The sun is here and warm, the soil is no longer a frozen clump or alternately a bloated, soggy mass that you can’t do anything with. It’s officially spring and time, in other words, to dig! Time to plant seeds, clean up winter’s debris and see the miracle that is nature reborn. I love gardening, and surprised myself a few years ago with the fact that seeds planted by me do, indeed, grow into plants. I’m so bitten by the bug I even have an allotment, where I spend far too little time for my liking (although I did get out there these past two days!). Here are my five gardening favorites:
1. Allotment Month by Month – Alan Buckingham
My allotment bible. Lots of pictures (not too surprising, as it’s a Dorling Kindersley publication), and clearly organized. The first section handles each month separately, letting you know what to do when (when to prepare your soil, grow your seeds under glass, when to plant out, when to harvest, what pests and diseases to look out for) and giving you lots of tips on fruits and vegetables that can stand the winter. The second part lists the separate fruits and vegetables, so you can have a quick look at when you need to cover up what specific bed or what that black spot on that leaf might mean. It also has lots sidebars with specific tips on growing better vegetables and storage, for example.
If you don’t like growing vegetables, well, there are quite a few “regular” garden equivalents, too.
2. Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden – Sara Alway
What a brilliant little book this is! Gives you all kinds of tips on how to aid nature in avoiding pests (or attracting the right insects). See, Mother Nature is a clever thing, and has already thought of many ways in which plants influence and encourage each other to grow, and this book lays out what plants to group together to get the best out of all of them. It’s written in a light-hearted style and has some recipes to boot!
3. RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers – Christopher Brickell
Ah yes, a gorgeous brick of plant knowledge. Chock-full of pictures and information and, indeed, plants. More than 8000 of them. Makes you want to run out to the gardening center with an unlimited creditcard…
4. Tabletop Gardens: 40 Stylish Plantscapes for Counters and Shelves, Desktops and Windowsills – Rosemary McCreary and William Holt
I can’t take credit for this title – a customer came a few months ago asking for something like this, and I went a-hunting (see? we do listen to you!). Since most of us live in apartments without gardens, here is an excellent book to bring nature into your home in a stylish way. Not that I don’t like the simple bouquet of flowers in a vase, mind you, but these plantscapes are just a level of cool up.
If you want to grow vegetables in your apartment, well, there are lots of books on growing vegetables in pots too (seriously – just type in vegetables + pots or vegetables + containers, and you get oodles of options).
5. New Holland Concise Garden Wildlife Guide – Sandra Doyle and Stuart Carter
These small, plastic-covered books (there is also one on insects and one on trees) are perfect! Yes, there are bats in the Netherlands, and snakes, even in urban areas. You don’t want to know how many ducks walk through my garden on a sunny afternoon. But what always interests me is when I’m weeding, or with my head right in the middle of a group of tomato plants because I’m harvesting or taking out the shoots, is all the teeny tiny animals buzzing about or scurrying hither and yon because I’m traipsing through their territory. I’m always suprised by the numbers, and the variety – I must have seen about six different types and color variations of lady bugs the past two years, and this rather startlingly big bug(ger) has made our allotment his home. These little books help me figure out what exactly it is I’m seeing.