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Steve Solomon started the Territorial Seed Company and became a recognized expert on organic vegetable gardening. He has gardened in California and Oregon, and he continues to research the art and science of vegetable gardening.
I'm amazed there aren't more reviews of this book!!!
This book, written by the founder of Territorial Seed Company, is *vital* for those living west of the Cascade mountains, where heavy winter rain, unique soil conditions (we don't get deep freezes), and mild summer temperatures really makes other American gardening books (including Colemans' New Organic Grower) less than optimal. Indeed, he suggests using British gardening books, since our climate is more similar to England than New England!
A recent transplant from Arizona, I was lucky enough to stumble onto this book about June 2008, halfway through the growing season. His predictions about which vegetables worked were indeed accurate (eggplant and peppers are extremely difficult to grow in this climate, and you can forget about watermelon).
Before covering vegetables, he first lays the groundwork with a background, including why simply adding fertilizer is not a good idea (the amount of rainfall washes away most of what we want to preserve, the book is organic-based, as well as focusing on return on investment). Instead of simple chemicals, he argues for composting, as well as over-wintering with clover, fava, and others, depending on your soil's needs.
Chapter 1: Basics -- some near heretical words here about the futility of early starts -- because light intensity is so low (as well as soil temperature), you're not going to benefit by putting starts out in March. Good basic instruction on how to use a hoe (including the proper alignment and the importance of keeping it sharp). A fundamental philosophy is the importance of early weeding while plants are getting started, and the ease of weeding when efficiently using a well-sharpened hoe.Read more ›
I found this book to be incredibly useful. I get tired of being told to wait until my soil thaws in the spring, and articles talking about those humid summer nights are definitely not by locals. Much of the advice that applies well to gardeners across the continent comes up pretty short around here. From soil fertility to choosing suitable varieties to planting schedules, Steve Solomon covers all the specifics that make Cascadia a unique growing climate.
He is realistically, thoughtfully organic. Most organic authorities seem to blindly promote anything that seems like a natural product, and shun anything that seems like a chemical. Steve realizes that blood meal comes from the meat industry and may not be in line with the goals of healthy gardening (Mad Cow, anyone?) although he chooses to take his chances. He suggests Roundup in a couple of sections and explains why it's not just another persistent harmful chemical.
The only irritation I have is that he clearly has a bigger garden than I do. I've got about 200 sq. ft. He talks in fractions of an acre. Sheesh.
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This is a great resource for gardeners in the PacNW. My only caveat is that it's not geared towards beginners. If you're looking for something to help you get started you should probably get this and something else in conjunction. This'll help you tailor your garden to the unique conditions of the Northwest.
Update on 4/16/2011: It's a year later, and I'm less of a gardening novice. At the start of this season we dug up the grass in the backyard and put in a small garden (last year's garden was in the front yard, which didn't work out very well). I reread most of this book as I was preparing the new bed for planting. Not only do I understand this stuff much better now, I'm thoroughly impressed by the way the author gets into soil science in a way a layperson can understand. For instance, he explains why letting a vegetable garden lie fallow for 2 years (after 3 years of continual planting) is the only way to return it to productivity, and how you shouldn't import too much organic material from outside sources (to prevent buildup of potassium in the soil). This is something I've not seen in other vegetable gardening books I own and have paged through. I still find the book's regionality and the author's experience utterly valuable.
I'm a complete beginner to gardening (even in containers) and decided to start a small vegetable garden this year. I picked up this book based on Amazon reviews and got some other beginner gardening books from the library to supplement my learning. Even though the author says that it's not a comprehensive gardening book, I found myself referring to it much more than the other books I got. He has a down-to-earth, scientific, thoughtful writing style that gained my trust through his explanations of his gardening methods and experiences.
Some points I found invaluable as a beginner:
1. Importance of fertilizing - basically, soil quality is poor all over the PNW because of constant rain, so fertilizing (without adding too much compost) is crucial. 2.Read more ›
As a longtime Cascadia resident and the founder of Territorial Seeds, Solomon is a guy who knows what he's talking about when it comes to gardening in the Pacific Northwest, and he isn't afraid to contradict the Conventional Wisdom based on his own experience. I learned a lot from this book, including (perhaps most importantly) why a great deal of the gardening advice you read simply doesn't apply to this part of the world. I also learned about the critical importance of seed quality. Solomon doesn't pull any punches when he describes how a lot of seed companies sell their floor sweepings to home gardeners, and he lists reliable sources for seed. He's reachable by email and has promptly answered a couple of questions I asked him. Be sure to get at least the sixth (and probably last) edition, which Solomon says corrects some errors in earlier editions.
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