I’ll get to some criticisms later on, but let me say first that this is the best book on general vegetable gardening that I have read in a long time, and is probably THE best book available now for gardening in the humid subtropical region of the United States. For some reason, almost all gardening books in recent years have been coming out of the Northeast or California, neither of which are remotely accurate models of what gardening is like here.
The book is released by Timber Press. Author Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a long time Virginia gardener, organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello (which I have been hoping to attend for a couple of years), and is a writer for Mother Earth News. In short: she’s got credibility as a gardener first and author second.
In the first section, she covers the basics of gardening with an emphasis on our local climate concerns. The information here is solid and she walks a fine line between oversimplifying and over-complicating, to present the pertinent facts in a friendly tone without heavy didacticism. In the third and last section, she takes crops one by one and concisely presents growing, harvesting, variety and seed saving information.
Unfortunately, it’s the second section where I have criticisms. This section is set up like a monthly guide to gardening in the south. While the overall arc of the season is presented well enough, the specifics are, in some cases, flat out wrong. For example, there are prominent “Fresh Harvest” details which are perplexingly inaccurate unless it is intended to mean that somewhere in the region those items can be harvested in that month, or perhaps are in storage. In January, my family in Florida is harvesting lettuce, but mine is long since gone, and long enough ago it wouldn’t be good in the refrigerator either. Novice gardeners should not expect this section to accurately reflect the food they can get out of their own garden, nor when to plant it.
The inaccuracies in the section, I feel, are simply due to attempting to cover Zones 6 through 10 in one calendar. While there are similarities in climate, our gardening calendars can be quite different even though she and I both garden in the “upper south.” The third section more correctly indicates proper plant timing, and should be used instead in conjunction with local planting calendars provided by the Cooperative Extension Service and other resources.
Overall, however, I thoroughly recommend the book to beginning gardeners, and section 3 is a great go-to reference for gardeners of all experience levels. The book is affordable and accessible, and despite my criticisms it has earned a permanent spot in my bookshelf.