The Gardening Year
by Thalassa Cruso
The weather has warmed up here a bit last week, with mild sunny days that encouraged my bulbs to start growing, but cold frosty nights that I fear will harm them. My hands are itching to plant the garden, but I know it's still too early so the next best thing is reading gardening books!
To Everything There is a Season is one I found at a library sale. This is the first time I've "met" its author, Thalassa Cruso, an avid gardener who hosted a TV show about plant care in the sixties. At first I had doubts about how good a book based on a TV program could be, but first I read the introduction where Cruso discussed the differences between presenting her ideas to a television audience, through a magazine column, and writing them in a book. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked. She writes in a friendly, conversational style that drew me in immediately. This fat little volume spans an entire year of seasons in her country garden, drawing from more than twenty years of experience to share her knowledge (much of it self-taught) about plants. Cruso was never afraid try new things when traditional methods didn't work, and she carried out many experiments growing numbers of the same plant in different soil mixes and locations to see which worked best. She also sometimes tried exactly the opposite of recommended care, with surprising results. Her love of plants and nature shines through the pages, and it was really enjoyable to read. I kept a list of pages to turn back to for my own reference: how to grow healthy parsley, how to start tomatoes from seed (in eggshells!), how to mix your own insecticide from non-toxic things in your kitchen, how to plant "the three sisters" together- corn, beans and squash. I appreciated her chapter about how some sunflowers left to regenerate themselves grew in a few short seasons into crazy, wild, undesirable plants (a warning to know what you're doing when you try saving seed!). Most of the chapters are about horticulture, but two of my favorites were one where she described the gardening library she inherited with the house, and how she learned from its books about the previous generation's love of plants. The other described how she keeps an eye on the yards and gardens in her neighborhood, describing them with admiration or consternation, and offering gentle criticism of their owners' gardening methods!
This was a delightful book, and I can't wait to read more by the same author. The only thing I felt it lacked was illustrations of the plants she discussed, as I was unfamiliar with some and would have liked to see their faces. But that's a very small flaw, in my mind.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 300 pages, 1971
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