A Digital Botanic Garden is the gorgeous site of Phil Gates, a botanist at Durham University in the UK, who fills his virtual botanical garden with stunning close-up photographs as well as history, science, lore, and mythology about plants. “The concept has a lot going for it,” he writes, including “a climate where anything grows, no pests and diseases to deal with (unless they’re interesting and I choose to introduce them), no grass to cut, and I can grow and research anything I like …. And visitors get in free.” Visit early and often.
A Way to Garden is the lovely blog of Margaret Roach, a former executive in Martha Stewart’s media empire. This blog (“horticultural how-to and woo-woo”) first grabbed my attention with posts such as “Plant Lust—When Was Your First Time.” It includes poetic posts along with practical information, such as lists of monthly chores. Roach is also author of the book And I Shall Have Some Peace There (Grand Central Publishing. Feb. 2011).
Garden Rant is the joint blog of four women—all of them opinionated, knowledgeable gardeners. Topics include “The Great Potting Soil Debate,” “Stanford Organic Study Ignores Variety Differences,” and “UK Gardeners: No Peat for You!” One of the bloggers, Michele Owens, is author of Grow the Good Life.
66 Square Feet is the amount of space that Marie Viljoen has for container gardening on her Brooklyn terrace and the clever title of her entertaining blog (“one woman, one terrace, twelve seasons”). It’s not a lot of space. But as The New York Times said, “The dimensions of this narrow outdoor room … are ample enough to support a tangle of roses, lilies and anemones, along with clematis, heliotrope and creeping jenny, strawberries, figs and herbs, mint and echinacea, two lanky humans and a large, irritable black cat.”
Attracting Songbirds to Your Backyard by Sally Roth (Rodale, 2012). If I ever have a yard with trees (rather than a patch of concrete with a pathetic sapling), I’m going to start putting out bird feeders, and this will be my go-to guide.
The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables: The 100 Easiest-to-Grow Tastiest Vegetables for Your Garden by Marie Iannotti (Timber Press, 2011)
Herbs: The Complete Gardener’s Guide by Patrick Lima (Firefly, 2012)
BOOKS: Good Reads
Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook (Andrew McNeel Publishing, 2011). You’ll never buy a winter tomato again after reading Estabrook’s exposé on Florida’s industrial tomatoes–grown in sand that’s devoid of nutrients, in a humid climate where it takes more than 100 deadly pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to wage total warfare against nature. And what do you get in the end? A tomato with no taste!
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (Simon & Schuster, 2010). A beautifully written and moving narrative by a young Manhattan writer who chucks it all for an organic farmer with a dream. “There are still moments when I feel like an actor in a play,” she writes. “The real me stays out until four, wears heels, and carries a handbag, but this character I’m playing gets up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a Leatherman.” Urban gardening it’s not. But anyone enthralled with the mystery of nature and the rhythm of the seasons will appreciate Kimball’s struggles and ultimate triumph.
The Newlywed Cookbook: Fresh Ideas and Modern Recipes for Cooking With and ror Each Other by Sarah Copeland and Sara Remington (Chronicle Books, 2011). Even for “oldyweds” like me, this book of recipes for two is a delight–dedicated to the belief that “fresh food, prepared with love, is a key ingredient to happy, healthful, and playful relationships.” Copeland’s love of food is enriched by her love of gardening, which she has done for years at two different community gardens in New York City.
Underwood Gardens. As an Underwood myself, how could I pass this one up—a family owned and operated heirloom seed company called Terroir Seeds at Underwood Gardens? Allows you to start with the Beginning Gardener’s Collection or the Small Spaces Collection. Getting started guide, information on seeds and soil. I love their philosophy, as expressed here: “There is an old saying, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.’”
Urban Farmer. Once I’d read about all the cool heirloom vegetables I could grow, I needed a place to buy the seeds. Then I found Urban Farmer. It had exactly the seeds I was looking for, along with a month-by-month calendar of things to plant.