My Dad could tell you about all the times my sisters and I moped and moaned about weeding and picking the vegetable garden when we were growing up. It’s shameful to think of it now – rows of fresh beans, corn, potatoes and strawberries ripening in the Virginia sun, and how the three of us resented the garden for tearing us away from our beloved Whitney Houston albums.
Luckily for me, I eventually wised up. When I moved into a city apartment, I bought a galvanized metal tub and hauled bags of potting soil up to our third floor balcony to try and grow flowers. Then I moved across the country to a house with a yard, and discovered the rapture of growing vegetables. And when I moved back to San Francisco, I signed up for a plot in a community garden, and now grow veggies in our small but sunny backyard.
I think I’ve progressed a little, from the newbie gardener who scattered seeds willy-nilly and waited to see what happened. Now I’m learning more about soil, what to grow near each other (or not), and fertilizing. But at my core, I remain a pretty laissez-faire gardener.
However, there are a couple books that I read cover to cover this year as I planned the spring veggie patch. Chronicle Books sent me a book I had been stalking for a year called Garden Anywhere by Alys Fowler. And Potter Craft sent me Gayla Trail’s new book, Grow Great Grub. These are terrific books to arm yourself with, no matter where you fall on the gardening spectrum – if you want to grow lettuce in a crate on your stoop or harvest year-round.
Alys Fowler cheers you on with sentiment like: “Life has enough pressures without bringing them into the garden.” Amen, sister. Her book takes you through container gardening, kitchen gardening, growing flowers and herbs and vegetables. The photography and art direction are stunning, in a relaxed, stumbled-upon sort of way.
Gayla Trail's book focuses totally on edibles, and also encourages you to grow grub no matter what your space constraints are. Her chapters walk you through planting, growing, and collecting your bounty, with inspiring projects and recipes along the way.
When I was in a bookstore recently, one entire floor-to-ceiling shelf was devoted to books on growing vegetables and urban homesteading, so there's no shortage of information out there. But these are two books that resonated with me. I feel like both authors are truly cheering me on instead of just intimidating me with their (albeit very impressive) knowledge.
I admit that sometimes it feels like the more I read, the more dumb I feel. But if I get overwhelmed, I head out to the veggie patch. Just being in the presence of things growing is a comfort.