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Involve your child in the gift-giving process, for example, teaching them how to make old-fashioned snowflakes with paper and scissors. Stock photo
ColumnsJano's Garden

The art of homemade gift giving

A gift from the heart. A gift from your kitchen or vegetable garden. In the frantic weeks before Christmas and Hanukkah, we are all rushing to find the perfect gift for friends and relatives.

But I have finally decided, partially because I dislike crowded box stores and also because I have a small budget, that I would create as many homemade gifts as possible.

My son and I took this idea to a new level this week when we created our own Christmas tree!

Coming from the Northeast, where Christmas tree farms abound, I simply refuse to pay $50 to $100 dollars for a tree may have arrived over a month ago in the tree lot.

So, instead we created a decorative evergreen arrangement in a large urn.  After a visit to a Christmas tree lot in Vista last week, I found the owner was happy to give away a large bundle of boughs, which we gathered together to form an illusory tree.

We added lots of lights and ornaments, and it was quite a creation!


If you are traveling locally, why not create a living gift of a winter salad garden?

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the Vista Farmers Market, held each Saturday at the Vista courthouse, and upon the suggestion of a fellow gardener, went to visit Whole Earth Acres.

Husband and wife Suilin and Whitney Robinson have worked tirelessly over the years to create one of the most extensive collections of herbs and vegetables, which they sell at their stand at the market.

Suilin helped me choose 3-inch starter vegetables in small pots that can be transplanted into a large container as a gift for a gardener or new home owner.

“It is a little too cold now to grow a lot of herbs, but all of the green leafy vegetables will thrive in the cooler weather,” advised Suilin. “Just put them all together in a big pot, and they will thrive outdoors.”

I left with a tray full of salad greens, broccoli, lavender and chives, and can’t wait to plant a decorative container garden in my front yard.

Although the Robinsons will not be at the market on Christmas Eve (they return on Dec. 31), many of the smaller nurseries, such as Anderson’s La Costa Nursery, at 400 La Costa Ave. in Encinitas, and Green Thumb Nursery at 1019 W. San Marcos Blvd. in San Marcos, will be open and happy to advise you about creating a winter salad garden.


If your child has a small allowance or no money in their pocket, they might feel left out of the gift-giving process.

But friends and relatives would relish the knowledge that one of your children had taken part in gift giving.

Handmade gifts

Locate a website that teaches the art of origami, and with sheets of colored paper and string, even your elementary school-age children can create flying birds, stars and flowers to give as gifts.

And while you have paper available, teach your children how to make old-fashioned snowflakes with paper and scissors.

Preserve memories

Bring out those boxes of photographs that have been on the shelf forever, and have your children make photo albums, adding drawings and stories to accompany the photos.


Share the seed

If you have been diligent (and read our column on seed saving from September 2020), look through those little envelopes full of last season’s seed and share them with your friends and relatives.

Gardeners are just like stamp collectors and love to share their special cultivars, such as Thai Basil or Mammoth Sunflowers, with others.

Pantry treasures

For those of us who enjoy canning and preserving, we have tried to save some of the bounty of last summer’s fruit and vegetable crops through our food processing.

If you wrap your Ball jars in patterned fabric, tie with a bow and place your label on the side of the jar, you will wow your friends and relatives.

And if you forgot to preserve your crops this year, give yourself a Christmas present of “The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving,” and next year you will be ready for the holidays.

From our family to yours, wishing you a happy and creative holiday season. Send me your ideas for homemade gifts, and we might just add them to a column.

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener from New York state, and currently teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center Community Garden. Contact her at [email protected] for further information about future classes.