by Lee Reich
For the experienced gardener, this book may have nothing new. But for me, it was very useful indeed. Weedless Gardening explains how to garden "from the top down." The idea is to disturb the soil as little as possible. So instead of turning everything under each spring, you layer stuff on top to smother weeds and feed the plants. I had never heard of this method before. My mother always tilled her garden. I did, too- and it was a tedious, back-breaking chore that I put off for weeks. Made more difficult by the fact we have clay soil- slick and heavy when wet, rock-hard when dry. I have to admit I felt really proud and satisfied to look over the freshly turned, evenly spread dark earth after tilling.
Reich explains very thoroughly why tilling actually creates more of a weed problem, and how respecting the soil by leaving it virtually untouched gives you healthier plants and significantly less weeds. He outlines each step in setting up such a garden, with lots of particulars. Most of it is focused on gardening for vegetables, but there are also two sections at the end about how to use the "weedless gardening" method for flower beds, shrubs, newly planted trees, and decorative meadows. I found it very useful indeed, took lots of notes and intend to try it out with a small patch I'm preparing under my kitchen window for fall lettuces and cabbage. If the amazon reviews are any indication (yes, I still read them to judge a book by, even though I know they're often very biased) most people who have tried this method got wonderful results.
One interesting fact I learned. Ever wonder what a bell jar was originally for? In France they used to put glass bell jars over individual plants to create a miniature greenhouse effect, and grow produce out of season for restaurants and markets. My long-seated curiosity about Sylvia Plath's title is finally laid to rest!
Rating: 3/5 200 pages, 2001