Apr 6, 2011

Vegetable Gardening

by Southern Living Books

Another old, outdated gardening book. I think I picked this one up at a garage sale once. I thought at first when flipping through it that it wouldn't be much use to me, but I was wrong. In spite of the recommendation of lots of (again, unfamiliar) chemicals, and some very dated-looking photos, this book actually has a lot going for it. In the first place, it specifically focuses on my locale. I don't usually think of myself as living in the South, but Virginia is a Southern state, and this book is all about how to grow vegetables successfully in that region. In the back it even has a chart for each state showing when to plant all the different veggies and what varieties do best in which areas (quite a few of the names I even recognized- I grow Detroit beets and Fordhook Giant chard, so those strains are still around!)

Other useful sections include a chart showing how much to plant if you just want to eat stuff in season, and how much extra if you want to store food for the winter (canning, freezing, etc) for an average-size family. There are instructions on how to most efficiently layout the garden, how to garden in small spaces (including building your own strawberry barrel), how to start plants early or grow them through the winter in a hotbed, coldframe or greenhouse (with some instructions on building those things yourself) and even how to grow plants without soil! (although the hydroponic method sounds terribly tedious).

One chapter of the book describes each vegetable with specific growing instructions, another is dedicated to berries and vines, and a third to herbs. I found the black-and-white line drawings here quite charming. I especially appreciated the herb section, although it made me laugh that the book says of coriander "Although the dried seed have a pleasant flavor, the fresh foliage and seed of this plant have a disagreeable odor." It even recommends planting coriander in an out-of-the-way place in your garden so you don't have to smell it! Nothing is mentioned of using the leaves. I know this plant by the name cilantro, and we grow it mainly to use the leaves in salsas. I do dry some seed to use as coriander in pho soup, but not much. And I happen to like the scent of it in the garden.

Another very useful section is where the book identifies beneficial insects, and also has a photo gallery to help you identify pests and diseases. For the first time I now know what the bug that ate my broccoli is! So, even though the book feels dated in some parts, it's certainly already been useful to me and I'm keeping it around.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 172 pages, 1971

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