Garden Books

The Family Kitchen Garden

January and February are the coldest months of the year. Trees are bare; brown earth glistens with morning ice. Low gray clouds dim the sky, and snowflakes float silently through the air. Days of cold, wet weather are perfect for studying seed catalogs and for dreaming of an early spring.  Planning time for your 2010 garden has arrived!

If you are contemplating an organic garden, The Family Kitchen Garden: How to Plant, Grow, and Cook Together by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner and Annette Wendland (Timber Press) is an excellent source of information for beginners, for experienced growers, and for any gardener with children helpers.  The introduction states that “although aimed at families and for those wishing to garden with children,” this book “is for anyone with an interest in gardening, food, beauty and eating well.”

The volume is divided into three sections – Basics, Month-By-Month, and A-Z of Plants.

Basics explains functions necessary for a garden, such as planting various sized seeds, weeding, mulching, harvesting, container gardening, garden pests, and more.  Quite a bit of information is written on gardening organically and gardening responsibilities for children.  The authors’ main comment for working with children stresses simplicity, “You will need a relaxed attitude. Things are going to take longer and be less perfect or planted less straight than you would ideally like.  Go with the flow.”

Month-By-Month tells what chores to do and what needs to be planted, harvested and eaten each month. The monthly planting times require some adjustment for the Triangle. The calendar matches the seasons of the northern part of the Middle Atlantic States.  Recipes are included in each month with a variety of tastes from Oriental summer rolls to ginger carrot soup.  Instructions are included for children-oriented projects, such as birdhouses, flower arrangements, plant labels, and other garden-focused activities.

A-Z of Plants gives information on fruit trees, berries, nuts, herbs and flowers along with colorful photographs.  Each plant’s needs, problems, uses in cooking, and recommended varieties are listed.  The plants’ descriptions are coded with symbols indicating whether it can be grown in containers, the difficulty in growing, and suitability for very young children.  The book’s British background is most noticeable in its choice of plants.  Celeriac, a root vegetable that tastes like celery, rocket (arugula), currants, and Welsh onions are more popular in Europe than in America.

The appendices offer summaries of the contents of the other sections. The unique “ease and effort” rating of various plants will definitely help beginning gardeners decide which to choose.  A chart telling how much a family of four needs to plant to prevent having a “glut” of vegetables is beneficial to those wanting fresh vegetable to eat only, not a surplus for canning.

The Family Kitchen Garden is based on the three authors’ time as volunteers in restoring the walled kitchen garden of Chiswick House in London, England. With the help of hundreds of school children, they created a lovely garden, and with their knowledge and talents, they have created a beautiful and useful book for any-aged gardener.

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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