing for the whole summer. Mowing, to me, is an enormous waste of time. The finished product is so very lovely, but getting there defeats me.

Perhaps the gardener on your list has my same attitude. Problem solved.

Trees. Now there's a good idea. There are not enough interesting trees in this town. Mainly because the moose eat them, so you will include fencing to protect it until it is tall enough to make it on its own. A gift certificate to one of our nurseries will get you a dandy tree. Or two.

How about a fence. No more cages, just fence in the whole shebang.

You have enough time to come up with an idea or two of your own. I hope that these will give you a start and pique your imagination.

Christmas is not about how much money you can spend. It is about thoughtfulness and caring and praying for peace on earth.