Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Curious Gardener's Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom

In 2003, Niall Edworthy and his family purchased a home in West Sussex, England. It had a yard, a shed and a vegetable patch. He describes his first attempt at growing vegetables as a disaster. He bought a couple of books, asked advice from neighbors and the second year was merely pathetic. He decided to get serious about this gardening business and took a course, bought more books, bothered everyone who was willing to talk gardening and ended up with a "half-decent" garden the third year.

He has distilled all of the garden wisdom he collected from courses, books, other gardeners and his own experiences into a marvelous little book, "The Curious Gardener's Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom". It's neither a narrative nor a real almanac. Even the author has difficulty defining exactly what it is.

It's arranged by season, but you can dip into it at any point. Along with the usual plant lists, natural pest deterrents, and recipes, he includes historical information in the introduction of plants, the origin of many of their names and interesting facts such as 2/3 of the world's eggplants are grown in New Jersey. How about the invention of the wheelbarrow? Or how to test soil temperature? He suggests using your elbow but originally one dropped one's pants and sat. My favorite was his compost recipe which contains human urine. Seriously.

Each season is introduced by quotes and more quotes are scattered throughout the text. There are the usual suspects, Thomas Jefferson, Celia Thaxter, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Prince Charles and there are the unexpected, Cervantes, Galileo, Charlemagne, the Koran. Also offered are proverbs from Greece, ancient Egypt, China and Arabic speakers.

The last chapter is on children and gardening. It offers lots of fun facts and activities such as building a ladybug house and growing your initials.

This would be a great holiday gift for gardeners, beginners through the most experienced and anyone interested in the history of gardening, plants and tools.

Review copy courtesy of Perigee Books.

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