You know you are a gardening geek when you love to curl up with a gardening book on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I own a whole shelf full of gardening books, most picked up at used books sales, and usually can't walk out of the library without another tome under my arm.
I have found that my favorite gardening books are written by long time gardeners. People like Gene Logsdon, Elliot Coleman, Dick Raymond or Ed Smith have years of experience with the soil. They may be opinionated, dogmatic and often don't agree, but usually they have something good to share.
I much prefer these authors to the encyclopedia type gardening book written by a committee. The disadvantage is that they may not have gardened in the same soil and climate as you and the planting techniques and varieties may not benefit your situation.
Most gardening books I read with a sheet of paper and a pencil near by, jotting down helpful tips or new information. Typically, I can skim through a book, scribble down a few lines, and return the book to the library without pangs.
But there are exceptions.
Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon is one. It was obvious within the first few pages, that this was a book that couldn't be contained in a few lines. I'm not even sure how to do the book justice in a review. I finished the book, knowing that I would be rereading it many times before I hoped to retain all the information. Solomon has condensed his lifetime of gardening in one book. This book contains a huge amount of research, experience, graphs, and intensely practical information.
It was good I didn't mind opinionated authors. Solomon's advice often goes counter to what (as he states) "Everyone Else" recommends. In some cases, I knew from my own experience that his advice was good. On other topics, I'm eager to try out his suggestions to see if garden production does increase.
Solomon's experience in different areas (from California, Oregon, Canada and now Tansmania) gives, I feel, a better rounded view of soils, climates, and their effect on gardening. There is enough info in this book to garden about anywhere but the tropics.
I wasn't sure of Solomon's goal with the subtitle "Growing food in hard times." Personally, I weary of doomsayers. But Solomon's thrust was more practical. If cheap oil does end, if irrigation is impractical or impossible, if fertilizers and other chemicals are unavailable and if your survival depends on your ability to grow your own food, Solomon strives to give you the tools to succeed.
So many times throughout Gardening When It Counts, I was saying "I never knew..." I was constantly interrupting my husband's reading (if he were nearby with his own book, the way we usually close our days) to exclaim over some new idea or tip.
For example, I never knew the vitamin content in vegetables depended on the nutrition of the soil. I never knew there were so many ways to salvage a garden in dry weather (wish I would have read this before our summer's drought). I never knew anything about the seed industry until Solomon (a former seedsman and the one who started Territorial Seeds) explains the basics. I never thought of some vegetables as high demand over other low demand vegetables. And that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Besides chapters on seeds, irrigating, compost, pests, diseases and homemade organic fertilizer, there is a section on each vegetable covering growing details, harvesting and storage, and seed saving.
I'm not sure I'd recommend this book for a beginning gardener. The massive amount of information could totally overwhelm a newbie. A better choice may be Ed Smith's The Vegetables Gardener's Bible. One of the (few) drawbacks I found on the Gardening When It Counts is the lack of photographs. There are clear line drawings but for a beginner, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible with all of it's photos may be less intimidating.
Solomon does make an effort to simplify step by step for a beginning gardener, even sharing vegetables that a beginner is better off not even attempting without first gaining some experience. If you don't mind wading through a lot of information, or if gardening truly does count to you, if you can't afford to learn the hard way and want to gain from one man's experience, I would heartily recommend this book. Check for it at your library but don't be surprised if you need your own copy of Gardening When it Counts to dog ear in future years.
What gardening book to you find indispensable?
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