This “Library” page will be the gateway to books that I have reviewed.
The “Books” page features books that I have written.
In either case, when you click to order books from this site, the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies at no additonal cost to you.
With billions of humans straining the earth’s resources, this book looks at ways to give a little back to the earth.
This book is not just about creating compost for your garden. It is about helping keep waste out of the landfills, and creating a useful, earth-friendly product even if you live in an apartment. If you have houseplants, they like compost, or you can do some guerilla gardening and add nice rich soil to parks or even roadside plantings.
Some of the projects would be fine in a humid envrionment but don’t work in the Southwest. They allow too much drying of the compost system. Also, many of them are outlawed by HOA’s. If you have a HOA you can compost in smaller spaces and those are offered –
Build a DIY worm-composting system for a side room or garage.
Craft a layered, under-the-sink composting system with terra cotta pots.
Upcycle a plastic bucket to make an indoor compost fermenting system.
Earth Friendly If You Have Pets
In this book you’ll find plans to keep cat and dog waste out of the landfill by using a groundbreaking (and safe) DIY composting system. I am going to have to try this.
Four and a Half Stars
Like so many gardening books by back East authors, the fact that a significant proportion of American gardeners live in an area of low humidity is entirely ignored. Compost NEEDS the green and brown as discussed but in the Southwest you need to add blue – water. Water or other moisture is critical so that the waste products in your compost continue to decompose.
That aside, No-Waste Composting should help you discover ways to live more lightly on this earth.
About the Author Michelle Balz
Michelle Balz is a long-time backyard composter with a passion for reducing our impact on the planet. She spends her days writing laid-back advice for home composters in the Confessions of a Composter blog, teaching classes on backyard composting, and learning everything she can about composting, recycling, reusing, and waste reduction. Since 2002, Michelle has worked as a solid waste (a.k.a. garbage) professional encouraging residents and businesses to reduce their waste and use fewer resources.
Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies
from the University of Cincinnati. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces – Includes Vegetable Gardening, Pollinator Plants, Rain Gardens, and More!
Gardening Your Front Yard can inspire you to look at your front yard in new light. Indeed, more people across North America should treat their front yard more like a backyard, and convert it to usable and sustainable space.
Tara’s book focuses on using the front yard without sacrificing beauty, and has helpful DIY tips and guidelines. Written for the East Coast, none-the-less there are some good tips to guide you past the main pitfalls you may encounter when trying to fit a garden between your home and the street. Sadly, as common for so many gardening books, the discussion of plants is useless for our area. Also lacking is any tips on dealing with HOA’s when doing these projects. [[My tip is to stress to the HOA that you want to increase your home value, which adding to usable space will.]]
Front Yard Projects to Consider
Guidelines for building walkways is good, as is setting up a front yard patio. The rain garden offers some tips. Tara wrote a book on creating raised beds, so that section of this book is handy.
Less than fully Useful
Yes, choosing the right plants is of critical importance when you are dealing with a small, highly visible area sometimes with less than ideal growing conditions. None of the plants she discussed are useful in our area. As for dealing with road salt – not a high priority in the Southwest.
Final Answer – Three and a half Stars
Some good projects, some handy tips, but overall not ideal for the Southwest gardener, especially one with a HOA. Check it out of the library, but don’t buy it for your own library
About the Author – Tara Nolan
Tara is a garden writer, author, editor and speaker. A native of Canada, she is a co-founder of the website Savvy Gardening (savvygardening.com). Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CBC Life and Garden Making.
Her first book, the best-selling Raised Bed Revolution: Build it, Fill it, Plant it… Garden Anywhere!, was published by Cool Springs Press in 2016. Tara is one of the Cool Springs authors of Gardening Complete (JAS Note: I am one of the authors as well), released in 2018.
Gardening Projects, Crafts & More
Although Algonquian names are used, the book steps back to look at how seasonal weather patterns and climate effect life cycles and interactions of the plants and animals living in our backyards and local communities. The Algonquin full moon names assigned to each month provide themes for gardening projects, games, crafts and American Indian folk tales.
A Nice Reminder
Mother Nature keeps a date book, an exciting schedule of mysterious and magical events occurring daily in our backyards and beyond. She does not want us to wait for an invitation or schedule an appointment; she is ready and willing to entertain and educate on a moment’s notice. The projects in this book are an invitation though – giving an incentive to go outside and explore the patch of nature in our own backyards.
Final Answer – Five Stars
I liked most of the projects and although some of them are based on plants that don’t live here the idea of getting outdoors and being creative is enticing. I appreciate the fact that insects are included in the animal life (as they should be).
You may have noted that other books I review lose stars for not including the Southwest growing conditions in their pages. This book doesn’t aspire or pretend to be about all of North America, just one corner of it, a trait I admire.
About the Author – Susan Betz
Susan Betz is the author of three books on herbs. She has been in the business of growing and using herbs for pleasure and purpose for over 35 years. She’s hard-pressed to name a favorite herb, however — she loves them all and considers herbs a way of life!
She is active in a number of herb and gardening groups,including the International Herb Association, Garden Communicators International, the Ecological Landscape Alliance, and the Herb Society of America.
