New Society, 2011
Often when I’m reviewing gardening books these days, I am called to reflect on just how completely off-base I was in my early gardening attempts in the mid-nineties. For example, when Linda Gilkeson writes about double-digging and deep digging, “they have serious disadvantages, not the least of which is that they are a daunting amount of work…… In our cool climate, any kind of deep cultivation buries the community of topsoil microorganisms down where it is cool…. it doesn’t make sense to set them back this way,” – I shudder to remember how I cajoled a passel of friends into a weekend of roto-tilling and then double-digging a whole East Van backyard in an effort to establish my first kitchen garden. Then again, back in the mid-nineties, I didn’t have a proper gardening library and it was nearly impossible to find good books on edible gardens that were focused on our bio-region.
Fortunately, veggie growing is in again and there are far better beginner references now than I had access to during my first garden adventures. Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is one such book – an all-around how-to for the first-time gardener, and a handy reference for those with dirtier (more experienced) hands. With sections detailing garden planning, soil preparation, organic fertilizing and composing, seedlings, winter gardening, pest management, and a year-round garden calendar – Gilkeson aims to provide everything one needs to know in order to produce at least some food out of the garden year-round. As a Master Gardener, she works to banish the guilt many new gardeners feel about not following the “ideal” composting techniques and soil recipes – allowing that each of us develop our own styles and shortcuts in making our gardens produce.
Particularly useful to me is the A-Z vegetables and fruits directories in the back of the book…. which I know I will be referencing this summer when something or other isn’t working the way I’d like it to, or when I’m looking at a different storage technique for a particularly abundant crop of something. I have other books with A-Z references, but none specific to my growing climate – and really, there are big differences to how we do things in different parts of the country. A decent resource section and index round-out this book, making it easy to find what you’re looking for while skipping the stuff you already know. If you’re looking for a single decent reference for your Pacific Northwest garden – I would definitely recommend this latest offering from New Society Publishers.