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Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, 6th Edition: The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening Paperback – September 25, 2007
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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.
Chapter 2: Soil -- "millenia of heavy winter rains have leached all of our soils onto a kind of chemical imbalance that won't grow highly nutritious food." Three-year crop rotation scheme. Importance of lime. Manure vs. fertilizer. Tilling. Raised beds. Clay.
Chapter 3: Composting -- I haven't done any composting so can't comment on this chapter.
Chapter 4: Planning -- including succession, rotation, cloches, how to grow vegetables year 'round.
Chapter 5: Water -- this was a surprisingly interesting chapter, as I'd not read much on the different ways to water a garden before. He also talks about how to garden without *any* watering.
Chapter 6: Seeds -- after all, he *is* the founder of Territorial Seeds! He argues you need to get your seeds from companies that harvest their seeds in the same climate as you. Convinced me -- I will be getting my seeds from them next year!
Chapter 7: Transplants -- how to grow/plant/fertilize
Chapter 8: Predators -- well, if you're going organic (like I am), there ain't a whole lot of choices here. I think rotation is the best option. He thinks garlic/marigolds/etc are a waste of time, and hinder weeding/planting. I admit, I did both this year, but will not come next year. I had a plot in a community garden and saw almost no bugs, but I think it was blind luck.
Chapter 9: How to grow it -- detailed information on major types of vegetables. Invaluable. This is why you should buy the book. I found his observations for broccoli, tomatoes, corn (don't!), carrots, beets, eggplant, watermelon, squash to be dead on. There are a lot of other vegetables I will try next year.
Summary: my gardening next year will be driven completely by this book. If you garden in the Pacific NW, get this book! If you rely on Colemans' New Organic Grower you will plant too early.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Times for planting are not for me but the book is full
Of good information on how to garden.Read more