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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Favorite Gardening Books

Since writing my last post and now, beginning to plan and plant our garden, it seems the perfect time to compile a list of my favorite gardening books.  I have learned a tremendous amount in the past ten years in particular.  I still remember planting my first set of bulbs when we lived in the South and being proud of my Tulip 2000's (guess what year that was?)  I've done my fair share of losing plants along the way.  We've gone from putting in flowers just to accent our dull-colored base house in the desert to our now suburban homestead (not in the desert!).  We now cultivate blueberry, raspberry, and elderberry bushes, pear, apple and plum trees, rhubarb, grapes, garlic, an herb garden, and more!  When summer is in full swing we have the usual variety of summer vegetables--tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, corn, melons, and pumpkins among others.  It brings us great joy to work outside in the spring and summer.

Naturally, I rely a great deal on books (and even occasional videos) to enhance my knowledge of gardening.  These are a few of my favorites, or at least the ones that line my bookshelves.  Some of these are unique to the region in which we live.

1.)  The Sunset Western Garden Book is a very handy resource for the Pacific Northwest.  It reads rather like an encyclopedia for each plant type.  I enjoy the watercolor-like sketches of the plants and the descriptions of their characteristics and needs.  There are also full-color glossy sections highlighting annuals, perennials, extensive climate zone maps, and sections on "special needs" according to whether you live in a drought-prone area or whether you have too many deer munching your plants.  There are also helpful sections on insects (beneficial and pests), watering, propagation, and just about anything you need to know!

2.)  The Backyard Homestead:  Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!  is one of my recent favorites!  I intend to read this one cover-to-cover.  It is full of helpful information for those of us wanting a bit of a backyard homestead.  I really like all of the additions of things about how to make cider, cheese, yogurt, pasta and more.  Right now I can skip the stuff about butchering turkeys, chickens or rabbits though!  I still find it fascinating that people could actually raise all these animals on a quarter acre though.  Tell me where that neighborhood is?

3.)  Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon.  A friend pointed out this book a few years ago and she is quite a horticulturist!  I recently saw someone describe our region as "more like England" than the rest of the US.  I paused for a moment and thought, "Oooooh!  What a lovely thought (as I think about all those lovely English gardens and the British countryside of Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter,and James Herriot) !  There are times where I feel like we have that "London Fog," but I really think it's better here than there in that regard!  All that to say, we do live in a unique climate (and things do grow splendidly, even if there are slugs) and this book lends a great deal of true understanding of what makes it work well.  I learned how to work a cover crop from this book.

4.)  Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew has been around for quite a number of years.  This book gave me the initial "booster" to get serious about gardening enough to feed ourselves some actual food.  This one's generally about how to get the most out of a small garden plot of raised beds with minimal weeding.  Very helpful and understandable, so it wins brownie points for practicality.  I wish it included more vegetables in its detailed descriptions as I sometimes found it missing some.  This one's great for beginners.

5.)  Homestead Blessings:  The Art of Gardening by the West Ladies.  OK, OK, this one's not a book!  It's a DVD.  But I had to include it because we found it inspiring.  Yes, these ladies have far more garden space than I can imagine.  But it is "scope for the imagination" as Anne might say, and my Country Girls and I just love the beauty of their gardens and the fun tips they offer.  We mentioned before that we are fans of the West Ladies.  This one's definitely a blessing!

6.)  The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery is really a resource for all things self-sufficient.  So there is way more information in here than I can reasonably use right now.  But I have it more as an emergency preparedness guide (in case we ever had to give birth by ourselves or butcher our own livestock or such things).  It does contain sections on fruit, vegetable, and orchard gardening which I've found helpful from time-to-time.  This one is not particular to a region, so it isn't as helpful as the above books.  But it is helpful nonetheless for the purposes that I keep it.

7.)  Tasha Tudor's Garden is more my "mother-culture" type of book.  Here's my confession:  This one isn't in my bookshelf (yet)...hint, hint (because I really want it to be!)  You might know that I have a Tasha Tudor collection.  I also planted my peony garden from the inspiration in these pages.  Now, I'm quite sure I will not be so proficient a gardener as Tasha was, but I can sure try.  Every year when my peonies bloom I am in sheer delight at the sight of them out my window!  And I think of this woman who has inspired me in all things lifegiving and all things old-fashioned, from her darling clothes to her wood cookstove to her marionette theater.

I hope you are now inspired to go forth and enjoy the spring, perhaps armed with a few more resources to make your endeavors profitable.


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