Tomatoes, whether or not we think of them as vegetables, are far and away America’s favorite fruit, and the one most likely to be in a home garden. But disease, pests, soil “issues,” too much or not enough water and flagrant user error often nip our homegrown harvest in the bud. You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes can help. Author Mike McGrath is the host of the public radio show “You Bet Your Garden” and now your own personal backyard expert. No matter the skill level or size of garden (or container), anyone can grow healthy, delicious and gorgeous tomatoes. McGrath details how to pick the right variety, start from seed, plant, stake, cage, deal with pests and disease, practice “basic keeping-alive skills” and harvest the bounty. Wit and wisdom combine with big color photos, wacky cartoons and insider tips to help you grow serious gardening skill in no time.
Vertical Vegetables & Fruit by Rhonda Massingham Hart spotlights a chronically under-utilized direction in every garden: up. Whether we have a whole backyard, a terrace or just a teeny deck, growing vertically maximizes space and harvest, and minimizes time and effort. Techniques range from traditional teepees and trellises to funky ways to hang, stack, shelve and tower plants. Learn to grow greens in garbage cans, herbs in cinder blocks, tomatoes in five-gallon hanging buckets or beans in a tote bag. Popular annual vines like beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash get a chapter each, with details about recommended varieties, site requirements, planting guidelines, training tips, lore and advice. Ditto for popular perennial fruits like grapes and berries, plus a chapter on how to espalier fruit trees. A nice bonus: Going vertical makes it nearly effortless to go (and stay) organic.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
Handmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner promises to show you “how to transform your little patch of the big outdoors into a refreshing, unique garden paradise.” This is DIY done with creative vision and “made-from-scratch ingenuity.” It’s thrifty, too: Forkner admits to having “more ideas than money” and knows how to repurpose her way around a hardware store or a basement full of junk. The result? Whatever paradise means to you: comfort, style, privacy, a space to entertain guests and/or play with the kids. She starts from the ground up, with gravel, pavers, mosaic, turf and bamboo paths. Then come “supporting acts”: trellises and structures made from galvanized wire, scrap metal and a lovely dead tree, followed by fountains, fire-pits and furniture crafted from unexpected material. Containers for plants run the gamut: a child’s wagon, a length of gutter, even an ingenious faux-granite feeding trough. Every project includes plenty of plant suggestions with an eye (and a green thumb) toward low maintenance and high personality.