Kiss My Aster by Amanda Thomsen

kiss my asterWho cares what the neighbors think? Kiss My Aster is a hilarious, irreverent, interactive guide to designing an outdoor space that is exactly what you want.

Combining entertaining illustrations with laugh-out-loud text, Amanda Thomsen lays out the many options for home landscaping and invites you to make the choices. Whether you want privacy hedges, elegant flower beds, a patio for partying, a food garden, a kids’ play space, a pond full of ducks, or all of the above, you’ll end up with a yard you’ll adore.

Forget about doing it the “right” way: Do it your way! (description from publisher)

A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter Hatch

Were Thomas Jefferson to walk the grounds of Monticello today, he would no doubt feel fully at home in the 1,000-foot terraced vegetable garden where the very vegetables and herbs he favored are thriving.

Extensively and painstakingly restored, Jefferson’s unique vegetable garden now boasts the same medley of plants he enthusiastically cultivated in the early nineteenth century. The garden is a living expression of Jefferson’s genius and his distinctly American attitudes. Its impact on the culinary, garden, and landscape history of the United States continues to the present day.

Graced with nearly 200 full-color illustrations, A Rich Spot of Earth is the first book devoted to all aspects of the Monticello vegetable garden. Hatch guides us from the asparagus and artichokes first planted in 1770 through the horticultural experiments of Jefferson’s retirement years (1809-1826). The author explores topics ranging from labor in the garden, garden pests of the time, and seed saving practices to contemporary African American gardens. He also discusses Jefferson’s favorite vegetables and the hundreds of varieties he grew, the half-Virginian half-French cuisine he developed, and the gardening traditions he adapted from many other countries. (description from publisher)

Natural Companions by Ken Druse

In Natural Companions, acclaimed garden writer Ken Druse presents recipes for perfect plant pairings using diverse species that look great together and bloom at the same time.

Organized by theme within seasons, topics include color, fragrance, foliage, grasses, edible flowers and much more, all presented in photographs of gardens that show planted combinations from a wide variety of climates and conditions. Natural Companions also features more than one hundred special botanical images of amazing depth and color created in collaboration with artist Ellen Hoverkamp using modern digital technology.

Filled with an incredible amount of horticultural guidance, useful plant recommendations, and gardening lore–all written in Druse’s charming, witty style–this book is a must-have for gardeners and lovers of plants and flowers. (description from publisher)

American Grown by Michelle Obama

In April 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted a kitchen garden on the White House’s South Lawn.  As fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs sprouted from the ground, this White House Kitchen Garden inspired a new conversation all across the country about the food we feed our families and the impact it has on the health and well-being of our children.

Now, in American Grown, Mrs. Obama invites you inside the White House Kitchen Garden and shares its inspiring story, from the first planting to the latest harvest.  Hear about her worries as a novice gardener – would the new plants even grow? Learn about her struggles and her joys as lettuce, corn, tomatoes, collards and kale, sweet potatoes and rhubarb flourished in the freshly tilled soil.  Get an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at every season of the garden’s growth, with striking original photographs that bring its story to life.  Try the unique recipes created by White House chefs and made with ingredients just picked from the White House garden.  And learn from the White House Garden team about how you can help plant your own backyard, school or community garden.

Mrs. Obama’s journey continues across the nation as she shares the stories of other gardens that have moved and inspired her: Houston office workers who make the sidewalk bloom; a New York City School that created a scented garden for the visually impaired; a North Carolina garden that devotes its entire harvest to those in need;Davenport Iowa as “Playful City USA” using a decommissioned firetruck to visit parks throughout the city to encourage outdoor play as well as other stories of communities that are transforming the lives and health of their citizens.

In American Grown, Mrs. Obama tells the story of the White House Kitchen Garden, celebrates the bounty of gardens across our nation, and reminds us all of what we can grow together. (description from publisher)

Earth Day Reading

Sunday is Earth Day – here are some new books at the library that will help you practice earth-saving techniques, have some fun and beautify your space.

