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Crocuses and daffodils assure us that spring truly is here, in spite of a few lingering snowflakes and the damp chill of these transitional days. And the calendar confirms that it’s time to start seeds for transplanting the minute the danger of frost has melted away. Get planting plans, instructions, advice and inspiration for all your garden dreams in these helpful resources.

Barbara Pleasant recommends gardening in the bag in Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 no-fail plans for small organic gardens.  Instead of digging or tilling a large bed, she shows how to lay out 40-lb bags of topsoil, cut out the top layer of plastic, punch drainage holes, fertilize, and plant seeds for an abundant crop of vegetables. Pleasant, the editor of Mother Earth News, presents designs and schedules for starting small and slowly expanding the variety and volume of vegetables in order to keep work manageable.  Handy information on deciding what to grow and how to schedule planting, vegetable varieties, planting and care, seed sources, and more make this an excellent book to read from cover to cover. The beautiful photographs are large and clear, perfectly illustrating Pleasant’s directions. Any new gardener, or experienced gardener looking for new ideas or ways to simplify planting plans, could benefit from this guide.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith promotes wide rows, organic methods, raised beds, and deep soil, recalled with the mnemonic W-O-R-D. The 10th anniversary edition of this helpful guide includes copious photographs, and an extensive directory of vegetables and herbs, including several which might be unfamiliar, e.g., claytonia (miner’s lettuce), edamame (soybean), orach (mountain spinach). This is packed full of useful charts and directions, and is an outstanding go-to resource for all gardeners.

Parents who want to encourage a love of gardening in their children could do no better than to consult The Family Kitchen Garden: how to plant, grow, and cook together by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner, and Annette Wendland. In addition to planting techniques and directory information, which here also includes fruits, this guide presents a month-by-month section detailing for each month what to sow, plant, do, harvest, eat, and create. Helpful charts and gorgeous photographs add to the appeal of this guide.

Seed Sowing and Saving: step-by-step techniques for collecting and growing more than 100 vegetables, flowers, and herbs by Carole B. Turner has detailed instructions for sowing and harvesting seed, and good line drawings.

Plants respond readily, like a good many dull people, to the right company, to paraphrase a comment in The Joy of Cooking. For lists of felicitous pairings to make, as well as unfortunate ones to avoid, consult Carrots Love Tomatoes and Roses Love Garlic by Louise Riotte. Riotte (1909-1998) wrote with warmth and wit from her Oklahoma garden of American folk wisdom and gardening lore.

Gardening magazines to consult include Organic Gardening, American Gardener, Fine Gardening, and Horticulture, in addition to Mother Earth News.

Additional learning opportunities in the area to consider are the Master Gardener training program through Virginia Cooperative Extension (988-4050) and the Mid-Atlantic Garden Faire presented by the Washington County Master Gardeners April 15-17 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon (

Any gardening enthusiast will recognize himself and his obsession in The $64 Tomato: how one man nearly lost his sanity, spent a fortune, and endured an existential crisis in the quest for the perfect garden by William Alexander. Read this and enjoy a good laugh while you wait for those seeds to germinate.

For more about gardening, visit or call 988-2541.

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Online collection of animated, talking picture books to encourage reading in children.


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