Trowel and Error

Trowel and Error

By Alissa Dornink

There are twelve days before the start of spring as I’m writing this, and I’m watching it snow as we’re under another yet another winter weather advisory. The last weekend of milder weather had gotten my hopes up that we had moved on from the snowiest parts of winter, even though I’ve lived through enough seasons to know better. I had even gotten out in my back yard and made progress cleaning up some of the rogue sticks and leaves and filled in some of the holes the dog has dug. I kept staring at my garden while doing that, making and revising plans for when it gets warm (the first step being dog-proof it). I’m getting better at keeping things alive, but I need all the help I can get. I don’t want to constantly bother my green-thumbed friends, so I’ve relied on a few good books from the library.

I really liked Derek Fell's "Grow This! A Garden Expert's Guide to Choosing the Best Vegetables, Flowers, and Seeds So You're Never Disappointed Again." This sounds highly technical, but is surprisingly straightforward and informative. The beginning has an in-depth coverage of the basics of plant care and covers a wide scope of plants and flowers. "Grow This!" is another useful book for anyone interested in gardening, whether it's raising a window box of marigolds or acres of produce. The majority of the book is dedicated to providing detailed—but not overly complex—information about a wide variety of vegetables, annuals, perennials, and grasses. Each entry includes a recommended variety; some history and trivia; things to watch out for; and a plant profile that includes zone, propagation tips, planting guidelines, pest and disease control, and companion plants.

I don’t have a giant plot, which is why I really like "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. It shows you how to maximize every last inch of what you have to make the best use of your garden space. Bartholomew walks you step by step through his process for setting up a grid-based raised garden that's only six inches deep, easily accessible from all sides, and best of all requires very minimal weeding. Everything is clearly laid out and explained with full color illustrations.

Now all I need is the weather to cooperate so I can move forward with my plans—before I change my mind on what to plant!