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on March 11, 2012
This book starts out letting you get to know the author somewhat. I think that this is appropriate, as his love of vegetable gardening and heirloom varieties permeate the pages of this book. Besides containing information on how to garden, this book actually makes me want to garden.

To address concerns you may have after reading other reviews: Yes, the first part is a biography of the author, some of his adventures, and where he is coming from both philosophically and geographically. It is probably shorter than it could be, but does take up about 42 pages out of 228. I found this section a fun and interesting read, and a great way to connect with the author. You may or may not enjoy it, but I do not feel that the rest of the book suffers due to this longer biographical section.

Yes, there are a lot of pictures, mostly of vegetables, to show the uniqueness and diversity that heirloom vegetables have to offer. If you have ever seen the magazine or catalog that Baker Creek puts out, their use of photography is similar in this book to those other publications. Personally I enjoy all the pictures of vegetable varieties that I may not have seen before.

The sections on how to garden make up about 30 pages total. There is enough information to get you going, with ideas for variations based on your particular gardening situation. I think that there is a lot of information here, but certainly not everything is covered. There are books that cover with much more depth areas such as pests, pest management, plant nutrition, etc. While that can all be valuable information when you need it, sometimes throwing it at a novice gardener can leave them feeling overwhelmed. So yes, there could be more information here, but I think that these few chapters are great. Some of the details not listed here are actually listed per vegetable in the next section.

The real gem of this book is saved for the second half (and takes up well over half of the book.) There is an A-Z guide to vegetables, with a lot of information on each one. Each vegetable is introduced with a nice picture and a bit of history. For each one, you get additional growing tips, pest information, seed saving instructions, and even a couple of kitchen ideas. Whoever thinks that this book doesn't tell you how to save seed did not look in this section. What is interesting is that you will find yourself actually reading each section here, even for vegetables with which you are already familiar. This compendium does a good job of being informative while still holding my interest as a reader. Use Amazon's "look inside" tool, search for a vegetable,and you will see what I mean.

I like that this book isn't too regional in its approach. This way, the information in here is equally applicable to people all over the country. When I need more specific information on local planting schedules or other concerns for my area, I turn to either the newspaper or publications from the county's agricultural extension (and if Las Vegas has these resources available, your area probably does too.) The page or two of regional information that I have found in other gardening books has never been too helpful, so I don't bemoan its absence here.

Overall, I think that this is a very good book, an enjoyable read, and something that reignites my passion for gardening. It is an excellent reference, and I think this may be the new book that I give people as a gift to start gardening.
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on November 9, 2011
I buy my seeds from Baker Creek for my garden and I also get their magazine so I was very excited when I saw they made a book! This book is wonderful. It gives very helpful information on growing vegetables from A-Z and the format is the same on each type of vegetable which makes it very easy to follow. I also liked how it will help me prepare my garden before I plant it, such as cover crop and compost tea.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 7, 2011
`The Heirloom Life Gardner' has been published to help lead gardeners back to naturally grown, free of pesticides, genetically modified food, especially with the use of heirloom seeds...Have you ever tasted one of the new seedless watermelons, compared to the old fashioned kind that had seeds and such wonderful flavor? That alone should be a reason for a step back to `real' foods.

There are many close up photos of plants, friends and family. Subjects covered are; an explanation of growing up with heirlooms, the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company, seeds in America, collecting seeds around the world, how to garden - showing the right spot to garden, preparing the soil, planting, weeding, mulching, pest and disease control, saving seed, the city farmer (where they do mention to have structural engineers check for rooftop gardens, but many people need more of an emphasis on the importance of that). There is a 129 page - A to Z growing guide, starting with amaranth ending with watermelon--, giving a photo, information on growing tips, pests and diseases, seed saving and what you can do with it in the kitchen.
It would have been appreciated if there would have been some storage, canning, freezing tips.

There is information on the different markets available, farmer's, roadside, CSA's and a list of resources in the United States and Canada. An index is also included.

A beginning gardener might need a bit more help from a more simplistic book in getting started, but with this, one would have a very complete resource.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 15, 2013
How I wish that I had had Jere Gettle's The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally a couple of years ago, the year of my last big garden. That was a glorious garden - over 50 stunning varieties of heirloom tomatoes in every color of the rainbow just starting to set fruit, zucchini just in flower, squash, herbs and watermelons that were bigger than softballs. And then, one morning I woke up to find the zucchini looking ragged instead of glorious, crawling with strange little bugs. In a matter of days they ate through all of the squash, cucumbers and finally the melons - right down into the ground like the plants had never been there at all! I was devastated.

If you raise heirloom vegetables, then you've heard of The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. (Many of my seeds have come from there.) Jere is a master gardener who has dedicated much of his life to the pursuit & preservation of unusual vegetables from all over the world. Along with telling the story of The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, the author has packed The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally with all the information you need to start your own garden, whether in a field or a window box. He even talks about storing the produce and saving the seeds.

