Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gardening with the Gettles

Well, I think I've finally come to the end of my backlog of gardening books with The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally by Jere and Emily Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It's just as much memoir as gardening book, using Gettle's life-journey as a vehicle for sharing his gardening wisdom. The first four chapters outline Jere Gettle's childhood, and the establishment of his seed company, and, finally, his wanderlust to discover and preserve heirloom varieties in the United States and around the world.

In the fifth chapter, the authors (Jere, his wife Emilee with Meghan Sutherland) finally tell the reader "How to Garden." They dispense general gardening advice--organically oriented--whose most surprising admission is the use, when necessary, of plastic mulch because of its economy.

Mulch is one of the most important tools in your gardening arsenal, and helpful in many different ways.

The second half of the book is an "A to Z Growing Guide" which, in addition to the usual cultivation advice organized by variety, offers techniques for seed saving and even some cooking suggestions.

If you've read their Heirloom Gardener magazine, you'd be surprised to know that the term "Frankenfood"--meaning genetically modified organisms--doesn't appear until page 117 while discussing the incursion of GMO corn into the gene pool. The authors are surprisingly mild when discussing GMOs, especially when compared with the magazine, which can be strident, at times. They do make their point, however.

The Heirloom Life Gardener is well-organized by the staff at Hyperion, and colorfully attractive thanks to book designers Shubhani Sarkar and Sunil Manchikanti. Not surprisingly, it was published with sustainability in mind. The Heirloom Life Gardener is an enjoyable, informative read from one of the nation's premier seedsmen.

What about you? What's on your reading table?


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Richly Entertaining "A Rich Spot of Earth"

Thomas Jefferson, in addition to being President, was, arguably, one of the most famous gardeners in America and his Monticello served as the canvas of his masterwork. I visited the President's aerie a number of years ago, and so ordered Peter J. Hatch's "A Rich Spot of Earth": Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello when it was published in 2012. I started it then, as my bookmark attests, but have only now taken the time to finish it. I hope you read it without delay.

Hatch is a renowned author, professional gardener, and historian who spent 35 years as Monticello's Director of Gardens and Grounds, supervising restoration of the grounds and gardens to a condition that Jefferson would recognize. In his book, he tells that story with the historian's mind, but the gardener's heart--so that the reader begins to feel the warmth of Virginia's rich earth. Woven into the story of the restoration is the story of Jefferson's foibles--and growth--as a gardener.

The book is divided into two sections: the story of the restoration and information about the plants grown at Monticello throughout the years. Some varieties are still grown, some are unidentifiable due to Jefferson's surprisingly vague descriptions ("early" & "forwardest"), and some are lost to time.

Thankfully, the story of the restoration of Monticello's gardens is not lost to time; it is engagingly written, beautifully illustrated, and handsomely published. It is a richly entertaining read.

What about you? What's on your reading table?