by Karen Kenny
things poking out of the ground outside, I'm finding the urge to read some of the gardening books that have been sitting on my shelf for ages.
Just Herb Gardening is exactly that: a little book about growing herbs. It's pretty brief. That was my main problem with it: a lot of the information seemed incomplete or just not detailed enough for me. The history on herb uses in the beginning didn't really teach me anything at all. The growing information: how to start seeds, propagate from cuttings or dividing plants, etc. seemed solid enough, but it didn't always tell you which plants were most suitable for which methods (nor is this info available in the glossary). There's a little bit about garden layout and design, and scattered spotlights on certain plants throughout the book. Again, the level of information here is spotty. Some plants it tells you their uses- medicinal, cooking, attracting/deterring insects in the garden, etc.- but others just get named and that's it. I wish there had been the same level of detail on all the plants. Even the illustration quality was uneven- some of the photos are just beautiful, one was badly pixelated! There are also hand-drawn and watercolor illustrations, nice enough but very plain- not enough descriptive detail. Most aren't labeled, so sometimes I didn't know what plant I was looking at.
I did learn a few things about herbs that really intrigued me: like that nettles are high in nitrogen and can be used to activate your compost pile, or that russian comfrey can be used to feed plants that like lots of potassium. Lots of herbs were mentioned that I'm completely unfamiliar with: hyssop, marjoram, angelica, etc. I never used any of these before. All in all, the book had just enough in it to whet my appetite to know more. So far I only use basil leaves to deter pests, and a few other herbs for cooking. I'd like to learn and apply more uses for them. So really what this book has done for me is galvanize my desire to find a good, detailed book on herbs that will teach me more!
I think this one came from a swap site online, because I remember being surprised (in a disappointed way) with its format. My edition is spiral-bound, which dismays me because I know if I use it much the pages would start to fall out. Another annoying thing is that the page numbers are spelled out, and printed in a handwriting kind of font, both of which make them hard to read. I don't think I'd need to though, as there's no proper index. It does have a glossary of herbs in the back, which is laid out in a kind of grid made of colored stripes (that was hard to read, too). All in all, it's a cute little book but a lot of the ways it was formatted and organized just bugged me. However, there are enough little nuggets of info I don't have elsewhere that I'm going to hold onto this book until I get a better, more comprehensive one about herbs.
Rating: 2/5 ........128 pages, 2005