Book Review by Candlelight

The hits from 2020 just keep on coming!

An ice storm rolled into Oklahoma City last Monday (October 26th). The prediction was brutal as many trees still had their leaves. The weight of the ice on the leaves would mean broken limbs and fallen trees.  It would also mean power outages. We lost our power at 2:45pm on Monday. It still has not returned. We have been told that it will be restored by 11pm on Friday (November 6th). That means eleven days without electricity for those of you counting at home! And since we have a water well run with an electric pump, we have no water either.

Our yard is a disaster zone. These pictures are only a glimpse of the damage. The rain, ice, and cold have dissipated and we’ve been able to do a general assessment of the damage. I believe our house, guest house, and barn are unscathed. But our fences and garden areas have been hit hard.

Due to the storm, the accompanying cold/wet, the time change (getting dark when I arrive home from work), and the lack of electricity, I’ve spent every evening in front of the fireplace with the iPad in my lap. It’s a nice contingency plan! First, it has me appreciating my summer firewood efforts! Second, it has given me lots of time to review some new books! Despite the current condition of my yard, I’m anxiously making garden plans! Here’s what I’ve been reading:

GrowVeg – The Beginner’s Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening – Benedict Vanheems

This book will be treasured by beginners! It contains so many wonderful ideas for starting a garden. From what you should grow (including Ben’s top 10 favorites) to where (in a pot, basket, raised bed or even a trash can!). The photography is beautiful. The directions are clear and straight-forward. Even the seasoned garden might find herself inspired to try beets, Swiss chard and cucamelons – wink, wink!

The book includes a variety of gardening projects. Again, the directions are clear and supported by beautiful photography. Projects include fields of wildflowers, how to build a bug hotel, how to cultivate worms, growing in hay bales, and growing vertically. But my favorite project idea is how to create your own liquid fertilizer! Very interesting!

Growing Under Cover – Niki Jabbour

The tagline here is “Techniques for a more productive, weather-resistant, pest-free vegetable garden.” Jabbour covers a variety of techniques – from insect barriers to polytunnels. Each technique provides great details, helpful hints, and wonderful photographs. The guidance regarding selecting materials and the best approach area invaluable.

The book contains basic gardening advice including raised beds, using covers to get a jump start on spring, vertical growing, mulching, winter plans, crop rotation, cover crops. There’s also “Setting up Systems,” where Jabbour addresses temperature, humidity, providing additional heat, ventilation, irrigation. There’s also great information on insects and diseases, which includes a list of each problem and description (what it is, what it does, how to get rid of it).

My favorite section of the book is Part 2 – Vegetables that Love a Cover. In it, Jabbour lists a plant, addresses planting, growing, harvesting, and then cover strategies. She cover twenty-four vegetables from artichoke to tomatoes.

Overall, this book is an incredible resource if you’re looking to extend your growing season through the use of covers. I feel like Jabbour hits every angle – every possible option – in great detail. Visually, the photographs are bright, clear, and well edited. Plus, the book is filled with interesting sidebars, including ‘a short history of growing under cover,’ ‘five uses for shade cloth,’ ‘Niki’s Under Cover Calendar’, and ‘ideal air temperatures for healthy growth.’

There are so many ideas in this book. If you only use one, the book would be worth it. However, my only negative critique is that I wish Jabbour would have addressed geography by letting us know her planting zone and possibly making recommendations for other zones. I feel like this book provided all the information about growing with covers except how to tailor it to your zone.

The Kinfolk Garden – John Burns

If you’re a fan of Kinfolk magazine, this book is for you! It’s really quite inspirational as you are introduced to gardens, gardeners, and stories of gardening from around the world. It is a testament to the universal nature of gardening, but it also shows that gardening can be simple or elaborate and still bring much happiness to its owner and guests. There are “how-to” sections that I found odd because I think just the inspirational value of seeing other gardens/gardeners was enough of a ‘purpose’ for this book.  

Fearless Gardening – Loree Bohl

I loved this book. It hit me on exactly the right day!

