Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book Review: Year-Round Gardening

When I think of one of the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Something" books, I envision a manual on some quotidian task that really isn't that complicated but that someone mechanically challenged like me would need help with, i.e., "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Changing your Oil," or maybe "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Changing a Lightbulb." I was therefore taken aback when I received a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening" by Delilah Smittle and Sheri Ann Richerson, which seemed to me a topic too challenging for an "Idiot's Guide." After reading it, I learned I was wrong and right at the same time.

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening" covers just about everything you need to know for vegetable gardening and a good deal of what you need for strictly ornamental gardening. Soil preparation, no-till methods, and building raised beds are addressed early, followed by seed starting, covers for outdoor gardens, and extensive chapters on greenhouses. Readers will learn the types of greenhouses available, how to establish and maintain one, and even how to create an entire thriving ecosystem within one. Tidbits on garden design concepts, bulb forcing, and grow lights for indoor gardening are peppered throughout the text.

This vast amount of information is clearly presented in a casual, readable tone. It's also well-organized and includes call-outs of key tips and ideas. If you want to garden all year, regardless of your location, this book will explain exactly how to go about doing it.

This book contains many beginner, even idiot-proof, instructions on topics such as starting seeds, making compost, and maintaining healthy soil. But much of the information is not for neophytes who would consider themselves gardening "idiots" and thus consult this book. Rather, the instructions for various row covers and greenhouses are really geared towards experienced gardeners looking to extend the growing season. Even for these folks, some of the ideas are a little complicated. For example, the authors suggest making a special galvanized-pipe implement to measure the distance between seeds when directly sowing them in the garden. Why not just use a tape measure or ruler? They go into great detail on how to build a root cellar, which strikes me as pretty major construction. And I learned that I do garden nearly year-round (by their standards) without even realizing it! If I, as an intermediate gardener at the very least, am intimidated, what would a newbie think?

In short, this book should be renamed "The Guide to Year-Round Gardening" and experienced gardeners should read it for all the exciting ideas and encouragement about how to prolong the gardening experience. Newcomers to gardening should stick to The Vegetable Gardener's Bible or a similar intro-to-edibles book to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

I received a free copy of this book from Penguin Group USA. The opinions are solely my own.


Rose said...

First of all, I had to look up the word "quotidian" before I got any further, Rose:) That's not a complaint, but a compliment of sorts--I've seen this word many times, but didn't really know the meaning of it. So thank you for encouraging me to perform the quotidian task of finally looking it up!

I always enjoy your book reviews, and I appreciate your honesty in this one. Building a root cellar doesn't sound like something a "complete garden idiot" would even think of doing, much less actually try to build. I find with so many gardening help books that I can usually come away with some useful information, but not everything in the book is of interest to me. This book sounds as if it covers so many topics, I don't know how it can go into much depth on any one of them.

garden girl said...

Thanks for the clear-eyed review Rose.

I haven't read any of the 'idiot's guides.' I wonder if that's more a marketing strategy than accurate depiction of target audience. I'm much more attracted to the book with your suggested title, yet suspect it will sell more copies with the 'idiot's guide' tag attached.

Garden seeds said...

Thanks for the post mate you have written it very well.

You May Also Like

Related Posts with Thumbnails