You'll also find an A-Z listing of just about every vegetable you can think of along with a good many you've never heard of. For each the authors give the scientific name, a discussion of how to start the plants and transplant them to the garden, common pests and what to do about them, how to save the seeds, and how to prepare the particular vegetable in the kitchen. You will also find at least one picture of each type of vegetable, usually of some of the more unusual types that Baker Heirloom Seeds offers.

Grandma's $0.02 - The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally is a must-have book that belongs on every home gardener's shelf! Probably the single best source I've seen.

Highly recommended
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on May 26, 2013
I loved this book. I very much enjoyed reading the biographical sections because they were focused on gardening and written with a clear passion for heirloom seeds (I admit I skipped some of the bits about the author's seed-gathering travels to foreign countries, but that's just because I wasn't really interested in reading them and wanted to get to the "good" parts about seed saving, etc.; I may go back and read them some day, though).

My favorite thing about the book is the list of 50 veggies with a brief history of them, tips to grow them, instructions on seed saving, and kitchen ideas. I was really interested to learn that cukes can be cut up and cooked w/other veggies to make a lovely topper for rice (jasmine is recommended, but depending on what you use to season the veggies, I imagine you can get really creative with the rice types, too). It had never occurred to me to cook cukes, but it's something that I will definitely try.

I bought this on my Kindle, so I really didn't get to enjoy the photos as much as I might (it's not a Fire, so no color or resizing options, etc.), and the many tips boxes were a bit hard to read because they were greyed out and the font was lighter. I had to hold my Kindle at a certain angle to read them, but it was worth the eye-strain because each tip box was chock-full of useful information.

There were some hidden gems that I hadn't known before or had suspected but not read anywhere else (such as the above about cukes, notes about what parts of plants are edible besides the parts we grow them for, and new--to me--ideas for natural pest control, etc.).

This book is really great, and it's worth buying just for the helpful reference on the 50 veggies. The rest is all bonus fun and information that's well-worth the read!
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2011
The authors are the owners of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company (if you don't have their catalog, request it), an organic vegetable seed company in Missouri. In this book they talk about the resurgence of the "grow your own food" revolution, their backgrounds and love of gardening and their world travels to seek out new vegetable varieties. Practical advice is given to starting and maintaining a vegetable garden, how to save seeds and an A-Z growing guide has 2-3 page entries on individual vegetables. The photos are amazing and it was exciting to see unusual vegetables in colors and shapes that I had never heard of.
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on January 29, 2012
There wasn't nearly enough practical information. Too much space was taken up with photos of the author, his family, and his neighbor. I would like to have seen the autobiographical information reduced to a few paragraphs. I thought this book was going to be about heirloom gardening.
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on January 15, 2012
Jere and Emilee Gettle co founded Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds a decade ago and have become a trusted resource for organic, heirloom seeds from around the globe. The book is the tale of how that company got started, and the background to the interesting people who own it.
The book is more than just a story though it is also about how you can embrace the same gardening techniques from conditioning your soil to dealing with local pests - who demolish your crops. We are introduced to the crops in the second section of the book. Each crop description tells a little about the history of the crop as well as some of the best heirloom varieties to grow as well as how to use them in the kitchen. How to save the seeds of each open pollinated vegetable is also covered along with likely pests that you might encounter.
The book is beautifully produced with lots of colorful images of the Gettles, their neighbors, and their fascinating vegetable varieties
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on December 21, 2011
I am a novice gardener, but my dad showed me how to grow veggies in our urban backyard growing up. I didn't realize how lucky I was to live in that mild California climate with excellent soil, until I moved to Texas a few years ago. I knew what grew and didn't, I planted, and with some regular watering, things grew. So I now find myself trying to garden in very challenging weather and soil conditions. This year, I have decided I need more of a plan. I do agree with the Gettle philosophy of growing heirloom vegetables through "old fashioned" techniques although we are on the opposite end of the carnivore/herbivore spectrum. I give this as background so that you know the type of reader I am.

I loved this book. I disagree with the other reader that it isn't a good book for beginners, only because I think it is a really good jump off point. For example, I could sketch a small, general veggie patch with companion plants from the information provided in the book, but I had to go elsewhere to research the exact varieties that would grow in my area as well as climate and season information. But Jere says in the beginning that this book is by no means the end all book on heirloom gardening & I understand how different parts of the country could warrant their own books (Texas could probably warrant two or three). I was especially glued to the How to Garden chapter since, as I mentioned, I grew up in a place where things basically grew without much help.

There are a couple chapters explaining how Jere got his start in heirloom gardening as well as the background for the Baker Creek Seed Co. There is good information answering the basic question of "why heirlooms?" The photography is beautiful. I hope someday someone from Baker Street does an heirloom vegetable coffee table book with lots of gorgeous pictures of all the interesting varieties out there - hint, hint.

The only reason I gave it four stars is that I would love for there to have been a bit more information on regions of the country. I know I could look zones up, but there is almost the assumption that one could grow any vegetable anywhere. The other thing I wish there was a little more on is Jere's seed adventures - I just thought they were really interesting.
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on October 27, 2011
I really enjoyed this book. After reading it I almost feel I personally know this near-legendary couple. I liked the simplicity of the style, like having a chat with friends. I also liked the growing guide which taught me a few new organic gardening tips.
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