Garden Books

Gardening for Geeks

During the holiday season, I diligently browse garden shops for gifts. Surrounded by red and green ornaments and banks of white, pink and red poinsettias, I consider packets of unusual seeds, small tools, garden gloves, and, sometimes, books.

Finding a good book for a plant lover is somewhat challenging. The book should relate new information on a horticultural topic specific to that gardener’s interests. This year for new and for experienced vegetable gardener’s gift bags, I recommend a 223-paged paperback, Gardening for Geeks (Adams Media, 2013).

The internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, defines geek as  “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake,” and/or “a person heavily interested in a hobby.”

Christy Wilhelmi, the author, is a geek who teaches organic gardening at Santa Monica College and writes the blog, Her background as a teacher is obvious from the amount of instructions and information she includes in her book’s 10 well-written chapters. Wilhelmi supplies “Geeky Gardening Tips” in bright green fact-filled boxes that are relevant to the topics discussed around them. Book titles and web addresses are given as sources for more information. These “nerdy details,” as she describes them, result from answering questions from her many students.

Each of her chapters is devoted to some aspect of improving a garden. Wilhelmi begins with advice on creating a better ecosystem to surround the plants. Composting, bed construction, irrigation, vertical gardening, seasonal planting, and pest control are all covered. Other more unusual topics included are mathematical formulas for proper amounts of irrigation, construction plans for worm bins, and explanation of different types of seed treatments.

Despite the large amount of ideas introduced in this small book, the “Small Space/Urban Gardening” chapter was particularly informative to me. Four bio-intensive methods are offered as ways to increase the yield of any garden. Biodynamics, French intensive, square foot gardening, and mini-farming are each clearly explained. The history of each gardening method’s development as well as the basic principles behind each are discussed.

Amateur chefs will find the final chapter, “Now You Pick It! (And Then What?),” interesting as it discusses how to freeze, can, dehydrate and cook the fruits resulting from a geeky gardener’s labor. Foods that work best with the different means of preservation, times required for the various methods and equipment necessary for the projects are discussed. Some tasty recipes end this chapter.

Most gardeners are geeks. Their fascination with plants and their repeated attempts to grow healthier, more productive fruits, flowers or vegetables place them in that category. To be a better and geekier gardener, try this book to utilize the clues that Wilhelmi gives in “microbiology, mathematics and ecology to exponentially maximize the yield of your garden.”

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.

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