30 January 2014

New books for vegetable gardners from Tammi Hartung and Ira Wallace

Planning for spring’s vegetable garden usually includes looking at a few books or online references to refresh and increase our knowledge. There are two new ones to consider adding to your bookshelf. Both authors are women who not only garden but also invest time in observing the natural rhythms of plants and animals.

Tammi and Chris Hartung
  Colorado organic gardener and medical herbalist Tammi Hartung wrote, “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature.” Published by Storey Publishing, the 144-page softcover book helps gardeners deal with the challenges of bugs and animals that seem determined to eat more of the garden than the gardener gest to enjoy.

Rabbits, snails, deer, moles, birds and beetles all want their share of our produce and Hartung’s point of view includes all these creatures in her wildlife-friendly plan. She observes them from various locations in the garden as well as from motion activated cameras. Her idea is to get to know wildlife in our gardens and enlist their help rather than killing them or even engaging in battles with them.

Habitat for birds and beneficial insects are the backbone of the natural garden. Hartung’s suggestions and reminders include: Build the soil rather than feeding plants; convert grass into growing space without digging (add a thick layer of cardboard or newspaper and plant on top of it); and, welcome wildlife.

The recipe she provides for compost activator tea contains nettles, comfrey leaves, kelp or seaweed and alfalfa rabbit pellets. Add water, steep and pour onto the compost pile.

Her observations about companion planting include: catnip attracts ladybugs that eat aphids and whiteflies. Chamomile, dill and fennel attract parasitic wasps that control caterpillars. Horseradish repels potato bugs. Garlic repels aphids, tree borers, snails, flea beetles and squash bugs. Mint attracts lacewings and lady bugs as well as repels flea beetles, cabbage flies and mosquitoes.

Beautifully illustrated, easy to read and loaded with useful tips, “The Wildlife Friendly Vegetable Gardener” is a helpful resource for anyone getting started with sustainable practices.

Ira Wallace
 Ira Wallace, author of “Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast”, is on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is the owner of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (www.southernexposure.com). The focus of the book includes Delaware to OK and all the states south.

All the familiar practices are covered: Feed the soil with organic fertilizers, conserve water, monitor soil pH, start plants from seed, and grow your own transplants. One point Wallace makes is that healthy soil has plenty of organisms and grows plants that can withstand some insect damage. Chemical fertilizers kill beneficial microbes on contact, making plants weaker.

Phenology, the study of recurring patterns in plants, predicts the ideal planting time based on observation. Wallace provided a useful chart of natural gardening signals. Her tips: when dandelions bloom plant beets and carrots; when daffodils bloom plant potatoes; when forsythia blooms plant peas; when redbuds bloom the flea beetles arrive, etc. The book’s focus is zones 6 to 9; we are zone 7.

In the Garden Planning section, Wallace outlines easy to grow, slightly more challenging and just plain challenging crops for home gardens. The midsection of the book, “Get Planting”, is a month-by-month to-do list. You will learn about starting plants from seed under lights as well as how to start the same plants early outside by using protective covered tunnels.

The last section is a directory of edibles and a chart of what to plant when. There is a list of resources from seed catalogs to tools and soil tests at the back.

It was published by Timber Press (www.timberpress.com) and the list price is $20. To learn more about phenology visit The National Phenology Network at www.usanpn.org.







Dee Nash said...

I love Ira Wallace. Sat with her on a GWA bus tour. I always buy seeds from SASE. How exciting that she wrote the southeast Timber book.~~Dee

Martha Stoodley said...

Hi Dee - The book is a lovely read, as you could predict from meeting Ira.
Please change the weather when you get a chance, ok?