This book takes the fear and confusion out of starting and maintaining a garden. Love it!
Reviewed in the United States on 1 May 2015
I love this gardening book. I have had a variety of gardens in my life, but they have almost always been haphazard. My first was a plot in the college community garden, a free-flowing, random, weed-choked wilderness created by well-meaning hippies with lots of enthusiasm but no knowledge. Some years later, I moved to a farm and started something way too ambitious for a near-beginner, resulting in overwork and frustration. Since then I've had several different herb and flower gardens, usually initiated when I have been given plants by kind friends and needed to dig a place to plant them, pronto. I've tried borders, raised beds, all sorts of beds, and my efforts to alter and rearrange and improve these over the years have created more chaos than beauty.
Needless to say, none of these gardens was a great success, and all for the same reason: they lacked planning. I WANTED to plan-- but most of the books I've looked to for guidance were way too ambitious, making gardening seem like an inherently overwhelming task that was never going to bring me the peaceful hours outdoors, the beauty, or the bounty or produce that I yearned for. It felt more like blood, sweat, and tears. It's especially shameful because I'm both an herbalist and a great cook, yet I've been a total flop as a gardener!
Then I found this book. It's the perfect book for someone like me to step back, take a breath, and start anew. Forget all those failed gardens, and those hefty books filled with complicated garden designs that I would never be able to execute much less afford. This book reeeaaallly simplifies gardening for the beginner (though there are a few plans for more experienced folk). I have decided to consider myself a rank beginner, and start over with this book.
It's not just a feel-good pep talk. The book truly is laid out very simply. Several basic plans are given: a border garden, a front-yard vegetable garden (with enough beauty so the neighbors will be glad you're gardening in the front yard), even a garden that has you starting out planting in opened bags of topsoil (trust me, it's a great idea). Several other plans are given for different climates, or different specialty gardens (such as the Cajun Spice garden-- tempting-- and more).
For each garden plan, you are told step by simple step what to do. You are told exactly what to buy. You are guided through the whole season. The best part is, each garden starts off modestly the first year as you get your bearings, and expands in years two and three until you have a fully-established garden.
It might seem that being told exactly what to plant where would squelch creativity. Well, for one thing, I didn't WANT to be creative this time 'round, I wanted to be told exactly what to do. But for another thing, when you know why each type of plant has been chosen for a particular spot in the garden, that makes EASIER to substitute, should you want to, with a plant having similar properties.
The book is full of very good colored drawings and photographs. The one thing lacking is something I'd really like to see: a photo of each type of garden, fully realized, or even fully laid out the first year. The absence of such photos makes me wonder if the author actually planted each of these gardens. But even if she did not, it does not invalidate the book; no doubt she has combined elements of real gardens from real experience. Her experience is obvious throughout the book and she gives lots of helpful advice.
But not too much. Because the beauty of this book is that it's not overwhelming. This year, I finally have an understandable, workable garden plan, and I'm just waiting for the weather to warm up a bit to put it into action!
17 people found this helpful