Despite a search, there were no signs of change in the gardens as winter continues. Spring is evident only by the beautiful photos of blooms and green sprigs posted by others, which as they move northward, gives those of us still waiting assurance that indeed, Spring is on the move however slowly. Therefore, instead of garden photos let me present Six Books that have greatly influenced my gardens….some recently read, others long-time favorites. 1) “The Alchemy of Air” If you haven’t read this book, you should. For those who feel composting is a bit of a hassle, reading how the fertilizer industry is impacting our earth will compel you to work a bit harder to make your own “black gold.” The amazing story of human greed and how piles of bird poop caused economic havoc and even war was eye-opening. History buffs will find it fascinating as the control of natural resources changed the outcome of wars. I expected a dry treatise, but discovered a compelling page-turner filled with interesting characters and bits of fascination. My composting efforts will be greatly increased! 2) “This Organic Life” by Joan Dye Gussow, one of the early pioneers of “eating local” and “growing your own food.” While her style seems a bit disjointed at times, and the description of house-building seems over-long, the argument she makes for eating locally, augmented by facts on the effect of long-range shipping on both our food and our environment are clearly stated. This was a recent read for me, and I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of Gussow much earlier considering how involved she has been in championing eating local for decades. I’ve been dedicated to growing and preserving our vegetables and some fruits, but I’m definitely going to change my grocery shopping, eating habits even further, and reduce plastics as well. 3) “Crockett’s Victory Garden” accompanied the acclaimed TV show of the same name. Growing up where “gardens” meant the big plot that was planted with veg seeds in one massive effort in mid-May and plowed in September, James Underwood Crockett’s book offered mind-changing concepts. Gardens could have flowers! Plants could be grown just for beauty and fun! Growing times could be extended, not to mention the introduction of dozens of new crops and techniques. It made thousands of people want to grow their own food, and helped them do it! My much-used, much-loved copy is from the mid 60’s but the information is still as valid today as then….and even more amazing? You can get a used copy from Amazon for 25 cents!!! 4) “The Well Tended Perennial Garden” by Traci DiSabato-Aust changed the way I looked at perennials in my garden. My gardening began more with annuals in containers and small plots because I moved so often early on, but once we were home owners, perennials became more important. I haven’t adopted all her strategies, but growing in larger numbers and trimming early growth in thirds to get much extended bloom are basic now for some perennials like monarda and phlox. It’s a great winter read, but don’t do it with plant catalogs beside you if there’s a budget. 5) Along with Adelma Simmon’s books, which I’ve raved about often, this lovely book was instrumental in the success of my herb farming ventures because it inspired dreams and pushed creativity. It really opens up the world of herbs in an exciting way. The photos by Chris Mead are just gorgeous. Emelie Tolley’s recipes and descriptions made growing every herb mentioned an absolute necessity. I looked at herbs and herb gardens differently from that read on, and still find myself pulling it from the shelf time and again, especially in winter.
6) Although smallest of the six chosen, this book has had a big impact on my gardening. Georgeanne Brennan gives such a lovely description of the French style of growing seasonally; growing just what is needed for fresh meals year-round in a small, compact way that it inspired my potager. The way I grow now is so different from my former vegetable gardens of long rows and too much of this, none of that during the growing season. Now pretty, sensual, easy and seasonal is my mantra, a least during the growing months. Sadly, the climate here in Indiana has little resemblance to France, but we pretend….
So that’s my six and let me tell you, it was hard to choose only six because as a book lover, I have piles and shelves of favorites on any given gardening topic. If Spring has already reached your area, please post photos or gardening tips or ideas, but if you are still winter-bound and would like to contribute with some other aspect of gardening like books, join the “Six on Saturday” meme hosted by The Propagator. Be sure to visit his site for all the other gardeners’ posts.