Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Read while you can't weed, part two

Here are some of the best gardening-related books I've read this fall and winter.  These are all general-interest books, but definitely useful for the vegetable gardener.

Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology by Eric Grissell.  Not a new book, but new to me, and not your typical "bug book."  It has a good review of basic entomology as the gardener would use it: common orders of insects, their biology, and how they interact with the garden.  But the main thrust of the book is to examine the benefits of habitat diversity, and how to appreciate insects and stop being afraid of and/or annoyed by them (at least part of the time) - how to become "the realistic gardener" and move beyond "the only good bug is a dead bug."  This is not the book to get if you want to identify insects, though the photos are lovely; it's an exploration of their world and how it relates to yours.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.  Also a book that's been around for a while; I was reading it for the first time.  A truly thorough appreciation for all the amazing stuff that's in your soil - if it's healthy, and if not, you'll acquire a strategy for making it better.  To till or not to till, that is a question we gardeners all need to address.  This is the anti-tilling argument.  I'll probably end up splitting the difference, but will tend more toward not tilling where it's possible.

An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown.  If you like the kind of book in which the author takes you on an organized but idiosyncratic journey through a topic, delving deeply into particular stories that catch his fancy, and wandering through the botanical world and through history, this is for you.  I found it fascinating to explore seeds from many perspectives: pollination, germination, self-protection and survival strategies, as well as how humans have used certain seeds to our economic and nutritional benefit, and why we are what we are because of seeds.  "The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution bursting with questions," Silvertown says, and provides a lot of the answers.

A reread for this winter: The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin.  Because my compost needs organizing, and this is a great book to attack that issue with.

Share your favorites and new discoveries in the comments!


  1. I've gone the no-till side of things for the last 4 years. I pile up mulch, and in the spring, pull off the mulch to warm the soil for a bit, then plant into it. When the seedlings come up, I put the mulch back around them. Wonderful results year after year. In fact, the results just get better and better as the worms do their thing!

    Give it a try!

  2. Yes, I've been doing more of that each year. Doesn't work so well for, say, potatoes, and it is not the no-weeding solution either, but I think the soil benefits.


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