Say you just moved from a supposedly more reasonable climate to the far north. Winter is fast approaching; you know you won’t be able to get anything done before the snow flies, but you’d sure like to know what you were in for before spring comes. Wouldn’t you like one of your new neighbors to be a veteran gardener, who just happens to invite you over for a chat and a cup of something warm, and shares all her hard-won experience?
Wanda Ferguson is that gardener.
A glance at the hardiness zone map for Maine reveals a range of climate zones, from the near-sultry zone 6 of the coast to the frigid zone 3b of the interior. Wanda Ferguson has been gardening in zone 3 for, oh, about 50 years now. With that kind of experience, you’d think she’d have a thing or two to share, and you’d be right.
. . . the first thing you need to know is that most of the soil in this area tends to be on the lean, mean and rocky side. Winter’s frost hangs in there with a vengeance, and summer’s gardening season is shorter than the hair on a Chihuahua.
(Sorry, you’ll have to fix that warm drink yourself, and just pretend she’s sitting across the kitchen table from you.) Ferguson is nothing if not practical and frugal, so her focus is on growing food for the table. Still, two of the thirteen chapters cover growing ornamental plants, and once again, they are full of practical advice. Since many gardeners in her area of Maine are summer residents only, she wisely points out that when you are in residence and how much time and energy you are willing to expend should be deciding factors when planning your garden. The second chapter dealing with ornamentals consists almost entirely of which plants, in her experience, the deer leave alone. ‘Nuff said.
A short season garden in the upper plains is going to have different challenges than Ferguson’s New England mountains, but I think there’s plenty here for anyone new to gardening in a cold climate. I know I learned a better way to plant peas and manage a strawberry patch, and I’ve seen my share of subzero winters. If you know someone new to cold climate gardening, or has a cottage up north, or who perpetually grouses that “it’s too cold to grow anything here,” this book would make an excellent gift.
Wanda Ferguson, Mountain Gardening. (Lupine Press, 2004; ISBN 0974551708.) 82 pages. Order here.