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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in gardening book review (3)


The Seeds of Spring, Lessons from the Garden: a book review for

The Seeds of Spring; Lessons from the Garden by Steve Bates, published by CreateSpace,

I have just taken a philosophical journey through the mind of a gardener over the span of one growing season. In this collection of inner dialogues, Steve Bates shares the thoughts that ruminate through his mind as he gardens and toils. This is not an instructional book. Rather, it is an intimate conversation with self that begins with the ordering and sorting of seed packets, and continues through the planting of the garden, its care and maintenance, the pests and obstacles that must be overcome,  the disappointments and the rewards, the harvest, and ends with the onset of the winter frost. Every decision, strategy, concern, and disappointment that the author experiences, becomes fodder for philosophical musing. With each challenge that he faces, he discovers a little bit more about the power of nature, about life and human nature and ultimately, about himself.

This is no ordinary gardening book. Its premise is that even the most routine activities in the garden can provide deep insight into happiness, love, humility, pride, life and death. While the author has a narrative to offer about nature’s sustainability, what speaks most to this reviewer is the exquisite use of poetic language used to describe gardening and the human response to the rhythms of nature. The author has at his disposal, a bushelful of adjectives and metaphors that succinctly convey that very personal pleasure and disappointment that we gardeners experience. Many of us try to put that feeling into words when we blog. No one has yet done so as successfully as Mr. Bates. A book lover might decide to read this publication a second time, to appreciate the subtle beauty of the writing.

From the author’s experiences, we learn that there are powerful lessons about life to be gleaned from gardening. That, in essence, is the theme of this intimate book. If we follow Mr. Bates on his philosophical journey, we discover that our gardening education begins with a sense of wonderment about nature, and continues with the development of pride and satisfaction in one’s work, followed by the building of confidence in decision making, a tolerance for imperfections and a new patience for acts and behavior that are beyond our control. We learn about the double edged sword of anticipation, hoping that something good will happen, yet prepared for the worst. We come to understand that the true meaning of compromise is that sometimes we will make the right decisions and sometimes the wrong ones and that every disappointment is a learning experience. Above all, we realize that there will always be a second chance in life to recover and to try again.



Mrs. Nosy, A Composting Story

My neighbor, Lily, knocked on my door the other day to present me with a copy of her latest book titled “Mrs. Nosy, A Composting Story”. In the past, I have declined to blog about the works of children’s-book writers because I did not feel qualified to review them. This time was different. I am one of Lily’s biggest fans. Many of her watercolors hang in my home and as I move from room to room, I appreciate the work she has done rendering scenes from nature into exquisite watercolor compositions. Lily sees flowers, foliage and birds with eyes we can only wish we possessed. Even as a gardener, I have to look very hard to find the colors in nature that she notices at a glance. How could I not mention her book in my blog?

“Mrs. Nosy, A Composting Story” is a short, delightful story that teaches children how compost is created with the assistance of nature’s little helpers- worms. It has been researched, written, and illustrated in watercolors and collage by Lily Azerad Goldman. Click here to order this book through Amazon.


The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Book Review for

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide  Barbara Pleasant & Deborah L.Martin, Storey Publishing

The hedgehog that lives in my back yard has let me know, in his own way, that purchasing a compost bin with a ground level opening is not a good idea. He already eats everything tasty in my garden, so access to compostable kitchen scraps will only create a feast for him and a mess for me. The solution would be to invest in a rotary compost bin that prevents animals from climbing inside. Not a good idea! While I would like to do my part to save the planet, spending a lot of money on equipment contradicts the idea of going green.

That is why the arrival of this book on my doorstep was so welcome. It only took the reading of a few pages to realize that there are many ways to compost without spending a lot of money. At first glance, I thought that this publication was targeting the commercial farmer, but on closer inspection, I discovered that this book has so much to offer the recreational gardener as well.

What I like best about this book is the scholarly method with which the subject of composting is introduced and expanded upon, in incremental sub topics, until the totality of the subject has been examined. The essential message in this publication is that anyone’s back yard or farm can easily become a “compost- generating system” by simply following a few steps to create the right environment for organic matter to break down.

The first three chapters discuss the fundamentals by reviewing the science of composting, the tools needed and the materials that are helpful. The book gets really interesting when the various techniques of composting are discussed. In this section we are introduced to four methods of composting. Here is where we personalize the book by selecting the procedure or procedures that best suit our landscape, our skills and our needs. Farmers with large quantities of waste vegetation may opt for one process while the weekend gardener might choose another.

The first method is called “banner batches”. This is composting that takes place in heaps or enclosures. The second method is referred to as “comforter compost and grow heaps” This is a labor saving procedure that requires one to simply pile garden waste in layers, moisten and allow nature to do the rest.The next method discussed is called underground composting. In this procedure, holes in the ground are filled with organic material, covered with earth and allowed to decompose. The last method is called ‘vermicompost” which uses worms to convert waste into compost.

The final section of the book discussed how plants can interact with compost by growing in or near a compost heap. Some plants are enriched by growing close by and some plants enrich the heap itself by growing in it. In all, fifteen plants are recommended, each one being suitable for one of the four composting methods discussed in the book.

While composting is a science, at no point in the book does the writing become technical. The publication is written for the layperson in a friendly and easy-to-read style. It almost makes the reader feel that we are visiting the authors on a farm and learning from them as they go about their work.