Beautiful No Mow Yards : More than 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives by Evelyn Hadden provides plenty of design ideas for meadows and prairies, patios and play areas, ponds, xeric and rain gardens, and edible gardens, to name a few options including specific plant recommendations as well as guidance for converting lawn to garden

Creating Rain Gardens : Capturing Rain for Your Own Water Efficient Garden by Cleo Woelfe-Erskine – Homeowners spend hundreds of dollars watering their yard, but there is an easy way to save money and resources. Rain gardening is as simple as collecting rain to reuse in your yard. This is a comprehensive book for the DIY-er, covering everything from rain barrels to simple living roofs, permeable patios, and other low-tech affordable ways to save water in the garden.

Handmade Garden Projects : Step-by-Step Instructions for Creative Garden Features, Containers, Lighting and More by Lorene Forkner – Part eco-friendly non-traditional, part crafty creative, this book will show you how you can transform your garden into a handmade, personality-infused oasis.

Small Space Container Gardens : Transform your Balcony, Porch or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage and Herbs by Fern Richardson – This colorful volume on gardening in small spaces provides practical information on creating vibrant plantings in containers and getting the most out of small patios, balconies, and limited space yards.

Spring Is Here!

Time to brush off those shovels and start thinking about sprucing up your yard and planting your vegetable garden. Here are some recent titles to inspire you.

The Beginners Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables by Marie Iannotti – Are heirloom vegetables more difficult to grow than conventional hybrids? This book debunks this myth by highlighting the 100 heirloom vegetables that are the easiest to grow and the tastiest to eat.

Decoding Garden Advice: the Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations by Jeff Gillman – Assess gardening recommendations related to soil, water, pests, diseases, weed control, mulch, annuals, perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs, vegetables and fruit, and lawn care.

Landscaping for Privacy by Marty Wingate  shows homeowners how to landscape their yards, balconies, and rooftops to enhance privacy by creating buffers to noise, pollution, sun, wind, kids, and dogs with berms or groups of small trees; barriers that deter invasion like living and permanent fences; and screens that will block unwanted sights using hedges

Container Garden Idea Book from Taunton Press – Containers are wonderful accents anywhere in the landscape; this book is an amazing visual clip file with more than 300 photos, plant recipes, and eye-catching designs for container gardens of all shapes and sizes.

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Gardenby Andrea Bellamy gives you the dirt on growing gorgeous organic food with very little square footage. Simple, straightforward, design and growing advice can help you transform just a snippet of space into a stylish and edible oasis.

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Seed Saving and Starting by Sheri Ann Richerson – Covers all of the essential techniques- harvesting, drying, disease and pest control, testing and germinating, and sowing

Spring is Here!

Spring arrived officially last night at 6:21pm and after the winter (and snowfall) we’ve been through this year, it didn’t come a minute too soon. OK, this is Iowa, we can’t just pull a switch and have green grass and blooming flowers again, but they’re on their way. And that means it’s just about time to get out into the garden again! That’s where the library comes in – here’s a selection of some of our newly arrived gardening books, guaranteed to spark your imagination and help you plan your best garden yet!

The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook by Jennifer Bartley – This book has it all – design plans, seasonal checklists, recipes, information on plants, growing tips, even flowers for the table. Bright and colorful.

City Farmer : Adventures in Urban Food Growing by Lorraine Johnson – A series of thoughtful essays on the growing popularity of urban food production from homeowners growing tomatoes in the front yard to guerrilla gardeners taking over abandoned city lots.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible : How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs and other Containers by Edward Smith – Discover how easy it is to grow a backyard garden even without a backyard.

Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden by Graham Kerr – Television’s Galloping Gourmet discovers the joy and advantages of growing your own food. Part part cookbook, part gardening book, it’s all lighthearted fun.

