With snow still ankle-deep in Emmaus, outdoor gardening is weeks away. That gives me some time to delve into the stack of gardening books on my desk. Here’s what I’m reading:
The Truth About Organic Gardening by Jeff Gillman. The title suggests an exposé, but this book turns out to be a even-handed analysis of the practices and products that organic gardeners rely on. Dr. Gillman is on the horticulture faculty at the University of Minnesota, and he applies a healthy dose of skepticism to the organic status quo.
The Natural Habitat Garden by Ken Druse. The author advocates studying the natural plant communities of your area as the starting point for a landscape. I don’t have the room at home to replicate the expansive naturalistic plantings shown in the book, but that won’t keep me from making a scaled-down grassland in my sunny back yard and a woodland vignette under the maples and dogwoods in front.
Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr. Anytime I’m planning garden renovations of any sort, I reach for this fat and authoritative encyclopedia of trees and shrubs. This spring I’m planning a screen of flowering shrubs along one side of the back yard, and I’m looking to Dr. Dirr’s book for plant recommendations.
Improving the Soil from Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening series. I’ll be preparing some new planting beds this spring, so a refresher course in soil science can’t hurt. This book (no longer in print, I’m sorry to say) explains everything a gardener needs to know on an unglamorous topic.
I’ve also been fantasizing over gardening picture books, of which there are many in the Rodale company library. I am fortunate to have access to this wealth of information and inspiration. It allows me to escape from my glowing computer monitor and rest my eyes on the printed page. And when spring arrives, I’ll be primed to dig. —Doug Hall