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Gardening Recommendations – Books Part 2

May 26, 2012
by Erin B

If you are looking to move past the new gardener/container gardener level, I would highly recommend The Family Kitchen Garden by Liebreich, Wagner and Wendland.

It is bigger and more serious than The Girl”s Guide to Growing Your Own.  The information is more detailed without crossing the line into Master Gardener turf.  Maybe it is just me, but I find that lots of the gardening books I encounter are not engaging.  They assume their readers are gardening at a level I’m just not at yet.  Or the authors frequently seem to have such vast knowledge that they don’t remember what it was like when you are just starting out.  Now to be fair, for generations you learned gardening at your mothers knee as it were.  But if you didn’t, bless her heart, Lois Hole (fabulous as she is) may not be the place to start.  I know people who swear by her books, but they are all better gardeners than I.

This book teaches parents about gardening and gives great ideas of how to inspire little kids to participate.

It is divided into three major sections with several chapters in each section.  The Basics includes such things as gardening with children, soil and how to improve it, watering, weeds, and crop rotation (more on that later).  There is a Month by Month section that suggest what gardening tasks need to be done each month, although you will need to adjust based on where you live.  It also includes recipes for fruit and veg that will be ready that month.  The Rhubarb Cream Cake is so very, very good!  Once again these are recipes I would actually make.   Great recipes don’t help if they aren’t inspiring or assume that even if you are a beginner gardener that you are somehow a master chef.  The last section is A-Z of Plants which includes veg, fruit and flowers.  I haven’t read that section right through, but it has been really handy as a reference section.

The one section that I wish was bigger was the weeding section.  I can spot a weed, I didn’t spend much time in my mom’s garden, but enough that I can at least recognize the weeds.  We have a humourous story about T carefully tending a plant while I was away.   He grew it nice and lush and bushy.  As soon as I got home I ripped it out.  It was a weed.  Assuming that someone who has never been in a garden is magically going to recognize which seedling are veg and which are weeds is expecting a bit much.  The thing is, I don’t know weed names.  I can spot the dandelion and the chickweed but that weird one with the white flowers?  I don’t know what it’s called.   Well, I do now, it’s Hairy Bittercress.  Weeding is such a big part of gardening, I wish more books included a how to spot the weed section.  This one is small, only two pages, but at least it is there and it includes pictures.

My favourite information was the bit on crop rotation.  My in-laws have been planting potatoes in the same spot from twenty years and have nasty scale on their potatoes.  Not that I am complaining, and the place where they are planting, there really aren’t any other edible ground cover options.  But if you rotate your crops, that shouldn’t ever be a problem.

The decision to plant four beds instead of three long ones or any other configuration was largely so that each bed can be one of the fields for four field rotation as described in this book.  I was hoping that they would also be Square Foot Gardens, but …  That didn’t really work for us.  The big plants, like tomatoes or beans, escaped from their squares and over ran the smaller plants next to them.  This year I am still planting wide rows but only nine squares per planter instead of sixteen.

There is extensive information about soil improvement and compost, which is great!  I learned a lot of new stuff there.  Compost is more complicated than you may think.

I have also made good use of the information in the pruning section.  It covers all the basics of how and when to prune your fruit trees.

All in all, I can’t say enough good things about this book.  It has lots of good information without assuming you already know all the basics but still giving enough depth and detail to get you past the first few years.  Once you have these skills under your belt you will be more than ready to tackle some of those more advanced books that are much easier to find.

Check it out!  And stay tuned for part three!

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