Wtih The Augusta Chroncile since Dec. 20, 1995 covering courts and legal issues. Now serving as part of the projects team that focuses on investigative reporting.
Posted February 5, 2010 09:36 am - Updated February 5, 2010 12:38 pm

Until you can plant, read

If you are already having visions of homegrown tomatoes and hope this year's quality and quantity will be better than last year's, there's a new book out that could help: "Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs."

Even if your vegetable garden is the envy of the neighborhood, I think you will enjoy this book and the photographs by garden author Jim Wilson and professional photographer Walter Chandoha.

Thanks to Bill Bricker of Bricko Farm, whose Kricket Krap gets a well-deserved shout out in the book, I was able to borrow a copy of the book until I can get my own.

Wilson, who has written 13 books and was a co-host on Public Television's "The Victory Garden South," starts from the beginning, developing a vegetable garden site, and continues through how to plant various vegetables and herbs, what to expect, and when to harvest. He uses plan English and simple explanations that leave no room for confusion.

Although Wilson now lives in Columbia, Mo., where the weather is obviously different than ours, I still think his information is dependable because he isn't focused on his own particular cold hardiness zone.

The book's a handy reference for years to come for those things you once learned but won't easily retain _ such as letting freshly harvested garlic dry in the sun for two to three weeks before storing. He has specific information and tips for numerous vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Me - I learned a number of things from the book. For example, I now know I wasn't imaging that the lemon balm in the herb garden popped up several inches to a few feet away. Lemon balm, like mints, spread rapidly and it's best to corral it in a pot, which I intend to do if we ever get a weekend when it's not raining.

And I learned _ although I think I had figured it out on my own finally _ the reason the cilantro plants purchased in the spring and summer went immediately to seed is because it's a cool-season plant that should be grown from seeds sowed directly into the garden in the fall.

I appreciate the information about harvesting. Having never grown spinach before, I didn't know that the best practice is to remove just the basal leaves from the main stem. That will extend the harvest season. I thought you would just cut off the whole plant once it matured.

Wilson also has a bit to say about working with the soil you've got _ how to improve it without spending a fortune _ and what's good, bad or indifferent about soil conditioners, amendments, mulches and fertilizers. He also gives good advice on organic and no-till gardening _ not in a way that leaves you saying "Jim Wilson says do this!" but in a way that lets you make up your own mind about what might be best for you under your current conditions.

Chandoha's photographs will leave you itching to start digging and planting. The photos of the vegetables and fruit are gorgeous.

Wilson included a glossary of terms, which are clear and easy to understand. For example, take "blanch" as a gardening term. It means: "To cover plants to exclude light and make the leaves or hearts pale and milder in taste."

He also included resources for seeds and plants. One of the companies he listed, Renee's Garden, happened to send a media kit to The Augusta Chronicle recently. The California company _ always buy seeds that are grown in the West because there will be far less chance of disease _ specializes in gourmet herbs and vegetable seeds and cottage-garden flower seeds.

I wasn't too excited at first. I mean you can get seeds everywhere, right? But, after visiting the company's Web site (www.reneesgarden.com) I changed my mind. It's a very easy site to use and you can see a general description of each plant, detailed planting and growing instructions, and a photo of each plant. I can't wait for my order to come in.