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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening

Book Review
by Dan Clost
June 29, 2011

Sheri Ann Richerson is a mutual member of a garden writers' list serve- think of this as gardeners gossip group meeting through the internet. Recently she announced that she and a friend, Delilah Smittle, had co-authored a book called, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening. She was looking for reviewers. I thought the book was written specifically with myself in mind so I put up my hand and said, "Yes, please." And then I put my hand down, closed my mouth and typed, "Yes, please." in an e-mail. As you can tell, Gentle Reader, I really thought I qualified.

There is a danger in reviewing this type of a book and that is the perceived expertise of the reviewer who, when preparing the dissertation, also wants the reader of the review to realise how incredibly knowledgeable the reviewer is. They tend to pounce on supposedly missing information with, "If I were to have written this little tome I certainly would have included this very important fact."

Fear not, GR, no such elitism will appear here, my mind is as blank and open as the computer screen at which I am staring.

The book arrived and I've been going through it carefully, looking for the bits that say, "This section is for you, Dan." Haven't found them.

What I have found is a nice comprehensive look at gardening in general with good guidelines on how to extend both ends of the season. The language is clear, not cluttered up with unnecessary jargon. The black and white photos, Donna Chiarelli Studio, are crisp and are meant to illustrate the text. Too often photos are slapped down in the middle of a page only because it is a really cool shot.

Never mind that it is not entirely appropriate to the subject matter, a few paragraphs of rationalizing seems to satisfy the photographer’s angst.

This is not the case here. Even the few cartoons scattered throughout illustrate points with gentle humour. The chapters take you through all aspects of gardening, introducing new material as it pertains to the gardening process. It is clear that a good deal of thought went into the selection of information so that the reader processes concepts in a logical, relevant manner. The newbies are encouraged as they realise they understand what is being presented and us more experienced tillers pick up little tidbits that we never knew we didn't' know. (Check out the aspirin therapy on page 245) In other words, this book is written for the readers and not as a treatise that trumpets the cleverness of the authors.

Interspersed with the main text are dialogue boxes (used in a manner very similar to the way I use parentheses) with the headings of Green Thumb, def*i*ni*tion, Garden Guide or Safety First. Little asides like how to get a hobby greenhouse for little or no money, exactly what is a complete fertilizer, how to direct light to maximize it's effectiveness and fungus in a compost can aggravate certain allergies.

The Appendices are treasure troves of concentrated information. For example, Appendix B, "Fruits, Vegetable and Herbs" is a chart of how-to and when-to plant specific, um, plants. Appendix A is the glossary, also written in a fashion to impart meaning without cluttering up definitions with polysyllabic jargon.

I admit that part of paragraph two does apply. In the soils section either a photograph or a line drawing of a soil profile with a plant's roots running through it would have been helpful. A soil triangle- a chart that shows the composition of sandy soil vs. sandy loam vs. loam etc, ditto. But these are trivialities compared to the overall purpose of the book.

I do recommend Year-Round Gardening as an excellent, reader-friendly introduction to this type of gardening. There are many other books out there, with explicit information that go well beyond this one. However, you can't work away with the more complicated facets until you have understood the basics. This book is basic, and that's a good thing.

Published by Alpha Books, an imprint of Penguin Books USA, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening, Delilah Smittle and Sheri Ann Richerson, ISBN-978-159257-970-9, can be found on the internet at Amazon books. The suggested Canadian price on the cover is $25.00; the Amazon price is $15.68.

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