Honestly, flipping through it – I wasn’t that excited. As the author hails from the Pacific Northwest, I was expecting lush, thick landscape. What I found was lots of desert-styled plants. I’ve lived in Seattle and I’ve lived in Tucson. I much prefer the Seattle landscape.

However, I was committed to giving this book an honest look. And I’m so glad I did! Bohl delivers pure inspiration. She encourages the read to try, and try again. Explore. Challenge conventional wisdom. Do what makes you happy. I just loved at every turn, Bohl was encouraging me to do my own thing – garden rules be damned.

I also loved how the book included dozens of other gardens, and the philosophies of those owners. Each garden visit was just enough to spark your curiosity and provide some encouraging advice. Not too much detail, and not too little.

I highly recommend this book for all gardeners. With a January publication date, it will be the perfect winter read to inspire your spring gardening efforts!

Complete Container Herb Gardening – Sue Goetz

I’m a Goetz fan. She always writes with a no nonsense approach that I appreciate.

This is a great book for beginners. It provides general guidance regarding the basics of planting – picking pots, soil, sun/shade, water, plants. In part two, Goetz provides ideas for growing different categories of herbs – such as culinary, medicinal, beverages, beauty, housekeeping, and pollinators. Obviously, some herbs can fall into more than one category. I love the side-bar boxes that list the specific herbs needed for each project. It makes an easy reference point.

For the featured herbs, Goetz gives a quick summary of why that plant is included in the particular category – but if you’re wanting more specific information about each herb, it would be best to reference another resource.

Overall, the book layout and content is good. The photos are beautiful. My only critique is that some of the project instructions lack the detail (both written and pictures) beginners might need to succeed.

100 Plants to Feed the Monarch – The Xerces Society

You can never go wrong with a book produced by The Xerces Society. Their website is one that I turn to time and time again. This book is spectacular.

The books covers the basics of the life of a monarch and creating monarch habitats. It then advances to the plants monarch need, starting with a full education on milkweeds. Non-milkweed plants, wild flowers, trees, shrubs, and vines as sources of nectar are also included. My favorite part of the book is the ‘plant profiles.’ For each plant, there is a standard profile that includes exposure, soil moisture, bloom time, uses, companion species, growing range, and great photos. One can quickly look through the profiles to find flowers that are good for their region, and then make decisions based on exposure and soil moisture. I have quickly discovered new flowers I must try!

Plant Partners – Jessica Walliser

Of this grouping, this book is my personal favorite! I’ve written a post on a similar book – which I bought after reviewing it for NetGalley. This book is one I will purchase as well! Walliser presents “science-based companion planting strategies to minimize disease, reduce pests, improve soil fertility, and support pollination in the vegetable garden.” And although this book is science-based, it is not boring! There’s just enough detail to convince you of the solid reasoning behind the techniques. These concepts are well beyond adding marigold and nasturtiums to your garden. The topics include soil preparation & conditioning, weed management, support & structure, pest management, disease management, biological control, and pollination. Think cover crops, all kinds of way to bring in nitrogen, breaking up heavy soils, living mulches, living trellises, luring, trapping, tricking & deterring pests, attracting good insects, and drawing bees. For each, she tells you which plants to put together. And each section is supported by beautiful photography.

For all of these books, I received a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

3 thoughts on “Book Review by Candlelight

  1. Yes, the hits keep coming! Fell two weeks ago and fractured 6 bones. Couldn’t have surgery because I tested positive, then three negatives. I remember having those heavy fall storms in Ohio that would wreak havoc on our property. Kind of feeling that way today! As you know all so well, this storm will pass too.

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  2. You were hit hard just like we were. I’m so sorry! Boy, did you get a lot of reading done though? Good job! I hope your electricity is on by now. The well was the hardest part. Well, that and the lack of hot water once we got the generator going. We got our power back on yesterday afternoon. Fingers crossed yours is done by the time you get home tonight.~~Dee

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  3. I heard about the ice there, from someone in Caddo County. I experienced such weather only once, while in the Pecan Valley Junction neighborhood. It was after the trees defoliated though.

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