I’ve already endorsed my main gardening resource by my man Ed Smith, and it’s a wonderful beginner’s book. However, just yesterday I received, opened and fell in love with another wee gem unusually titled Gardening When it Counts – growing food in hard times by Steve Solomon. I’ve heard lots of great things about this book from many a reputable source, but since it wasn’t available on Amazon (whom I single handedly keep in business some months, I swear), I’ve never tracked it down to check it out. But the curiosity persisted, and one day some weeks ago I found another site that carries it, and ordered a copy.
I started reading right away since I have a garden to plant and all, and was immediately smitten. Written in a conversationally informative tone, the author promises to be the ‘gardening grandfather you never had.’ Once upon a time Steve Solomon ran a seed supply company and learned a great deal about growing vegetables. To run a good, meaning honest and ethical, seed supply company one needed to learn a great deal about seeds, where they come from, what their quality is, and plant many trials to see how the plants actually perform. Will they germinate at an acceptable or excellent rate? Will the vegetables grown be useful, properly formed and productive? Do they resist insects or diseases if grown organically? Are they well suited for the local climate? All these things can only be determined by growing many plants from seed and trying many different techniques while doing so.
The book teems with useful and informative bits – the stores of how your local garden centre may NOT be the best place to buy either plants OR seeds, was enthralling. The expose of the seed business and why the pretty packets may be full of crap seeds entertained me thoroughly. How few tools you really need and how to select them eased my worries that I don’t know what a hoe is or how to use one. How vegetables use the nutrients in the soil and their root systems would typically be a boring subject, but this book makes it interesting, applicable and useful. The gold mines for me were two: The complete organic fertilizer (COF) – a mix of soil amendments that work on any soil at all and will provide a complete nutritional supplement to veggies, all mixed by you from common sources and guaranteed to make your garden the best ever. And a complete (pretty current) list of reputable seed companies that actually do their own trials, set high standards, and stand behind the quality of their product. These he recommends as the companies to serve the bulk of your garden needs and they are split by geographic region, including many Canadian companies. Many surprises in that section alone.
Other great things (that this book is chock-full of) include great techniques for starting seeds (which the author actually doesn’t recommend for most veggies), building beds and hills, techniques for using tools, making compost and irrigating intelligently. Every page of this unassuming book was an unexpected gold mine of information and I learned a phenomenal amount of actually useful, tried and tested information. He encourages his readers to grow the bulk of their vegetables, shows how easily this can be done on a 3,500 sq foot plot with minimal irrigation, and provides a ton of useful advice. Like the tile promises, if I only had one book and had to feed a family, I would feel safe and secure that this is it.