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Garden Books

August 10, 2011

An old approach to preserving food made new!


Here is an interesting book that argues quite sensibly that canning and freezing are inefficient uses of energy and take many of the nutrients out of the food in the process. Typical books about preserving garden produce nearly always assume that modern "kitchen gardeners" will boil or freeze their vegetables and fruits. It's worthwhile investigating traditional but little-known French techniques for storing and preserving edibles in ways that maximize flavor and nutrition.

The book has chapters on preserving in oil, vinegar, sugar, alcohol, and lactic fermentation. There are helpful instructions on preserving vegetables in a root cellar or in the ground and a discussion of which method works best for each vegetable. Recipes are included. I remember drying tomato paste and rolling it into balls and dipping it in olive oil before storing the little golf ball sized balls in a jar in the cold room. Using one or two of them for a spagetti or a soup was a delight as the flavor was very near to fresh. I think this book is a great addition to the gardener's bookshelf.

At Preserving Food without Canning or Freezing

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June 29, 2011

Holy Sh*t: A book about how to save money and use manures


"Common sense and just the right amount of folksy humor" make this book a pleasure to read whether or not you are currently using manures in your garden. Logsdon who grew up in Ohio, draws from his childhood experiences as well as his Amish neighbors, writes about how to recognize a manure spreader for those who don't know and the finer points of old-fashioned pitchfork tines, for readers who actually use them.

In addition to lots of clear instructions for utilizing waste, Logsdon writes a book that overcomes the yuck factor and tells how we've taken a natural, healthy, efficient system and replaced it with something expensive, toxic, and marketable - in this case, chemical fertilizers. If you're interested in using manure, even cat, dog and human, here is a book that tells you how.

At Holy Sh*t

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April 21, 2011

Square Foot Gardening for limited space and ease of work


With gas prices the way they are, food shipped in from farms is going to become more and more expensive, and one of the best reasons for gardening, besides the pleasure it gives, is to grow inexpensively, your own vegetables.

The Square Foot Gardening Book tells you how to maximize a small space by dividing your growing area into small sections, enabling the gardener to reach every area without stepping into the soil and compacting it. It is also easy to get the weeds out this way. The boxes can be built right over the ground no matter what kind of soil and filled with organic dirt and nutrients. If you want, a weed barrier can be put down first to ensure weeds won't be poking their heads up in the plantings.

Basically, the advantages of Square foot gardening is that it is much less work, you don't need the heavy tools like shovels, tillers, or hoes or rakes. It also uses much less water since you are hand watering directly on the plant and its roots. Weeds are few or non existent. Another good aspect of this garden is that for those with sore backs, the whole garden could be put on a table or boards over saw horses and no kneeling or back bending is necessary.

At Square Foot Gardening Book

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March 22, 2011

March is making up for sunny January


It just won't stop snowing and raining here. The little kale and broccoli sprouts that I planted so hopefully in the January's warmth, sprouted and now are shivering in icy rain and snow. In California we're not supposed to complain about this as come summer we will be so grateful for full aquafers, but it's hard to take in March when you're itching to get into the garden and one look outside tells you to forget it.

I watched a small finch, I couldn't see what species, in the bare oak tree, hunched and shivering in the icy rain. Many of the robins have come back and smaller species can be seen flying by the windows every day, but it is not the best weather to welcome them. However this bird book by Rodale, cheered me up with pictures of orioles and grossbeaks and suggestions about how to attract specific species of birds into your yard and garden. So even if I can't get out into the garden, I can plan and dream.

At Bird-By-Bird Gardening

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February 23, 2011

A bedside garden book--a good night companion


This is a great idea for a bedside book you can browse as you prepare to sleep. It will help you ever learn about plants you may never be able to grow and some you can, and to discover gardens you may never be able to visit or some you might, then here is your bedside companion.

This book can teach you how people gardened in the past and what they have contributed to our gardens today. There are features about interesting garden facts and lore, including sections on great gardeners in history; extraordinary and surprising plants; remarkable fences; the wildlife in our backyards; and things for the plant lover to do indoors. The book is illustrated throughout and is the perfect book for every nature lover.

At The Bedside Book of the Garden

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December 29, 2010

Pruning season has begun


Home grape growers don't prune their vines enough is the word from Oregon State University. I am never sure what to do about my table grapes which are mostly Thompson Seedless. I didn't prune them last year and they were covered with more grapes than ever before.

However this bulliten has totally different advice. "When gardeners prune, they should remove the majority of wood produced the previous season - until about 90 percent is pruned off," The time to prune grapevines is from January through the first of March, when the grapes are dormant.

There are two types of grape pruning--cane pruning and spur pruning. Mature plants should be pruned yearly to remove all growth except new one-year-old fruiting canes and renewal spurs.

Grapes are produced from buds that will grow into shoots on one-year old canes. The most fruitful canes will be those that were exposed to light during the growing season. These are thicker than a pencil in width and as close to the trunk as possible (when cane pruned), explained Strik.

