Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We interrupt this gardening blog for a book review.

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers by Edward C. Smith. Copyright 2006; published by Storey Publishing.

As I mentioned below, I've been gardening for years, but only in raised beds in my backyard in Indiana. I grew flowers in containers, but not vegetables, so my patio experience with vegetables is new to me.

Being the consumate book collector, when I find a topic that interests me, I look for a book to support it. Or two or three, and then I buy them all. I'm all about having information and choices. Deciding to raise veggies in pots on my patio was no different, and I found a book! Huzzah! Sadly, the huzzah is for finding the book, not for the book itself.

Let me start by saying the photos are drop-dead gorgeous. Close-ups of luscious vegetables at their peak abound. And there are LOTS of them. All very exciting and inspirational. The actual gardening info, not so much.

The most helpful part of the book, to me at least, is the chapter on soil. Explaining how a plant takes up water and nutrients and why putting regular garden soil in a container is not a good option was very helpful info. The part of this chapter that just seemed silly to me is about starting and maintaining a compost heap. Good info, but if you're an apartment dweller -- not really an option.

The author also spent a great deal of time taking about what he planted in his earth garden. I would have rather had that space dedicated to more info about what to plant in containers -- that's supposed to be the focus of this book. And I wish the info had been more on patio gardening, rather than the author's experience of using his containers to supplement what he grows in his earth garden. What also slightly annoyed me is that the focus of the book is self-watering containers, but Mr. Smith spends a large amount of time talking about growing herbs in regular pots because they thrive on poor conditions such as dry soil and hot weather. That's great to know, but please don't devote a whole chapter to herbs that can't be successfully grown in self-watering containers. Instead give me options--tell me about the ones that will do well.

I guess I'm jaded. I know a lot about gardening. I have many, many gardening books -- from Square Foot Gardening (my holy bible of gardening) to books on starting seeds. I thought I needed to know a lot more to garden in containers, but after reading this book, I probably knew enough to get started without it.

If you're new to gardening, read the book. But try to borrow it from a library first before you spend the money for it. I found most of the information it contained on the Internet. If you already have earth-gardening experience, my advice is go to gardenweb.com and visit the container gardening forum.

All that said, this is a beautiful book, and I will refer to it from time to time, especially the last part about varieties of plants that work best in containers. It just isn't going to become the reference that I'd hoped it would. And all of this is just my opinion -- yours may vary (that's what makes the world so interesting).


Hello...my name is Margot said...

Keep up the good work Miss Vicki! I love this blog. You are such a great writer.

I can't wait to see the fruits of your labor...wah, wah.

Miss Margot

Vicki said...

Hopefully I'll be able to at least keep this going through the gardening season. It will be your job to take me to task if I stop posting!

Hello...my name is Margot said...

Oh you know I will!

I'll bring the Amish tomatoes and the fresh mozzarella...you provide the basil.


I was going to attempt lavender...but now I'm scared!