A beginning gardener has enough to learn without the pressure of possibly killing or ruining that holiday gift you spent money on.

Don’t stress out your gardening friend. Here are some gift ideas that cost you nothing or nearly so.


Eight branches of the Pima County Public Library have drawers full of seed packets that anyone with a library card can “borrow.”

The idea is to plant the seeds, raise the plants and gather their seeds to return to the library. But librarians are forgiving on that last part.

“We realize that before we can begin to expect our community to know and follow the protocols necessary for saving seeds, people must first nurture their green thumbs and grow as gardeners,” says seed librarian Justine Hernandez in an email. “The seed saving will come next.”


Giving someone kitchen scraps for the holidays may seem mean, but it’s a welcome addition to a gardener’s new compost pile.

Bridget Barber, president of the Tucson Organic Gardeners, suggests collecting rinsed, dried and chopped fruit and vegetable scraps in a plastic bag, which you then seal and store in the freezer.

“By the time you pull them out of the freezer, the cellular walls have broken down and you’re halfway there” to compost, Barber says. Add a stick-on bow and you’re ready to give.


You might find happily growing baby plants in your yard to give to your budding gardener.

Many succulents such as agave and aloe sprout “pups,” new growth from the mature plant’s roots. Landscape designer Roberta Braegelmann says that after you water the soil around the plant, you can use a hand trowel to gently dig up the pup and attached roots.

Set the pup in good draining soil, says Braegelmann, owner of Desert Sky Landscapes.

Another easy plant gift from your garden is prickly pear, she says. Cut off a pad at the joint, let it sit so that the cut can heal, then plant by putting the cut side in soil.

Volunteers, plants that wildly sprout in the yard, also make good plants to give.

“If it’s a cactus or succulent, you can pull it out as a bare root,” says landscape designer Shelly Ann Abbott. Let it sit in the shade so that broken roots can form scabs, then give as is or potted.

For other volunteers such as flowers and shrubs, dig up the plant with as much soil and roots as possible and quickly put it in a container, advises Abbott, who owns Landscape Design West LLC. Keep the soil damp.


A free, 24-page guide helps gardeners establish critter-friendly landscapes, especially for birds.

The “Guide to Food-Rich Landscapes for Birds and People” is available at two nature shops operated by the Tucson Audubon Society, which published the booklet earlier this year.

This deal may not last too long. Author Kendall Kroesen, the society’s urban project manager, plans to update and print a second edition in the next two years for purchase.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba, acoba@dakotacom.net