Summer's Bounty, Winter's Delight

by Veronica Hunsucker

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It's hot outside. The heat from the summer sun makes winter's chill seem much farther away than it really is. As hard as it may be to turn your thoughts toward December, now is the perfect time for a gardener to begin thinking about gifts to give family and friends at Christmas. Christmas shopping can put a strain on anyone's budget if they don't exercise some creativity and careful planning. Right now, when the weather is hot, you have the opportunity to save money at Christmas by giving gifts from the heart, made or grown by your hands.

Small gardens can be grown in very compact spaces. If you don't have much room for gardening but would like to give it a try, you can concentrate on container gardening or patio plants. You can save yourself money in more ways than one by growing even a small garden. Using fresh herbs from your garden is less expensive than buying them from the store. The same is true for fresh vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and various other vegetables. You can use the abundance from your vegetable garden to make homemade jelly, relish, or pickles. These make great Christmas gifts. There are many recipes available now that are not as time consuming, expensive, or laborious as older methods.

An enjoyable summertime activity is herb gardening. An herb garden is filled with potential Christmas gifts. Snip and dry a variety of the herbs you grow and create mixtures for making dips or seasoning soups or vegetables. There are numerous recipes available on the Internet for using these mixtures. Be sure to include a recipe card with your gift of dried herb mixtures. Herb jellies and herb butter are also wonderful gifts and are easy to make.

You can use your dried herbs to make potpourri, bath salts, and much more. Your herb garden will produce more prolifically if your snip the herbs throughout their growing season. You are not only harvesting herbs for gifts but also helping yourself by giving your herbs a longer growing season.

Maybe you like to grow flowers instead of or in addition to herbs. Your flower garden can also provide Christmas gifts for family and friends. Obviously, you won't have fresh flowers to give away at Christmas, but you can give away some of the seeds you save. Package the seeds in an attractive envelope. Provide growing instructions, such as what type of light the flower grows best in, soil preference, and moisture requirement. As an added bonus, you can attach a picture of the flower to the package.

If you happen to love growing indoor plants, and as a result of having a green thumb, you to have to occasionally repot root bound plants, now is a good time to do that. Place the new plants in attractive pots. By Christmas, they will be growing well and can be given as gifts to those who may not be able to garden outdoors or to those who simply love having plants in their home.

Even though you may be uncomfortable in the sweltering summer heat, take a moment to think about how lovely your garden gifts will look when packaged as Christmas presents for family and friends. Knowing that you are reducing your holiday shopping expenses while giving these unique gifts should make you feel very good about yourself.

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