I had to squeeze this post in before the official start of spring!
I usually have much more time to pour over garden books than I did this winter. Thankfully, I had design clients thoughout the winter, and GardenWorks DuPage really ramped up. I did get through some gardening books though, and even though they were sent to me free from the publisher, I'll let you know what I really think of them.
Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening: The No Yard, No Time, No Problem Way to Grow Your Own Food by William Moss
You might recognize this author's name, Moss was host of HGTV's Dig In, a garden makeover show. I loved his personality on that show - very friendly, funny, and down-to-earth. I was lucky enough to meet Moss in person at a garden writer's event held at my plant supplier a couple of years ago, and how he portrayed himself on screen was not an act. He really is a friendly, funny, and down-to-earth guy.
And I also enjoyed his book. It focuses on small-space food production in raised beds, containers, hanging baskets, balconies, rooftops, and community gardens. I especially liked the chapter on time-saving tips, which includes information on mulching, irrigation, amending soil, and growing prolific and disease resistant crops. But the best thing about this book, for me, is the many large, full-color photos. My recommendation: Buy it.
The Modern-Day Pioneer: Simple Living in the 21st Century by Charlotte Denholtz
While I think I'm a bit 'crunchier' than a lot of my friends, I certainly don't see myself as any kind of pioneer, or as one trying to live a pioneer lifestyle, whatever that is. But there are a lot of topics addressed in the book that I already practice, like vegetable gardening, composting, freezing and drying vegetables, and breadmaking. I would use her tips for vermicomposting, canning, homebrewing, and soap making,m but I could just as easily find this imformation on the web. There are so many topics for sustainable, or "pioneer" living, that none of them get any in-depth coverage. Also, no photos.
One piece of advice Denholtz offers that I don't agree with is using rainbarrel water on vegetables. My opinion is that rainbarrel water is filled with contaminants from roofing materials, pollution, and bird droppings, and should not be used to irrigate food. But hey, that's just my opinion! My recommendation: Skip it.
Harvest by Richard Horan
I have a secret dream. I want to live on a farm one day. I don't think I'd be interested in much more than growing organic veggies and fruits and raising chickens. Oh, and I'd have bees. And maybe a goat or two.
I was excited to receive a review copy of Harvest: An Adventue into the Heart of America's Family Farms by Richard Horan (Harper, 2012). It's Horan's account of traveling the country and spending a few days at each of ten or so family farms during their harvest time. Horan lived with each family, and it was eye-opening to learn of the lives of these farmers. After reading through his experinces, I'm not sure I could cut it. Early mornings, long, hot days, backbreaking physical labor. But also kinship (between people and with the earth), the satisfaction of a completed harvest, and being part of the history of the land. My recommendation: Read it.
Your Midwest Garden: An Owner's Manual by Jan Riggenbach
Have you ever been excited to read a particular gardening book only to dive in and realize that the plants and climates discussed did not fit the region where you live? Not the case with this book (if you live in the Midwest, that is!). Riggenbach tackles annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs, vines, and more in this book, which is great for a beginner looking to establish a residential landscape. I like that Riggenbach includes information on edible varieties that do well here. My gripe about this book is that there are no plant images within the text of the chapters. And while there are some pages of color photos in the middle of the book, there are not enough, and many are low-resolution. My recommendation: Skip it.
The Edible Landscape: Creating a Beautiful and Bountiful Garden with Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers by Emily Tepe
My first thought when receiving this book was, "Yay! Potager!," since a potager truly combines the art and function of growing vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers together. And while Tepe does not go into the elements that define a potager as I expected, she provides loads of inspiration for combining edibles into a traditional landscape. She explains that people are growing their food more than ever before, and often with the restrictions of limited space, sunlight, and homeowners association. Tepe offers tips for working with the conditions you have using strategies like container gardening, growing vertically, and interplanting edibles with perennials in a traditional border planting. The most useful part of the book, for me, was the appendix which lists selected plants for northern landscapes. My recommendation: Buy it.