Two books have come across our desk in recent months that offer plenty of projects and hours of fun for home and garden.

185087 Modrn cover“Forgotten Ways for Modern Days: Kitchen cures and household lore for a natural home and garden” speaks to those of us who long to clean ourselves with gentle natural tonics and creams and our (presumably sunlit, well-organized) homes with products that smell “of happy days strolling through a forest, crunching pine needles underfoot.” Which, it so happens, is writer Rachelle Blondel’s description of her Forest-Fresh Floor Cleaner.

As linen-toned and cleanly designed as the natural lore it touts, the book (TarcherPerigee, $25) is divided into four sections: House and Home, In the Garden, Natural Health and Natural Beauty. It wanders hither and thither, offering instructions and tips for steeping caraway tea for an upset stomach, repurposing a lamp shade into a laundry basket, producing homemade paint (really) and keeping chickens. About that last, “Handle your hens regularly – your chance to get a hug and check their well-being at the same time.”

“Forgotten Ways for Modern Days” would make a charming gift for the green-inclined hostess with a Martha Stewart skill set.

ANYONE WHO grew up in the 1970s has tried her hand at growing an avocado tree from the byproduct of a guacamole-making session, but a passionfruit? A peanut? An olive?

185087 pits cover“Plants from Pits: How to Grow a Garden from Kitchen Scraps” by Holly Farrell is a little book (6-by-8½ inches, 144 pages) with a little premise. As the very first lines state, “How often have you looked at a pile of fruit pits and thought ‘I wonder if they would grow?,’ before consigning them to the trash can? The truth is, they probably would grow – and more easily than you think.”

What follows is sets of basic step-by-step instructions for a range of plants, each graded by Easiness, Patience and Type (perennial or annual; bush, tree or vine). Every plant gets an attractive photograph or two, and sweet, childlike illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book like so many seedlings. While Farrell recommends growing from pits as “a brilliant means of introducing children to the outdoors and the science of plants,” their efforts will likely require some adult oversight. Blueberries and cranberries, for instance, want “ericaceous” compost, while figs require a somewhat complicated sequence of flesh mashing, floating and scraping in order to extract the pits.

“Plants from Pits” (Octopus Books, $14.99) includes general information on containers, equipment, diseases, pests, pruning and repotting. It’s a cheerful little book, which seems apt for the cheerful hobby of watching things grow.