For more about Susan, visit her website Fresh Start Herbs
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition: Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life and Landscape
Free water falls out of the sky, even in the desert. Sadly, in most urban settings, this water is treated like waste and quickly whisked away down storm drains. Why not rescue some free water for your own use?
Now in it’s Third Edition
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition is the best-selling, award-winning guide on how to conceptualize, design, and implement life-enhancing water-, sun-, wind-, and shade-harvesting systems for your home, landscape, and community. This book enables you to assess your on-site resources, gives you a diverse array of strategies to maximize their potential, and empowers you with guiding principles to create an integrated, multi-functional plan specific to your site and needs.
Clearly written with more than 290 illustrations, this full-color edition helps bring your site to life, reduce your cost of living, endow yourself and your community with skills of self-reliance and cooperation, and create living air conditioners of vegetation growing beauty, food, and wildlife habitat. Stories of people who are successfully welcoming rain into their life and landscape will invite you to do the same.
Final Answer – Five Stars
Turn water scarcity into water abundance with this handy book. I confess, I like my first edition black-and-white illustrations, but it’s over two decades old at this point. Still relevant of course, and highly useful!
About the Author – Brad Lancaster
Brad Lancaster has taught, designed, and consulted on regenerative-design systems of permaculture and integrated water-harvesting systems in nine countries since 1993. He created and lives on a thriving solar-powered 1/8th-acre urban oasis in downtown Tucson, Arizona, which harvests 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year where just 12 inches falls from the sky. Brad’s dynamic books, talks, workshops, and living example have inspired tens of thousands of people to ‘plant the rain’ and ‘dance with the sun’ to sustainably grow and enhance their local resources.
Learn more on his website HarvestingRainwater.com.
Sometimes the old becomes new again. Vegetable gardening is back. Supply chain issues, concern about the environment, plus the desire to eat food unpolluted by chemicals, are some of the reasons. Urbanites who have never grown a thing are now eager to try to cultivate vegetables, herbs and fruit in back and front yards, on rooftops and on balconies — in any suitable space they can find.
Written for the Beginner
Incredible Edibles is for anyone who’s thinking: “I’d love to try growing some herbs and vegetables. But is it too difficult? Do I have the space? Or the time?” Sonia Day focuses on edible plants that can be easily grown in a city setting, many of which are seldom featured in gardening books.
Sonia didn’t start with her hands in the dirt like so many garden writers. Instead she learned gardening later in life by becoming a Master Gardener. This unique perspective helps her explain things quite usefully for the beginning gardener. She offers clear, concise advice – perfect for those who don’t have the time nor inclination to wade through a gardening encyclopedia or to learn by trial and error.
Incredible Edibles offers many things including clear, step-by-step instructions on how to start and maintain an organic edible garden, with 43 specially selected “hassle-free” plants and some simple and tasty recipes on using your garden bounty.
Final Answer: Five Stars
Incredible Edibles is lavishly illustrated with color photographs taken expressly for this book. It will give urban gardeners everywhere the knowledge and confidence to grow and enjoy fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. Yes, it was published a number of years ago, but that does not mean it is outdated. Gardening has a 10,000 year history. A bare decade of time is nothing in comparison.
About the Author – Sonia Day
Sonia has this to say:
“I wear two hats. I write books (8 so far) and for newspapers and magazines. For two decades, I contributed a popular weekly gardening column called The Real Dirt to the Toronto Star which ended in March 2018. (You can still read these columns in the Toronto Star)”
“But I’ve always been serious about my “other life” as a painter. And I can never decide which comes first–writing or art. I tend to write obsessively when doing a book, then I will pick up my brushes again and not sit at the keyboard for months, except to crank out a gardening article for a magazine or newspaper.”
The publishing company says that “The STANLEY® Jr. series is full of books for young makers that empower creativity. They feature wholesome inspiration, learning, and fun for everyone. Filled with easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step photos, they are playbooks to build, grow, and create something new.” The idea behind this book they say, is to get “kids outside with activities and projects.”
A Big Bite With This Book
The title reflects an ambitious book project since “kids” can be construed from about age 3 to age 16. (Before age 3 they are babies or toddlers.) I do wish that it had a clearly stated age group and stuck to that one age group.
I really had high hopes for this book. Sadly whoever wrote it is not really clear on the biology or maybe just how to explain it to kids. It jumps from 6 grade level to college level and then to something right out of the 3rd grade learning modules I used to use to teach teachers how to teach “Primarily Plants” and “Budding Botanists.”
In part due to this – I do not believe that you could simply hand this book to a kid and let them learn on their own. As a kid I, hated books that talked down to me and grew frustrated with books that used jargon without definitions. When I taught K-12 programs I learned I was not alone in my feelings. You could just feel the kids losing interest if you did too much of one or the other.
Regionally Useful – for Other Regions
This book works for the eastern region of the USA and maybe even for the Midwest but don’t do half the things they describe with your kids unless you want them to fail at their attempts to garden. They say “Kids can jump right in with an introduction to gardening. A complete basics section on vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees, and shrubs kicks things off.” PLEASE don’t start there unless you have really young kids and you are reading it to them. