I’m not going to recommend what you might think. That is, this time of year it can be tempting to spend lots of time reading about new plans, perfect landscaping, and what you could be planting until midnight. Every night. While there is a place for this, in moderation, I am going to suggest more reading about things you know that you will likely be doing. Spending a bit of time now reviewing or learning about maintenance management that you’ve always had on the list will make you more likely to get out and do it in a timely manner when it really is time. Since it has the chance of real application, you might find the reading more interesting than anticipated. You may think, “But I can read about it then.” I suggest to you that while you may want to look it up one last time before proceeding in the spring, having read about it before hand, when you are not pressed for gardening time, will allow you to absorb the information better and allow for less time with the books later.
1. If you are going to start seeds in pots, you might start with books like The New Seed Starter’s Handbook. Each seed package may say some things, but it is often not detailed enough. By reading a more in depth discussion of seeds starting, you may find yourself intuitively problem solving beyond the generic instructions.
2. Pruning is something almost every yard needs somewhere. The best book I have about pruning is Pruning Made Easy. Out of all the articles and books I have read about it, this is the one that made it most understandable.
3. For general vegetable garden preparation, I like to peruse both Martha Stewart’s Gardening: Month by Monthand Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book The pictures may be disturbingly perfect and the actual schedule unrealistic, but there is a lot of basic gardening information that is useful to be reminded of after a long winter.
4. It can help to be thinking of seed saving from the earliest point in the garden season, partly for reasons of spacing and location, and partly for getting it in your thoughts before certain early crops have passed you by. The simple, condensed manual about growing seed, by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, is perfect for this subject.
5. Dealing with weeds and insects is a given, and you can be more ready for that by reading information by a scientist who has gone to great lengths to evaluate things he is NOT selling. How novel. His books are The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Whyand The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line. He does a great job of cutting through the hype and propaganda to help gardeners know what their best options really are.
6. I recently purchased a couple of weed books. It can be useful to have an idea of when certain weeds will sprout, where they tend to grow, what they will look like in various stages, and whether or not they can harm children or animals. I have found it fascinating to read about them. It also strangely makes eradicating them more fulfilling when you know what to call them. If you want to try the books I have, they are Good Weed Bad Weed: Who’s Who, What to Do, and Why Some Deserve a Second Chance (All You Need to Know About the Weeds in Your Yard)and Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants. Weeds (A Golden Guide from St. Martin’s Press)is a useful little read, too.
7. Where there is a garden, there will be insects and plant diseases. Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solverhas for many years been the most useful resource for me for identifying what a problem is. A bit of reading about problems you’ve had before or plants that you will probably grow will set your radar and possibly help you to do things ahead of time to prevent major disaster. Rodale also publishes books specific to landscape plants and trees.
8. If you are like me and thinking the vegetable garden is a good place to plant cutting flowers, so that you don’t upset the balance of your general landscape, you might like to take a look at Cutting Gardens: The Complete Guide to Growing Flowers and Creating Spectacular Arrangements for Every Season and Every Region.
Just pick one book and start reading. It’s not a homework assignment. It’s a walk through your garden in your mind. It’s priming your thoughts to be more effective in your problem solving and use of your energy, without being frantic. Maybe you have some books you’d like to recommend to the rest of us?