Garden Books

How to Plan a Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Gardening

Did you spend the winter months studying seed catalogs? Has this deluge of heirloom and new plant varieties piqued your interest in trying different kinds of familiar vegetables? Are you a cook/gardener interested in growing those unusual vegetables listed in the trendy contemporary recipes?

Then Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2019) by Matt Mattus will answer your planting questions on “rare varieties,” “unusual options” and “plant lore & guidance.”

The author, Mattus, is an artist and a hobby horticulturist. By day, he designs for the toy company, Hasbro, Inc. In his spare time at his home in Massachusetts, Mattus maintains a large vegetable garden, a greenhouse and a blog (

The gardening “guidance” Mattus promises has been gleaned from 30 years of gardening. He writes detailed explanations of how to raise ordinary and more unusual vegetables. For vegetables with difficult growing problems, such as tendencies for mildew or being devoured by certain insects, he includes lists of “mastering techniques” that he has discovered to be helpful from his own gardening experience.

Chicory, tomatillos, kohlrabi, celtuce, fennel, soybeans, and exotic gourds are among the less ordinary vegetables Mattus discusses in his book. Though these are not veggies grown by many local gardeners, the varieties’ descriptions may tempt you to give at least one a try this year.

Vertical Vegetables

Vertical Vegetables

If your garden is as small as mine, adding a new plant to the garden’s repertoire creates a critical search for extra growing room. Vertical Vegetables (Cool Springs Press, 2018) by Amy Andrychowicz will help solve this spatial problem for me and for you. The author provides planting advice and instructions for structures to guide plants up, not down, to prevent smothering the vegetables around them.

Andrychowicz begins by explaining that you should carefully choose the plants you want to grow before constructing any frames. She suggests vegetables that do best in vertical gardening and how to care for them. These instructions on basic gardening techniques reflect her interest in assisting beginning gardeners, which is the purpose of her internet blog,

Among the structures, Andrychowicz presents are ones to accommodate almost any type of plant and in any style of garden. Varied sizes and designs of trellises, wire arches, obelisks, ladders, and picture-frame hanging planters are among the many types shown. My personal favorite, a trellis containing a discarded shovel, hoe and rake would add space and character to any garden.

Andrychowicz’s instructions for building these gardening additions include exact material needs, tools, and a “cut list” with the dimensions and the number of pieces required. Photographs illustrating the author building the structures step-by-step makes the jobs appear simple.

Spend time this growing season studying your garden, whether it’s a small yard, a field or on a deck. Eventually, scatter some seeds and enjoy new fruits of your labors at summer’s end.

Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the JC Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.

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