A client came by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office last week with a great gift idea for her father. She said, “my dad loves to garden, but has had a few bad years of luck with getting anything to grow.” She’s been telling her dad for years he needed to get his soil tested and, of course, he never got around to it. So she decided to sneak into his garden and collect a soil sample to have it tested for him. I had visions of Santa’s elves sneaking into people’s gardens with little soil sample bags and hand trowels!
I told the client that this was definitely the right place to start. However, I quickly pointed out that the results of the soil test may or may not answer her question about why the garden had failed. There are many reasons why a garden could have a bad year.
Extreme weather events, such as too much rain or not enough rain, have been recurring themes in recent years. Certain insects and plant diseases could also be involved. So I suggested that her father call the Extension office if he had any questions about the soil test report and offered a consultation to troubleshoot other potential problems. She added my business card to her last-minute gift idea.
The gift of knowledge is one that any farmer or gardener can truly appreciate. Working with plants and animals is both an art and a science — a lifelong learning process. Research is continually finding new and better ways for farmers and gardeners to deal with the many challenges that nature throws at us.
I suspect there are many local farmers, hunters with wildlife food plots, and backyard enthusiasts who would appreciate the value of a soil test and the resulting gift of knowledge. Even if you have a professional landscaper who provides yard maintenance, a soil test could help you make an informed choice about lawn or garden fertility needs. It might even save you money on the amount of fertilizer you buy.
There are literally hundreds of UGA Extension publications online that can be accessed for free at extension.uga.edu/publications. Another gift idea could be to download and print all the Extension bulletins and circulars we have on a specific topic — such as gardening, lawn care or pasture management — and compile them into a reference binder. You might use an entire ink cartridge, but it’s definitely worth the cost if it makes the information more accessible to the farmer or gardener in your life.
UGA Extension also has several reference books on the publications website at ugaextensionstore.com that can be purchased as a gift. Some of the more popular books for sale include the Georgia Pest Management Handbook Home and Garden Edition, Georgia Master Gardener Handbook, Insect Identification Guide for Southeastern Landscapes, Management of Insect Pests in and Around the Home, Native Plants of North Georgia, Troubleshooting Vegetable Production Problems in the Southeast, and Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses. Each of these books and field guides can be purchased for $20 or less at ugaextensionstore.com.
If you waited until the last minute to come up with a holiday gift, you can place your order online for any of the reference books and include a copy of the purchase confirmation inside a card. These items can be shipped directly to your gift recipient. Or you can order a soil test kit online at soiltest123.com.
These may seem like simple gift ideas, but the gift of knowledge is priceless — truly the gift that keeps on giving.