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In the Garden




WEATHER GOT YOU DOWN? Try curling up in front of the fire with a good gardening book. You will learn something new while the rain soaks the garden. Here are a few books worth investigating.

by Marianne Binetti. Sasquatch Books. 2000, soft cover, 212 pages.

[Easy Answers book cover]This book is dedicated to making gardening less work and more fun, a concept most gardeners eagerly embrace. Author Marianne Binetti, who writes a weekly garden column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, writes, "The easy answer for a great garden is to work smarter, not harder." Written in a question/answer format based on past columns, this book offers 500 tips, techniques and "outlandish ideas." Much of the information is Basic Gardening 101, detailing practices of soil improvement, mulching and garden planning. If you want to know about pruning lilacs, trapping moles, feeding rhododendrons or mowing the lawn, this is the book for you. Chapters on trees, ground covers, vines, bulbs, perennials and roses are peppered with highlighted sidebars of handy tips that should make gardening easy. For example, Binetti writes, "I've learned to prune in stages, taking out just a little bit every few months and then observing what the plant does and how it looks before pruning off more. This way I don't get as sore, and don't have too many pruning crumbs to fit into the garden dumpster." This book has no photos and illustrations are few, but what it lacks in art it makes up for in good practical information. A handy reference book for beginning or intermediate gardeners.


LASAGNA GARDENING[Lasagna Gardening book cover]
by Patricia Lanza. Rodale Press. 1998, soft cover, 244 pages.

Sell the rototiller and give your aching back a break is the premise of Lasagna Gardening, which encourages the gardener to stop digging, tilling and weeding. Winner of the Quill and Trowel Award from the Garden Writers Association of America, Lanza's organic approach to gardening is a take-off on sheet composting. Instead of digging, Lanza suggests covering beds with wet newspaper, layering on peat moss, barn litter, compost, grass clippings, chopped leaves and wood ashes to make a bed 18 to 24 inches deep. Digging and weeding are eliminated while garden soil is improved. Lasagna Gardening offers garden basics with the sheet composting slant. Humorous anecdotes are sprinkled throughout. I like the one about the $10 picket fence she bought at an auction that ended up costing $1,110. A good book for beginning and intermediate gardeners.

by Ron L. Engeland. Filaree Productions, 9th printing. 1998, soft cover, 213 pages.

[Growing Great Garlic book cover]Garlic aficionados will appreciate this definitive guide to growing garlic tailored for organic gardeners and small farmers. Engeland, who writes,"I'm not a trained botanist or scientist, just a farmer in an urban culture that has long since forgotten its own agricultural roots," offers up a garlic grower's bible. The book is divided into three basic parts. It begins with a detailed history of garlic from prehistoric times to present. It is interesting to read about the "garlic crescent," an area in Central Asia encompassing parts of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikstan, Turkmenistan and northern Iran. Maps of ancient trade routes show how garlic spread throughout the world. The second part of the book has six chapters on how to grow garlic from the act of clove popping, breaking off seed bulbs into individual cloves, to top popping, snapping off flower stalks prior to harvest. Details on site selection, soil preparation and fertilizing garlic to get maximum yield are informative. The third part of the book includes four chapters on harvesting, curing, packing, storing and marketing garlic. Detailed line illustrations of garlic anatomy and maps of garlic's origins comprise the art. Although Growing Great Garlic was written in 1991, it has been reprinted numerous times, a testament to its undying popularity.

by Michael Bell. Timber Press .2000, hard cover, 159 pages.

Amateur and experienced bamboo collectors alike should be impressed by this informative, superbly illustrated book on bamboo. Michael Bell, president of the United Kingdom Bamboo Society, offers a richly detailed portrait of bamboo from its history to how to landscape with it. Many gardeners are put off by bamboo's aggressive tendency to spread. To that Bell writes, "Bamboos have an unfortunate reputation of spreading like weeds, but there are dozens of species that remain in a compact clump for many years if trouble is taken to select the right plant, rather than those that are suitable for mass production by the thousands to satisfy the garden centre trade." An A to Z section describing more than 125 types of bamboo offers help in selecting the right bamboo for the right location. The book also has chapters on bamboo botany, propagation and potential problems. Beautiful color photos and detailed illustrations are educational and entertaining.


  • BUY A CAMELLIA -- This month many nurseries offer a nice selection of budded and early blooming camellias. These hardy beauties make fine holiday gifts for the gardener with or without a green thumb. Sasangua camellias sport many small, cheerful flowers on a low-growing, almost sprawling structure. Sasanguas make good espalier specimens as well as container plants. The Japanese camellias, "Camellia, japonica," are available also. They have a more robust, bushy growth habit. Flowers are fat and showy.
  • PLANT BULBS -- It is not too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs so take advantage of nursery close-out sales and start digging. Many bulbs are up to 50 percent off. Selection is limited, but you will find some good buys. Fill a few pots up now for color next spring.
  • COLOR THE GARDEN -- Perk up barren flower pots and boxes with cool-season annuals and perennials. Many nurseries offer four-inch pots of primroses, pansies, violas, Iceland poppies and calendulas in bud and bloom. A pot full of living color makes an inexpensive but beautiful holiday gift.
  • THINK FOOD -- With the arrival of bare root season this month you will find a wide variety of berries, grapes, fruit trees, strawberries, roses, artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb. If the ground is too wet for digging, try planting bare root stock in containers for setting out next spring.
  • FEED THE LAWN -- If you didn't feed the lawn earlier this fall, it is not too late to do so now. During the cool wet months of winter lawn grasses begin their active growth spurt. Fertilize now and again in early spring. Winter rains thoroughly wash the fertilizer deep into the soil where roots need it the most.
  • FEED THE BIRDS -- Give the birds in your garden a treat by making them suet cakes. Suet is hard fat, usually from beef, that birds can pick on. To make suet cakes, melt fat in a heavy pan over low heat. When slightly cool mix in bird seed, peanut butter, cornmeal, oatmeal, dried fruit, sunflower seeds. For grit and calcium add crushed egg shells. Pour mixture into paper-lined muffin tins. Place hardened set cakes in mesh bags and hang out with bird feeders.
  • BE DIFFERENT -- While fresh cut conifers are the traditional favorites for holiday decorating, you might be adventurous and try something different. A Ficus benjamina is handsome when draped with lights and ornaments. Although leafless at this time, Japanese maples exhibit their handsome twigs and branches and show off twinkling lights and special decorations. Dwarf citrus trees laden with fruit are stunning when laced with miniature white lights.

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