 

 

Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith

We’ve been hearing a lot of buzzwords these days regarding food – “organic”, “local”, “green”, “locavore”, “natural”, “ecological”, “environmentally friendly”, “free range”. Putting all of those concepts and philosophies into practice though – that’s another story, one that seems nearly impossible. However, Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith will show you that not only is eating healthy possible, you can also make a difference in your part of the world while you’re at it.

Growing a Garden City follows the community based garden project called Garden City Harvest located in Missoula, Montana, from its modest beginnings to a growing program that not only touches many aspects of the community, it serves as a source of pride. The range of projects and people they’ve assisted is astonishing. They include schoolchildren who visit the farm, troubled teens given a sense of purpose by working on the farm, local university students getting hands-on experience and the homeless and hungry who now have a wide variety of fresh, healthy produce (a rarity in many food banks). The community as a whole is encouraged to participate in the many classes, field trips, summer camps and other education programs as well as the garden plots available for individuals to rent. There are public events throughout the year which include concerts, picnics, lectures and readings making this a truly community-wide program.

Beautifully illustrated, full of practical ideas and inspiring stories, Growing a Garden City will not only show you how it can be done, it gives you hope for the future.

Sissinghurst: an Unfinished History by Adam Nicolson

To be  honest, I only planned to skim this book when I picked it up, expecting  that it would be rather dry and academic. Instead Sissinghurst: an Unfinished History by Adam Nicolson turned out to be a fascinating, beautifully written history of a remarkable landscape.

To any gardener worth their compost, the name Sissinghurst is instantly recognizable as the site of one of the most beloved gardens in England. It’s gardens, especially the famous White Garden, continue to influence and inspire gardeners today, 70 years after it was created. Sissinghurst was also the home of one of Englands most famous literary couples (and the creators of the gardens), Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. Now owned and managed by the National Trust, Adam Nicolson (Harold and Vita’s grandson) wished to bring the land surrounding the castle and gardens back to their earlier incarnation as a working farm with all that that involved – an integrated system of meadows, grain, crops, fruit, vegetables and livestock as well as managed woodlands. It was a landscape that encouraged diversity, sheltered wildlife and sustained a strong community.

Nicolson covers the wide-ranging history of the estate, how the land shaped the people that lived there and how people shaped the land. Nicolson’s proposal to return parts of Sissinghurst to farm initially met with resistence that surprised him and had to be addressed. Through it all, his fond memories of growing up on the estate beautifully illustrate both the beauty of and his love for the land, it’s history and it’s people.

It’s Here!

It may not always feel like it yet, but spring officially arrives at 12:32pm on March 20th. Time to start planning your garden!

With all the emphasis on organic, local foods, back-yard gardens have become all the rage – even the White House has a vegetable garden! There’s a big crop of new titles, whether you’re new to gardening or would just like to pick up a few tips.

One Magic Square: the Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square by Lolo Houbein. This book specializes in getting the most out of the smallest plots – best varieties, space-saving tips and sustainable practices. Multiple examples of Magic Square plots are shown including the Antioxidants Plot, the Curry Plots, and the Summer Stir-Fry Plot. Completely organic.

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail. This beautifully illustrated book gives you lots of basic information, presented in a friendly, no-nonsense style. In addition to the expected vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are also included. A chapter on preserving the harvest ranges from making a ristra and drying tomatoes in the oven to canning and freezing. Completely organic.

Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing and Preserving Fresh Food by Jean Ann Van Krevelen. Three things make this garden guide stand out – the inclusion of fruit, the varied and interesting recipes and the nutritional information.  While there is some brief information on planting your own garden, just having access to a Farmer’s Market is all you need. There are also tips on selecting quality produce.

The Small Budget Gardener by Maureen Gilmer. This book has one goal – saving you money – and they mean business. All aspects of gardening are covered, from how to plant trees to aid in energy savings, to recycling found objects into garden treasures. They also discuss the impact of technology on gardening,  listing useful (free) websites, blogs and online newsletters. Sometimes it’s important to spend money – quality tools for instance – and Gilmer shows you what and how to buy. Tightwad tips throughout. Completely organic.