April 11, 2010

Bumper crop of books on growing food

By Tom Atwell tatwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

TOM’S TIP

IT’S GARDEN-PLANNING time. And, although the recession is technically over, the good times have not, as yet, returned.

SO THE PEOPLE at the UMaine Extension office in Cumberland County want you to know that it is time to sign up for Plant a Row for the Hungry, a program run nationally by the Garden Writers Association. The extension officials reported figures from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank that 13.3 percent of Maine households have problems getting enough nutritious food.

SO PLAN TO grow more food than you are likely to eat and arrange to give the rest away. To request a PAR enrollment package, call 1 (800) 287-1471 (in Maine) or 780-4205 or e-mail choyt@umext.maine.edu.

Projects include cold frames, raised beds, containers, garden furniture, a solar dryer, compost bins, trellises and other supports and harvesting and storage aids. If you were to build just one of the items, it would be worth the $18.95 price for the book.

"A Beginner's Guide to Edible Herbs" by Charles W.G. Smith (Storey, $12.95) underestimates itself in the title. This would be an excellent book for even seasoned gardeners to keep as a reference. It gives growing instructions for 26 herbs, along with recipes for juices, teas, sauces, condiments (we could make our own ketchup) and main dishes, along with storage instructions. It's a small-format paperback and only 148 pages but packed with information.

"Cooking from the Garden: Best Recipes from Kitchen Gardener" (The Taunton Press, $29.95) is more about cooking than gardening, and I can't really judge it. But Nancy said she thought it was a good book.

"Native Plants for Your Maine Garden" by Maureen Heffernan (Down East Books, $24.95) is another book you want to put on your shelf as a reference. Heffernan is executive director of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and a couple weeks ago I reported on her talk (based largely on the book) at the Portland Flower Show.

The book opens with a couple dozen pages of generic gardening information but then divides the native plants into groundcovers, perennials, grasses, ferns, shrubs and trees and provides excellent photographs and concise descriptions of each plant. At the end it has specialized plant lists -- for soil types, for amount of light, that attract animals or are resistant to deer.

With "Deer-Resistant Landscaping" by Neil Soderstrom (Rodale, $23.95), I'm breaking with the theme. The book is not new, and it didn't come across my desk. It's from 2008, and Nancy bought it, but I like it so much I'm mentioning it anyway.

The first 55-page section, which I found fascinating (Nancy disagreed), was called "Outwitting Deer" but really was about the biology of deer. It includes a lot of ways to keep deer out of your garden, explaining in wonderful detail why these methods might work.

The next 160 pages give advice on dealing with 20 other mammals, from bear to woodchucks, dogs to voles. Soderstrom does not approve of poisons, but there are plenty of other lethal and nonlethal methods.

Finally, it has 115 pages with a list, descriptions and photos of more than 1,000 deer-resistant plants. This is another book to keep on hand as a reference.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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