Dirt on Gardening

There are just a few weeks in a year when a gardener’s work is on hold, and sometimes in the Ozarks it’s possible to garden all winter long. When it’s frigid outside and the ground is wet or frozen; there’s not much a gardener can do other than tend the houseplants and read a book.

Storey Publishing is well known for their practical guides that cover just about every topic under the sun. The Storey guide, “The Perennial Care Manual,” by Nancy Ondra, has two parts – a part on perennial care basics and a plant-by-plant guide. This manual also has a lot of full-color photographs of flowers and gardening tasks such as digging and dividing perennial plants.

Also from Storey Publishing is “The Dirt Cheap Green Thumb,” by Rhonda Massingham Hart. This is a common sense guide for a gardener on a budget who wants a garden that looks like a million dollars. This guide is full of all kinds of tips and tricks for novice and experienced gardeners, and it comes in a compact size that’s easy to tote around in a garden trug.

I confess a love for the true-to-life tale, especially those that involve a subject that I love. “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer,” by Novella Carpenter, is the tale of Carpenter’s experience gardening and farming on a dead-end street in a ghetto in Oakland, Calif. Carpenter raises heritage turkeys on the same street where homeless men hang out. A vacant lot is a garden oasis where strawberry runners live among raspberry brambles. Even if you garden or farm in a more realistic location, Carpenter’s book will make you smile.

Who can avoid a little mystery writing when it’s cold and dark outside? Check out “Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities,” by Amy Stewart. Stewart admits that she’s fascinated by “the plant kingdom’s criminal element,” and this illustrated book provides interesting history regarding plants that have changed or ended lives. Not only is the book an interesting read, it may also be used as a valuable garden resource book.

On the subject of history, Midwestern sunflower lovers and growers will find “Sunflowers: The Secret History,” by Joe Pappalardo, of interest. Pappalardo is a writer for various popular news and scientific magazines, and he uses his journalistic acumen to put together a well-documented look at the botany and the history of what he calls “the world’s most beloved weed.”

Finally, when you’re ready to move beyond the frigid weather to start planning your next trowel move, you’ll find inspiration in “Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love,” by Julie Moir Messervy, a landscape architect. Messervy offers easy to follow techniques that have been successfully used in landscape design. For gardeners with big or small aspirations, this book is filled with before and after photos and includes a case study of a small property that has been transformed into a “cottage in the woods” landscape design.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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