Vegetable gardening is hot, and novices (and others) need guidance. Can the book publishers be far behind? No sirree.
Raising one's own vegetables, herbs and fruits is a satisfying form of gardening, and not just for the delight of eating a sweet carrot that you planted three months earlier as a seed.
Veggie gardening is demanding in the best sense: It requires a continual presence. As a way of life, I can't think of a more soulful one, short of becoming a nun or a monk. And hey, what do they do in their cloisters? Grow vegetables.
A commendable book has to convey the idea of gardening as a process. Perhaps you cannot have the perfect vegetable gardening book — nothing can quite teach like a mentor and experience — but the following titles will be of help to the gardener who is moping about the house this winter.
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■ Homegrown Harvest, edited by Rita Pelczar (Mitchell Beazley, $32.50)
Published in conjunction with the editorial staff of the American Horticultural Society, this volume takes the gardener through the year and is especially helpful in tracking the seasonal progression of the enterprise. The book is liberally illustrated with photographs.
■ Grow Your Own Vegetables by Carol Klein (Mitchell Beazley, $19.99)
Mitchell Beazley put out another gardening how-to book this year. It has the voice of Carol Klein, one of my favorite garden writers. This is one of the few British gardening books I've seen whose makeover for the U.S. market and climates is more than perfunctory.
■ Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books, $40)
Creasy has been as influential in vegetable gardening as Julia Child was in the cause of good cooking. The new book represents six years spent reworking her classic book, incorporating all the advances in fruit and vegetable gardening in the intervening 28 years. These include more sophisticated organic methods and the extension of the growing season at both ends. But Creasy is best known for showing us the beauty of edible plants and how to integrate them in the ornamental garden. Her design ideas elevate the veggie garden and bring it out of the shadows.
Dusting off the library shelf
If you are willing to seek out titles that are not new, I can recommend two extremely helpful books.
■ Reader's Digest Vegetable Gardening by Fern Marshall Bradley and Jane Courtier (2006, $33)
This 2006 book was a joint project of Bradley, a New York horticultural expert, and Courtier, her British counterpart. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, and it's useful to beginners and more experienced gardeners alike.
■ Rodale's Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Fern Marshall Bradley (2007, $20)
Bradley is the sole author of this 2007 book. It's text-heavy, it has drawings. and it is perhaps aimed at the experienced gardener. Vegetables get their share of pests, and Bradley gives the sort of reassuring and organically sound guidance that every gardener will need at some point.