Terri Schlichenmeyer: The Bookworm Sez 4-30-12
There’s a little extra plot of land near your house, and you can really dig it.
And you have, in fact. You’ve also tilled it, dragged it, weeded, watered, hoed and spaded it. You’ve measured, hilled, and seeded that plot, too.
Playing in the dirt has always been fun and, in that respect, you’ve never grown up. You have, however, grown tomatoes.
And so has Jerry Apps. Every year, he says, he likes to plant something a little different, just for fun. In his new book “Garden Wisdom,” like every good gardener, he shares his vegetables.
For the better part of 60 years, Jerry Apps has had a garden.
When he was a child, it was his family’s way of feeding themselves and paying college tuitions. Later, Apps’ tended plots of his own that were embarrassingly small – just a few feet square and hardly any effort. These days, though, his central Wisconsin farm has a good-sized garden that helps feed his extended family, as well as a few wild critters that help themselves to what’s planted.
That garden, he says, starts long before the snow has melted. Seed catalogs show up in the mail, chasing away the January grumpiness. Some gardeners like to start drawing maps and planning then, with attention paid to sunlight and soil conditions. Apps says he used to do that but these days, he only lists what’s planted where.
If you don’t have a decent plot of land, he points out that container gardening is a good idea. A few big flower pots look nice on the back deck, but they can also yield a surprisingly large harvest when you’re hungry.
Whether you’ve got seedlings or full-fledged plants, you’ll always want to be weeding. Apps says that there’s an art to choosing a hoe and that not all hoes are created equal. In a pinch, weeds can be pulled by hand or by kids.
Finally, watching a garden grow can be satisfying, but not nearly as satisfying as it is to eat from it. The nice thing is that you can plant early and eat early, while a winter’s worth of food is still growing …
So you say you’re strictly into flowers? Nah, this isn’t your book, then.
Although author Jerry Apps does admit to growing prize-winning petunias and marigolds on behalf of his beloved tomato plants, “Garden Wisdom” is more of a meditation on the beauty of growing your own dinner – or dinner into the future.
Apps includes a few how-to’s here, but the real appeal of this book lies in his stories. He’s both the consummate gardener and a master storyteller, and reading his words is like having a good over-the-tiller chat with a neighbor who has dirt on his hands. It also helps that Apps includes scrumptious recipes from his wife Ruth’s kitchen.
Whether you’re a neophyte gardener or you’ve played in the dirt all your life, I think “Garden Wisdom” is a book you’ll want to read. So dig it up, plant yourself in a chair, and enjoy.
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