If you knew someone to guide you, keep you from making mistakes and just generally mentor you in gardening, I suspect that someone would resemble Barbara Damrosch. At least, I hope she would!
Image courtesy of Workman Publishing.
Newly updated and greener than ever, Barbara Damrosch's The Garden Primer is available and ready to lead you down the garden path. While the beloved original still rests on many a gardener's bookshelf (saw it myself recently at my sister's), this new version brings it right up to date. Armed with the latest information, any one of us could venture out and make magic in the dirt. You know you can...and if you didn't, this is the perfect manual for you.
Ms. Damrosch jumps right in with What Plants Need. Of special interest to me was the section on Bulbs (you know how I love my daffodils) where I was reminded that it just might be time to divide some of mine. On page 513, I read, "If a clump is dense and the leaves have started to flop, it's a sign that division is needed." Well, that describes my clump of Mt. Hood exactly. Guess what I'll be doing after the foliage has withered (it will be fun to see exactly how many are in the clump).
I also dug right into the section on Vegetables. You might remember those peas I planted on a whim? Just waiting for me was a load of information on peas (pages 340-345). There I learned that I was right (whew) to have a trellis waiting for them and that I needed to not let them over ripen on the vine, lest they lose their sweetness. I'll have to remember that as they are just now breaking the ground. Also, to pick them right before dinner (unless I'm eating right where they grow) as they start to lose their sweetness upon picking. I also learned they freeze well (hope I have enough to freeze!). You can see I focused on the reward, i.e., the eating (hehe) vs. the actual growing; however, The Garden Primer contains plenty of information on the actual growing.
After each section, there is an extensive glossary with pictures and detailed information on, for example, numerous vegetables. Just liked I looked up peas, you could look up anything you wanted, like tomatoes (pages 373-379), for instance. Of course, trees, perennials, shrubs, herbs, wildflowers, you-name-it are all covered including a section on houseplants. If you can grow it, there's information for you to absorb and learn.
Because I have vegetables on my mind, it was with special delight that I discovered a lovely and very colorful feature on Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman's Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, in the Spring 2008 edition of Country Gardens magazine. On display were the vegetable gardens (advice put into practice), luscious vegetables themselves and a flower garden in full bloom. A feast for the eyes and so very inspiring! Pictured also was the herb garden, complete with a plan featuring the actual plants used. I immediately turned back to the section on Herbs in the book, eager to learn more. (It's hard to put down; you'll see!)
If you didn't guess or or were unaware, let me be sure you realize we are talking about organic gardening. And, at Four Season Farm, they clearly know what they're doing! If you don't know something or, like me, are always eager to advance your gardening skills and knowledge, then make sure you have a copy of the new and improved The Garden Primer at hand. Our gardens will thank us!