It is a truth universally acknowledged, that everyone who loves gardening wants everyone they love to love gardening. It may not be your best friend who you want
to convert–uh, get hooked–that is, become interested in gardening. Perhaps it is your grown children, or the young couple who moved in down the street and keeps admiring your flowers. You almost certainly know a wannabe or beginning gardener who could use a little encouragement, someone you’d like to help without seeming too interfering. Let me tell you about two books that will help the one you love, love gardening.
Dee Nash, in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff starts the reader off growing lettuce in a container. This is brilliant. There is no onerous turning over of soil–no need to even be a homeowner, as the container can be grown on the deck or patio of an apartment or condo. Packets of lettuce seed are readily available, usually right in the grocery store, and they germinate fairly quickly and grow to a usable size in a matter of weeks–days, if you use them as microgreens. Many of the obstacles to gardening are eliminated, and the most basic skills practiced. I won’t go so far as to say success is guaranteed, but it is far more likely than if the novice had to break sod and amend the soil before even getting started.
In the ensuing chapters, Dee builds on the success of the first garden, suggesting ways to expand the reader’s skill set in a conversational tone that is never condescending. By the time the gardener has worked through the book, he or she will have branched out from a productive edible garden to gardening for the sheer joy of it, embracing beauty and fragrance, encouraging pollinators, and perhaps building a little hardscaping into the garden. And isn’t that what we want for all our friends and relatives? I know this book is called The 20-30 Something Garden Guide, but it’s really a great start for anyone of any age. I can see a young teen using this book just as easily as a newly-retired urbanite with a little more time to try a new skill.
Whereas Dee Nash focuses on developing a new gardener’s horticultural skills, Amanda Thomsen seeks to develop a new homeowner’s landscape design skills in Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You. And where Dee is systematic and methodical, building each new skill upon the previous ones, Amanda organizes her book using the “Choose Your Own Adventure” children’s book series as her model. The organization is relational rather than chronological, closer to a thought map or a decision tree. It is heavily illustrated, but the illustrations–I brought this book along on a trip, and everywhere I went, people asked me if it was a children’s book. Yet the ideas presented are not juvenile at all, but sound design advice that will keep someone new to gardening from making expensive mistakes or merely wasting a lot of time and effort, and they do communicate Amanda’s central point very well: your yard should please you and not be what you think it ought to look like.
Especially in the brain-storming, day-dreaming stage of garden design, you want a playful, anything-goes attitude, and this book encourages that. However, it doesn’t go into depth on any topic, but gives the reader enough of an overview to know whether or not it is a project he or she wishes to undertake, and where to go for more information. And if you couldn’t figure it out from the title, it is handing out liberal doses of smart-aleck humor as it does so.
Storey Publishing sent me a copy of Kiss My Aster to review. I purchased my copy of The 20-30 Something Garden Guide because Dee Nash is my friend and I wanted her to sign it. The titles of both books link to Amazon, and I will earn a small commission if you purchase something after clicking through.