Again yesterday, while doing my usual Sunday chores—feeding and watering the birds; turning the compost heap; taking the trash and recyclables bins out to the street; going horticultural walkabout to keep a lid on potential problems—I wandered out to the blasted vegetable beds for a look-see. Well, good golly, Miss Molly! Another little gift: 29 grape-sized green tomatoes that the frost had missed still clinging to their vines. Brought them in, gave ’em a wash, and put them on the kitchen windowsill.
It may be that we’re just an easy-to-please bunch. But if you’re in the unenviable position of trying to top nature in the Christmas-morning-surprise department, I have a few suggestions you might whisper into Santa’s ear.
Gardeners love reference books. I’ve listed some of my all-time favorites.
· The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why and The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line, by Jeff Gillman, 2008. Mr. Gillman appeals to me because he doesn’t seem to have any particular axe in need of grinding. His stated aim is for people to understand why they do things in the garden, and the science behind how the thing works... or not. Both Timber Press. www.timberpress.com.
· Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw, 2004. Don’t know ladybug larvae from elbows? Add this book to your reference shelf right now. This is the best bug book for gardeners I’ve ever stumbled upon; it has lots and lots of good pictures and useful information for the non-entomologists among us. Princeton University Press.
This next is not precisely a reference book, but it is the most accessible introduction to the science and Zen of dirt I’ve yet to come across, which makes it indispensible reading.
· Being There by Jerzy Kosinski, 1970. Not your conventional gardening book, nonetheless Kosinski has a lot to say about the important lessons learned from a life spent digging in the dirt. Originally published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, my more recent paperback is from Grove Press.
Prefer your reading matter in smaller doses? How about a subscription to one (or more!) of the following magazines?
· The Avant Gardener: The Unique Horticultural News Service. This monthly newsletter is a digest of about a million horticultural publications, and so worthwhile. Mr. Powell has been around a long time: he types his newsletter on a typewriter and runs it off on a stencil machine (anyone besides me remember those?). And he doesn't have a website. You gotta admire him for all that. Thomas Powell, editor and publisher. P.O. Box 489, New York, NY 10028.
· Carolina Gardener. Published seven times a year (bimonthly and a special spring issue). Aimed at gardeners in the Carolinas (duh) and Georgia, it features articles by well-respected regional writers, including yours truly. www.carolinagardener.com.
Wow. Kind of makes you wonder how I find the time to actually go outside with all this reading material hanging around, begging for attention. It’s a physical thing, really: my butt gets sore if I sit too long. As a matter of fact, my nether regions are sending up some twingey messages right now, so I shall call a halt to these proceedings for the time being. I'll be back in a few days with other gardener-gift suggestions.
Most of these titles are available through Amazon. For subscriptions to The Avant Gardener, Garden Gate and The Heirloom Gardener, contact them directly.
Thanks for dropping by. And stay tuned.