Gardening is a pleasant struggle in summer—the early mornings are filled with sweating, watering, weeding and inspections for insects and infected plants. As the temperature rises, one wonders what is attacking an ailing plant or what can be used to eradicate a persistent weed? The following two books furnish the answer to these and many other gardening questions.
The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control – edited by Fern Marshall Bradley, et al
If you have mildew on plants, Japanese beetles devouring blossoms and tomatoes with rot spots every year, the Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control (Rodale Press) will help solve these and any other plant problems. In fact, this volume’s 400+ pages contain the equivalent of four books. Part one explains gardening practices that keep plants healthy and resistant to disease. Part two contains an alphabetical listing of two hundred and twenty garden plants, including vegetables, fruits, and every sort of ornamental tree, bulb, perennial, etc. Each plant’s best growth conditions are given, followed by solutions for various problems that might afflict it. Part three instructs worried gardeners on how to identify pests and diseases, including photographs of every known insect and disease symptom. After deciding the source of the plant’s distress, part four informs the reader of the best organic options for curing the problem.
As an example of the book’s simple access to effective remedies, I looked up one of my perennials. My bee balm is beautiful in spring, but declines annually into a white-coated mess by the dry mid-summer. I searched the plant’s name, read the description of the condition, and was referred to “powdery mildew.” Here was listed some preventive suggestions and an inexpensive spray recipe of 1 teaspoon baking soda to one quart water.
Good Weed, Bad Weed – by Nancy Gift
With a doctorate in weed science, Nancy Gift‘s knowledge and affection for these unwanted plants are obvious in Good Weed, Bad Weed (St. Lynn’s Press). The author defines a weed as a plant “that comes up without being planted or encouraged.” Gift discusses forty-three of these, dividing them into bad, not-so bad and good weeds. Arranged in these groups by season of appearance, she describes the plants and their life cycle, any benefits, methods of control, and more details about the weed. Such plants as my despised poison ivy (bad), morning glories (not-so-bad), and violets (good) are included. The author’s witty comments about weeds make the book a pleasure to read.
Using photographs of the weeds, I wandered my yard identifying several previously unknown plants. Following the author’s advice, I pulled all from flower beds, but removed only the “bad “ones from my yard. This year I will allow the “good” weeds to grow in my lawn to provide their low-maintenance, all-season color and texture. I am not sure I will cook the unusual weed recipes in the book’s ending, such as “Weedy Foxtail Tabouli “ and “Purslane & Potato Salad.” For me, they are intriguing, but certainly not haute cuisine.
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.