So now that it feels a little more like spring out there, I have been delving into my gardening books. I'm learning so much! Sounds silly to say so, but I think that sometimes you aren't ready to absorb a particular book. Then you come back to it, and you're thinking "wow!" all the way through.
Of late, my "wow" feeling has been focused on Steve Solomon's classic book, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. I have known about this book for years, thanks to my mom who is an avid gardener. It was usually laying somewhere around our living room, peppered with sticky note markers. I recently bought my own copy, and have been reading it religiously with my morning coffee. There's so much to learn! I have read other gardening books, equally inspiring, but Solomon points out that most gardening books are written based on gardening practices that work back east or in the mid-west, or in California. It makes a lot of sense: those regions have long histories of vegetable cultivation on all kinds of scale. As useful as these texts are (you can't say that Eliot Coleman's genius isn't inspiring), they don't address the unique challenges faced by gardeners who live in the Pacific Northwest and particularly west of the Cascades.
Here, vegetable growers face a myriad of problems: heavy clay soils, generally poor soil quality (low in trace minerals and overly high in potassium), winters-long leaching of nutrients thanks to the never-ending rains, a lack of widely-available high quality compost, difficulty in making good, nutrient dense compost at home. The list goes on and on. Solomon addresses all of these issues in turn, drawing on decades of experience growing vegetables in this unique region. He explains why mainstream gardening techniques fail here, and provides the reader with working alternatives.
Solomon also writes with a healthy dose of humor and honesty--joking about his failures, making fun of the reader while acknowledging the difficulties we face, and being totally honest about the back-breaking nature of some of the extra work we "west-of-the-cascaders" have ahead of us. He also unapologetically changes his mind: the book, now in its 6th edition, is a constant work in progress. It contains years and years of gardening wisdom. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Another great gardening resource that I lean on heavily is The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, published by Seattle Tilth. This is a great little magazine-size guide to planting schedules, trouble-shooting, and more. It is also specific to our rainy, cold soil situation. Check it out!
Both of these resources are available from your local bookstore, Third Street Books. Walk downtown, save the drive, and support a local business! Happy reading!
Enjoy your week.