Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden? A book review...

Well...what’s really wrong with my vegetable garden is that I don’t have one. Usually by this time of year I’d have dozens of happy sugar snap pea vines here…
But this year it’s still my temporary denial garden. So much for a tasty daily harvest of peas! I've got to have these plants moved out in time to plant my tomato starts and basil seeds, but since ‘round here that can’t happen until almost June it shouldn’t be a problem.
Anyway…the actual subject of this post is the new book What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden? by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, yes they are also the authors of What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?).
When I received a review copy of this book from Timber Press I thought for sure there was a mistake, after all I’m not a vegetable gardener! I do faithfully plant tomatoes, basil, and usually the sugar snaps. Sometimes I add a few peppers, or carrots. I’ve been known to plant cucumbers, and even once corn. Mint is a must, and I do love horseradish, both for the big bold leaves and the tasty root. Last year I enjoyed lots of peppery arugula…okay maybe I am a vegetable gardener after all! I started reading.

The book is divided into three sections; Plant Portraits, Family Problem-Solving Guides, and Organic Solutions to Common Problems.

In the “Plant Portrait” section they profile everything from arugula to fava beans, okra to spinach and of course tomatoes. There are 46 profiles in all, even more when you consider that some, like “onions, shallots, and scallions” are grouped together.

The “Family Problem-Solving Guides” are laid out in an easy to navigate chart that includes a full color thumbnail photo of the problem, a description of the symptoms, the diagnosis, and a list of solutions. The solutions are accompanied by the page number where you can learn more about the method they suggest….which brings me to the “Organic Solutions to Common Problems” section. Here they discuss solutions as simple as row covers and as complex as solving soil problems (Maybe not complex to you, but it is to me! Mention pH, Sulfer, Manganese…my eyes spin back in my head).

In the part on “planting polycultures” they point out by interspersing flowering annuals or perennials with your vegetables you help to attract the beneficial insects while confusing the pests (it’s harder to zero in on the scent of the tomato plant when there are other plants disguising them). They suggest marigolds as being particularly helpful, and not just to keep away slugs. I don’t know if I can go that far (marigolds!?) but I can see some bright cheerful nasturtiums winding through my tomatoes. Heck they’re edible too!

They also stress the importance of rotating your crops, “because each plant family has its own suite of pests and diseases.” I know this, and yet I keep planting my tomatoes in the same place. I have no choice, the stock tank planters are my vegetable garden! I tell myself it will be okay since I add new compost every year…but I feel like I’m playing a game of Russian roulette. So far so good…but will this be the year my tomato crop crashes and burns? Maybe with the help of this book I’ll decide on some other veggies to grow and alternate the tomatoes back and forth between the two tanks. I'm curious, do you rotate your crops?

Speaking of growing other veggies, if you haven't heard head over to the Timber Press website were you can enter to win an edibles prize package including:
  • 35 packets of organic heirloom vegetable seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (an $87 value!)
  • A bare-root fruit tree, also from Peaceful Valley
And an edible gardening library from Timber Press, featuring:
You'd better hurry because the contest ends on the 23rd (Friday). Sadly the prize package doesn't include What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden? I guess you’ll just have to buy that one on your own, or visit your local library.

As I mentioned Timber Press sent me a complimentary copy of this book to review. Since veggies aren’t really my usual topic on here on danger garden I wasn’t sure I was going to write a review, but after reading the book I thought it had some great information and was worth sharing…after all we all need help keeping our plants healthy! I suppose a seasoned vegetable gardener might find the information a little basic, but for me I found it to be a very useful book.

26 comments:

  1. I do like your black and galvanised pots combo! I can imagine lots of advice and tips on that book are universal and are applicable to ornamentals too.

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    1. Yes indeed! That is very true!

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  2. Like you, we have one raised bed where the tomato plants go each year. Our friend in the Alphabet District grew the best tomatoes ever in the same spot year after year and it didn't even get all that much sun. As for marigolds, I planted them once, only to find them covered in slime and draped with slugs the next day. I thought they were supposed to repel slugs, but maybe they lure them away from other plants?
    Nature is always outsmarting me, one way or another.

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    1. They are supposed to repel slugs! Glad I never fell for that lie.

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  3. You have a problem with marigolds? I don't know if we can be friends anymore. . . .

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    1. I new it was too good to last, I just didn't think it would end over marigolds...

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  4. I mean, it was bad enough finding out that you like summer.

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  5. Even if you find gardening books to be too "basic", they're great to lend or hand down to less-experienced gardeners, especially those in the family. :-)

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  6. I used to plant my tomatoes in the same bed every year because I had no choice. Sure enough, I got V-wilt and it took me two summers to realize what was going on (that was a dark time for me - 2 years with a failing tomato crop!) Now in our new house, I have 4 large beds and I rotate every year - just in case. This looks like a good book; I'll have to check it out. I also need to get my denial garden planted - but this weather is horrible!

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    1. Horrible just almost begins to describe the weather. It's madness! So sad about your tomatoes...now I'm really scared.

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    2. Loree, just grow Early Girl and other types that are V-wilt resistant and you'll be fine. If you get fancy with the heirlooms then you're asking for trouble with only one bed.

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  7. Hey there! THanks for reviewing this, a friend had sent me a newspaper review of this book and I was interested. Now with your review I think I've got a enough info. to get the gist of the book. Sounds like it is well-organized with good general care info in it. I agree crop rotation is a must! It really helps with pests too so that any little eggs/etc.. that hatch out from the year before aren't rewarded with their favorite crop sitting right before them. Move things around and keep the pests confused!

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    1. The best pests are the confused pests!

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  8. Did you see that Timber Press also has an entire book devoted to agaves coming soon?

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    1. Yes and how excited do you think I am about that? CAN'T WAIT!

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  9. This sounds like a handy guide. I'm still relatively new to veggie growing and have been in the market for a good guide like this. Thanks for the review! Cheers, Jenni

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    1. Jenni you've certainly got the space at your new place to go veggie crazy!

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  10. I'm in the same situation--I have but two raised beds so I can only rotate them so much. And I don't like vegetable gardening enough to want to build another bed. I may just have to go rogue and plant them one in the front yard, even though my partner would hate it. The book says we have to!

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    1. You need to read Ivette Solers book on front yard food. I'll bring it to the exchange!

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  11. At our last place, we always rotated our veggie plantings, but we had to be creative since some of the raised beds got more sun than others.

    I'm thinking this book is great for two groups - newer gardeners who are really invested their veggie harvest, and any level veggie gardeners who hit snags in production, particularly after previous successes. When I am at the Master Gardener clinic, we often get calls from newer vegetable growers with problems. Sounds like this book would be good to have for reference in the office, too. I'll suggest it!

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    1. That is a great idea, I think it really would be useful.

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  12. I love What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?). It's a staple of our Master Gardener book box. :)

    I'll have to look at the veggie one.

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  13. Tiffany @ No Ordinary HomesteadMarch 25, 2012

    I have some plants like yours in my special garden, 'm trying now how to improve it. I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I'd love for you to drop by and join in.

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  14. Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the review.

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