To cane prune, select two to four new fruiting canes per vine. Cut back each of these to leave about 15 buds per cane. For wine grapes, leave about 20 to 30 buds per plant. In table grapes, leave 50 to 80 buds per plant. Leave a one-or two-bud spur cane near the fruiting cane with one or two buds each. These "renewal spurs" will produce the fruiting canes for the following year and thus maintain fruiting close to the trunk. All other cane growth should be pruned off.

Most table grapes produce the highest yield of good quality fruit when cane-pruned.

To spur prune, prune along main canes to leave two- to three- bud spurs, each four to six inches apart. Leave no more than 20 to 80 buds per plant, depending on the type of grape. Remove all other one-year-old wood.

If you want help with pruning grapes as well as other plants and trees, this book should help you.

At The Pruning Book: Completely Revised and Updated [Paperback]

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December 13, 2010

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre inspires and informs


If you have a big back yard or enough room, this book should get you going on growing your own food and raising enough to sell at Farmer's Markets. The book provides infomration on how to grow 85 percent of the food for a family of four and earn an income. It talks about earning $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require. That might be a best case senario, but even if you have never been a farmer or a gardener, this book covers everything you need to know to get started. It describes how to buy and save seeds, how to start seedlings and establish raised beds. It tell you how to increase soil fertility, how to composting, and how to deal with pest and disease problems. It covers crop rotation, farm planning, and much more.

Because self-suf´Čüciency is the objective, subjects such as raising backyard chickens and home canning are also covered along with numerous methods for keeping costs down and production high. Materials, tools, and techniques are detailed with photographs, tables, diagrams, and illustrations.

At Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

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November 3, 2010

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Gardening Know-How for Keeping (Not Killing) More Than 160 Indoor Plants


Here is a book for those who want to brighten their home with some houseplants but are cursed with a useless thumb rather than a green one. When I visit my grandkids in Boston, I often discover to my dismay that the houseplants I bought for them have disappeared. My daughter and her husband live busy working lives and neither of them can manage to work the care and watering of plants into their schedule.

This book may make a difference for them. It has everything the indoor gardener could ever want to know about how to select, tend, and enjoy houseplants. Pleasant's book is comprehensive and has an easy-to-follow encyclopedia covering more than 160 houseplants. The introduction discusses the history, uses, and benefits of houseplants. The manual is divided into three main sections. The first two are plant directories offering in-depth plant profiles of first flowering, then foliage, houseplants. The third is an extensive compilation of houseplant-care topics, from acclimatization to watering. It has vivid color photographs, precise illustrations, appendixes listing helpful resources, definitions, and a cross-reference chart of botanical and common names. This is a must-have manual for anyone who shares home or office space with potted plants.

At The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Gardening Know-How for Keeping (Not Killing) More Than 160 Indoor Plants [Flexibound]

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October 29, 2010

How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office


This is a great book. I bought it for my daughter and her husband when they first moved into their house. The place had just been painted and I was worried about the fumes from carpeting and paint. But the book offered much more. There are studies conducted by NASA which show that plants remove pollutants from the air. The book has great photos of houseplants and a very easy to read scale which shows what pollutants each plant removes, how easy the plant is to care for, and how beset by insects it might be. We went for a Fincus, Dumb Cane, Peace plant, and an English Ivy. My strategy was to buy the easy to care for plants that removed a lot of pollutants and to see how well they survived in my daughter's household where no one much is interested in caring for them.

The Fincus lasted several years and finally for no apparent reason, started dropping all it's leaves and died. But the several year were worth it. It's a lovely tree and can grow very tall under the right conditions. A teacher friend of mine had one ten feet tall in her classroom. The Dumb Cane was very attractive and lasted longer. The three suvivors of the original picks are Pothos, Snake plant, the English Ivy, and Spider plant.

I'm building a new house and am going to use this book to pick out house plants. I'll have plenty of light and so am looking forward to another Fincus and some rubber plants. I want to grow a Dumb Cane really big also. I loved that plant. It's exciting to think that these lovely plants will also help clean the air and keep it fresh for me year round.

I repeat. "This is a great book!"

At How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office

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October 15, 2010

Preserving herbs in oil and vinegar


If you're taking some clippings of herbs in before the freeze kills them this winter, you might think about preserving some in oil or in vinegars. Drying herbs if fairly simple if you put them in a paper bag and hang them in a warm dry place. Freezing them when completely dry is a good way to keep the aroma fresh.

However, you can also preserve herbs by collecting them in the morning and washing the dust and/or dirt off and stuffing a canning jar full of which ever herbs you want to use. Then fill the jar with either oil or vinegar. Use a light sented oil, not olive oil. Let the jar sit in a sunny location for a couple of weeks and then strain the oil or vinegar and return the liquid to the bottle. You can fill small jars with the mix, label them and give them as gifts. Or use old wine bottles that have been thoroughly washed and put a cork stopper in the top and you have a perfect container for storing your scented oil and vinegar. This type of preservation is simple and delicious.

This book is a great guide to growing, using and preserving herbs.

