review: Growing Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit

Growing Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit

Growing Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit: A step-by-step guide to kitchen and allotment gardening with 1400 photographs by Richard Bird & Jessica Houdret

This hefty (over 500 pages) guide to growing your own food goes from the history of food gardens all the way through everything a gardener needs to know. It is filled with full-color photos on glossy paper, providing inspiration along with information. Though the design sections are not super lengthy, they provide creative ideas for different ways to set up your gardens, illustrated with photos and hand-drawn diagrams. Directories of vegetables, fruit, and herbs are also provided and include a wide variety of plants (the herb directory especially takes a broad definition of the term and includes a lot more than just the typical kitchen garden herbs).

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Herrick District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest by Michael VanderBrug

This book strives to be a start-to-finish guide to growing veggies in the Midwest (defined pretty broadly here as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). It has basic gardening instruction, planning information, a schedule of what to do January-December, a list of recommended plants, and tables of conversions, hardiness zones, and planting schedules. Printed on matte paper and with line drawing illustrations, this book has a homespun feel that will appeal to many gardeners.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Ann Arbor District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Gardening with Less Water

Gardening with Less Water

Gardening with Less Water: Low-tech, low-cost techniques * use up to 90% less water in your garden by David A. Bainbridge

We do not live in an area of the country that is frequently in a drought (YET), but I still try to use less water whenever possible. Especially with opportunist capitalist fatcats Nestle trying to take even more of our water (and sell it for a profit, naturally) here in mid-Michigan, it seems prudent to look for ways to reduce our water needs. It also makes sense from a lazy person’s perspective – the fewer times I need to haul the hose and sprinkler around the yard, the better. Ideally I’d like to only need to water when I’ve just transplanted or seeded, so everything can be self-sufficient the rest of the time. This book provides techniques and tips for minimizing water use by making sure that the plants get the water they need just as it is needed and with little to no loss due to evaporation or runoff. The super-efficient irrigation techniques detailed here include buried clay pots, porous capsules, deep pipes, wicks, porous house, buried clay pipe, and tree shelters. There are also a number of other techniques and actions described, as well as instructions for developing your own water-wise plan.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the West Bloomfield Township Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Paradise and Plenty

Paradise and Plenty

Paradise and Plenty: A Rothschild Family Garden by Mary Keen

This garden is part of the Rothschild family estate at Waddesdon in England, and this book focuses on various aspects that make this garden special. Historical information about and photos of the family are included, but most of the book is dedicated to the gardens at present. Details are provided about the various sections of the garden and to the plants in each of those sections. Soil preparation, staking, and other techniques are also outlined and everything is accompanied by large detailed photos (most in color but some in greyscale where it’s useful). Several gatefold double-page spread photos are included to provide wider views of some garden spaces. This book is unusual in that it provides both practical step-by-step instructions for techniques like propagation as well as large, beautiful photographs at home in a coffee table book. Appendixes provide complete lists of the plants featured here.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Grosse Pointe Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

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review: Cultivating Chaos

Cultivating Chaos

Cultivating Chaos: How to enrich landscapes with self-seeding plants by Jonas Reif and Christian Kress

As ever, I’m always looking for low-maintenance plants for the garden. Self-seeders definitely fit the bill and there are a ton of great options detailed here. The authors’ philosophy is to integrate planning and maintenance into one process, which sounds to me like an ideal way to do things. In addition to great information, this book also offers large color photographs of self-seeded gardens and plants (photos by Jurgen Becker) which offer inspiration for various types and styles of planting. The authors feature several specific environments which contain self-seeding plantings in a natural setting with photos and info of both the larger environments and individual plants. Specific techniques such as soil preparation and adjustment are outlined, maintenance for specific plants is recommended, and individual plant profiles are listed.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Ann Arbor District Library through the MeLCat ILL system

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early spring garden walkthrough

This weekend I took a walk through the gardens to see how things look at the beginning of our spring growing season. There’s not a huge amount happening, but there are signs of life returning!

The lilacs are looking good after we did the really big prune last year:

Lilac really doing just fine after hard prune last year

White Lilac rebounding after deep prune last year

I’ll be picking up more fruit trees from the Conservation District later this week, so I need to pick up some more mulch to go around them and get ready to dig some holes. I ordered probably too many trees, but as our goal is to have the yard be completely gardens (except the fenced in area where Coraline runs around, which will just be clover without much else), I’m pretty much fine with having a ton of petite fruit trees throughout.

Lots more pics on Flickr.

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review: Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives

Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives

Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives: The easy and treatment-free way to attract and keep healthy bees by Rob and Chelsea McFarland

This approach to beekeeping is based on understanding bees and working with them in as many ways as possible (as opposed to putting the human’s needs/wants first). For a first-time beekeeper, this book recommends three crucial elements: community, education, and equipment. Of these, equipment will be the most expensive in terms of dollars – a basic first year’s worth of equipment will run approximately $500. Lots of detail is provided about the equipment and options available with special attention to why the authors recommend particular choices. All the phases of beekeeping are outlined, from planning all the way through to harvesting honey and maintaining healthy hives. I aspire to keep bees someday and this book is a great place to start.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Shiawassee District Library through the MeLCat ILL system

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review: Happy Home Outside

Happy Home Outside

Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life by Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau

The focus here is on bringing the comforts of the indoors to the outdoors with a very colorful, cozy aesthetic. The DIY projects mostly reuse found objects and range from quite simple to a bit more involved. A number of recipes are scattered throughout along with ideas for gatherings and parties. I was annoyed to see a tipi and racist terminology in the accompanying text, which pretty much ruined this book for me. Not recommended.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Ann Arbor District Library through the MeLCat ILL system

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review: Planting Design for Dry Gardens

Planting Design for Dry Gardens

Planting Design for Dry Gardens: Beautiful, resilient groundcovers for terraces, paved areas, gravel and other alternatives to the lawn by Olivier Filippi

Filippi starts off with a history of lawns, concluding with a look at the relatively recent movement toward ecological meadows and other alternatives. Then he moves on to a look at groundcover plants as they grow in the wild all over the world. The next section details a variety of groundcover gardens including those that are walkable, for an alternative that is quite similar to a lawn but without the water or mowing requirements. Many of these groundcovers bloom once a year, so they actually have an added beauty that a lawn does not. Filippi also explores other variations, such as a grassland that features cultivated weeds, flowering steppes, gravel gardens, green plants used to enhance stone surfaces, flowering meadows, and more. The second half of the book provides instructions for preparing the soil, planting, and maintaining these gardens (with a particular focus on reducing the amount of maintenance required as time goes on), followed by a listing of groundcover plants for dry gardens. Color photographs illustrate throughout.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Sturgis District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

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review: New Wild Garden

New Wild Garden

New Wild Garden: Natural-style planting and practicalities by Ian Hodgson

Just as I like to use native plants, I also like to create gardens that fit together naturally, and this book is all about doing that. This type of garden – inspired by those that exist naturally without human intervention – provide such robust habitats for insects and other small wildlife. The large color photographs used here offer a great look at what different plant combinations will look like. I find this especially useful since not everything will be blooming at the same time, so it’s nice to see a garden where some things are blooming, others have already bloomed, and some have not bloomed yet. Hodgson also covers planning and planting how-tos throughout, for a variety of types of sites and plants. There is even a section here on how to use these philosophies in container gardens. Finally, a gallery showcases ideal annuals, biennials, perennials, grasses, sedges, rushes, bulbs, climbers, trees, shrubs, water plants, and bog plants.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kent District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

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