Book Review - The Vegetable Gardener's Bible
This is my all time favorite gardening book,and I have quite a few. I turn to this one more than any other. Edward C. Smith discusses his "W-O-R-D" method: Wide rows, Organic soil, Raised beds, and Deep soil. I stole the image from amazon.com; you can't really search inside by clicking on the picture.
Ed is a big fan of wide rows, which help the gardener devote more of the garden plot to growing space and less to compacted walkways. In Ed's garden, about 75% of the area is devoted to food production, as compared to 50% in the average home garden.
Mr. Smith explains how to evaluate your soil and amend it so that it will improve over time. he'll help you determine whether you have clay, sand, or silt, and how to transition toward a loam structure. He helps you understand which amendments are best for your needs and your circumstances. He also gives an overview of composting.
He talks about how plants grow and why deep soil and raised beds are better for the root structure and the overall health of the plant. A healthy plant not only produces healthier produce, but it withstands disease better and pests will pass it by in search for weaker plants which make easier targets.
Ed discusses pests and diseases, how to recognize them, and how to combat them organically. In addition to organic pesticides, he goes into companion planting. Thanks to information in his book, this year I will plant companion plants to deter the squash beetles and Japanese beetles that gave me fits last year.
Also included in the book is an overview of crop rotation. Rotating your crops even in a small space helps avoid depletion of the soil - for example, tomatoes will use up a lot of calcium while other plants have other requirements. Rotation also helps reduce pests to some extent. While many pests travel far to reach a target host, some lay eggs in the soil and when the eggs hatch the larvae need to find a friendly plant pretty quickly if they are to survive.
Finally, there is a great section on common garden vegetables and herbs. There are lots of photographs and the information is arranged concisely so that the reader can determine planting dates, depths, and other crucial information at a glance. More detailed cultivation information is presented in narrative form for each plant.
Edward C. Smith's excellent book lists for $25 and is available new from amazon.com for $16.47. Used copies are also available. Here's a handy link to the book on amazon if you want to check it out.