At The Complete Illustrated Book to Herbs: Growing, Health and Beauty, Cooking, Crafts

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October 14, 2010

Don't forget to save some of those heirloom seeds!


Now is the time to take any of the heirloom seeds and save them. It's not an arduous process. Bean and pea seeds are the easiest. They can be left on the vine until the pod dries and then havested. Simply open the pods and store the seed in a glass jar.

Tomatoes are a little more complicated. Some gardeners like to let the tomato ferment before saving the seed and they insist that this fermenting process is necessary for the seeds to germinate. If you have unpicked overripe tomatoes on the vine, you are halfway there as the feminting process has already begun. You can put the squishy tomato right in a jar, cover it with cheese cloth and let it sit some more until you see a mold form on the top. Then put the whole mess in a strainer and run cool water over it until the seed is uncovered and cleaned. Spread the seeds on a paper towel and let dry. When totally dry they can be stored in a plastic ziplock bag and labeled.

If this sounds too much for you, there are those who say the whole ferminting process can be skipped. In this case, you take your best, biggest most flavorful tomato and mash it. Then move on to the strainer and rinse the seeds until they are clean and follow the same directions as in the ferminted tomatoes.

An even simplier method of tomato seed saving is to scoop out the seeds with a spoon but the seeds and the gelintous mass on a paper plate or towel, let it dry and store the seed as above.

If you are totally into saving all the seed you can, then this book will be invaluable;

At Saving Seeds: The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds (A Down-to-Earth Gardening Book)

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September 27, 2010

The Square Foot Gardener is a great book with new ideas


This book can help you rethink the way you garden. This book tells you how to garden without tilling and without fertilizer. Here are some of the ideas:

1) New Location - Move your garden closer to your house by eliminating single-row gardening. Square Foot Garden needs just "twenty percent" of the space of a traditional garden.

2) New Direction - Locate your garden "on top" of existing soil. Forget about pH soil tests, double-digging (who enjoys that?), or the never-ending soil improvements.

3) New Soil - The new "Mel's Mix" is the perfect growing mix. Why, we even give you the recipe. Best of all, you can even "buy" the different types of compost needed.

4) New Depth - You only need to prepare a SFG box to a depth of 6 inches! It's true--the majority of plants develop just fine when grown at this depth.

5) No Fertilizer - The all new SFG does not need any fertilizer-ever! If you start with the perfect soil mix, then you don't need to add fertilizer.

6) New Boxes - The new method uses bottomless boxes placed aboveground. We show you how to build your own (with step-by-step photos).

7) New Aisles - The ideal gardening aisle width is about three to four feet. That makes it even easier to kneel, work, and harvest.

8)New Grids - Prominent and permanent grids added to your SFG box help you visualize the planting squares and know how to space for maximum harvest.

9)New Seed Saving Idea - The old-fashioned way advocates planting many seeds and then thinning the extras (that means pulling them up). The new method means planting a pinch- literally two or three seeds--per planting hole.

10) Tabletop Gardens - The new boxes are so much smaller and lighter (only 6 inches of soil, remember?), you can add a plywood bottom to make them portable.

I'm thinking about using this techinque at the new house site where building up the soil would take years of effort. I could just plant in boxes!

At The Square Foot Gardener

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September 13, 2010

The Bounty of the Summer Garden!


Went out to the garden today and picked some of the ripest tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers to make gazpacho which is one of my favorite summertime treats. This is a soup invented for hot weather. If you're interested, I'm including the recipe from Simply Recipes which is easy to fix and delicious. I didn't have the celery so I left it out. And since I was using a juicer, I didn't bother to seed the cucumber and the fresh juicy tomatoes provided all the juice I needed. It worked really well.

Gazpacho Recipe


6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 purple onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (omit for vegetarian option)
4 cups tomato juice
Combine all ingredients. Blend slightly, to desired consistency. Place in non-metal, non-reactive storage container, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing flavors to blend.
Serves 8.

At The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook [Hardcover]

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May 31, 2010

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is an oldie but a goodie


When I first came to my homestead, one of the first books I bought was Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. I also subscribed to Organic Gardening Magazine and I used those two resources to help me get started with a gardening career that has lasted 40 years. I still use it when I have a question or wonder what to do.

Keep in mind when you buy it that it is an encyclopedia. It has basic information, but if you want extensive cover of every aspect of a problem, like seed gemination for example, it will tell you have to get started, but to delve deeply into a subject you will need a book that focuses only on sprouting seeds. Here is the quick reference to guide you about what fertilizer to use with tomatoes but not an extensive listing of all varieties and their pecularities. It is the book to keep handy so you can look up aphids and get a quick take on what to do about an infestation. It tells you how to stake tomatoes and when to harvest garlic. It gives you basics about mulch, what to use and how much to use.

Rodale and Rodale press ruled the Organic world when I was first starting and the help I received from them kept me going through years and years of gardening. This is the quick I want help now reference book for the organic gardener and it will be on my work table every spring through fall. I'm very grateful for it.

At Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (Paperback)

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