The Master Gardeners’ Bookshelf

By Elaine Mills, MG, Class of 2012 & Columbia Pike Branch Library Volunteer, emills@rksystems.com

BOOK REVIEWWhile it’s time to put many of our garden beds to rest for the winter, some gardeners may enjoy perusing a new Arlington Library acquisition to help them plan their plantings of edibles for the spring growing season.

Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Gardening, by Katie Elzer-Peters, provides guidance for growing the edibles best suited to our particular region. In the introduction, she explains how the coastal plain in which Arlington and Alexandria are located experiences the most distinct separation between warm- and cool-season gardening. In addition, we must deal with unique issues, such as spells of warm weather in winter, which can affect dormancy of fruit trees. She urges gardeners to focus their planning around the guiding principle of seasonal gardening.

In the chapter on planning, Elzer-Peters explains that while availability of sunlight will be the primary factor in the location of vegetable beds, consideration should also be given to sightlines, proximity to water sources, and location of garden tools. Special care should be taken in the siting of fruit trees and shrubs, which will become more permanent features in the landscape. She also discusses raised beds, container gardening, and the pros and cons of incorporating edibles into foundation plantings or flower beds.

Methods of soil testing and composting are described and illustrated in a chapter on building great soil. In the section on selecting plants, the author discusses the principle of choosing the right plants for the right places, and covers the issues of seeds vs transplants, open-pollinated vs hybrid plants, and locally grown plants as opposed to those which are shipped from elsewhere. The final chapter of Part I outlines the various garden-maintenance tasks leading up to harvest. It includes photographs of tools, a helpful illustration of nutrient deficiencies, and a chart for troubleshooting various pest problems. Elzer-Peters believes that a plant is “never too ugly to eat” and recommends the least invasive approaches to dealing with problems.

Part II of the book features detailed fruit and vegetable profiles, which are organized by the way in which the plants grow. The section on fruits (including nuts) is organized by type (trees, shrubs and brambles, vines) and includes detailed guidelines for planting and pruning in order to ensure the longevity of these plants. The profile for each species lists recommended varieties and provides details on planting, maintenance, possible pest problems, and harvesting. The section on vegetables (including herbs) is organized by growing season and also lists varieties of each species recommended for our region. Details on planting and growing are given to maximize the harvest.

Other helpful features of the book include appealing color photographs, sidebars with extra growing tips, separate hardiness zone maps for each state in the region, frost tables by city, a glossary, and an index.

Book Citation: Elzer-Peters, Katie. Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, (c) 2013.

Available at Arlington Public Library. 635 ELZER New Nonfiction at Aurora Hills, Columbia Pike, Glencarlyn, and Westover.

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