After a short lapse – sorry, work has been crazy – I’m back with another review of two library books related to gardening. I’m pleased to say I’m giving these two a far more glowing rating than any of the last set of books I reviewed!
The first is The Beginner’s Guide to growing Heirloom Vegetablesby Marie Iannotti. I still haven’t read the whole thing, but the style, photography, and general usefulness of information are definitely worth a recommendation to any backyard gardeners reading this post.
The book starts out by defining “heirloom,” but cuts to the chase swiftly, and its pages are mostly filled with recommendations for specific heirloom varieties of favorite vegetables – everything from tomatoes and cucumbers to tomatillos, jerusalem artichokes and salsify. The photos are great, and the insights into the endless varieties of vegetables passed down through generations are handy. For each variety, there are sections on “Flavor,” “Growing notes,” “How to harvest,” and “others to try.” In the back the author includes a cheat-sheet on seed-saving basics.
The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski is an absolute joy. It has everything I admire in a good gardening book – practical knowledge, specific timelines, handy tips and an attitude that an imperfect garden is better than no garden at all! The book cycles through a year of gardening, and is set up so that the reader must first look up the average last frost date in their area, then count backward and forward from that date to find the specific weeks of the year when he or she should be thinking about certain tasks, planting or harvesting certain crops, etc. So, for example, the “early winter” section describes garden chores for the period of 22-29 weeks after the average date of last frost; it’s up to the reader to figure this out on a region-specific basis.
Possibly the best characteristic of the book, at least from a novice gardener’s perspective, is its willingness to describe everything at a very basic level. This is no snobby, “you better already know the basics or you shouldn’t be reading this” book. And the authors describe what works for them, not what would happen in a perfect world if you had unlimited time and a huge budget. I highly recommend the handbook, and plan to buy a copy myself!