Off The Shelf @ Your Library - Gardening Books 2016

By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

All of my friends know not to give me houseplants for any occasion. It’s the kiss of death for the poor plants. There are a few indoor plants at my house in the wintertime, but you can bet they’re tended by someone else. And as soon as the nights are warm enough, they go right back out on the porch where at least they stand a fighting chance.

Outdoor plants, though, are a different story. I love digging in the dirt, coaxing food and flowers from nearly-invisible seeds. I especially love growing from heirloom seeds, the non-commercial varieties passed down from one generation of gardeners to the next and especially suited to our long, hot summers. There’s something very satisfying about knowing exactly where the food on your table comes from.

Henry County Library System has stacks of new gardening books for everyone from the experienced gardener to the rank novice. These include a new series from Atlantic Publishing called Back to Basics Growing. Individual volumes cover composting, companion planting, growing tomatoes, preserving seeds, medicinal herbs, container gardening, and using worms in the garden.

If you’re interested in taking things a step further and creating an ecosystem in your own yard, we have new titles on beekeeping. Bees can be a gardener’s best friend, cross-pollinating as they collect nectar from the blooms on your fruits and vegetables, with the added bonus of the honey harvest! The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping by Daniel Johnson is fascinating and highly readable. Illustrated with beautiful color photos, it walks beginners through all the equipment, techniques and know-how to get started with backyard beekeeping, from acquiring a hive to your first harvest.

If you’re more interested in beekeeping as a way to enrich the environment and less as a hobby or business, check out Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives: The Easy and Treatment-Free Way to Attract and Keep Healthy Bees. Written by Rob and Chelsea McFarland, founders of the nonprofit HoneyLove, this title covers establishing and maintaining a hive with minimal intervention.

For those with an interest in native plants, check out PawPaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit by Andrew Moore. True confession: I remember singing a folk song about pawpaws when I was a kid, but I’ve never eaten one. Did you know they are America’s largest edible fruit, and taste like a cross between a banana and a mango? They grow wild in 26 states, mostly in the southeast, and were once a sustaining food for indigenous people and European settlers. Yet most people have never heard of the pawpaw, let alone tried one. Both history and guide to cultivation, this title was nominated for a James Beard Book Award.

And for the truly adventurous, we have Southeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Angelica to Wild Plum by Alabama chef and forager Chris Bennett. Did you know kudzu is edible? I’m not sure I want to try it, but this volume provides a wealth of information on finding and harvesting wild fruits, nuts, shoots, leaves and more. Includes multiple photos, seasonal lists, and techniques for safe and sustainable harvesting.

All five HCLS branches have these titles and many more by renowned authors and publishers such as Walter Reeves and Southern Living. Happy gardening!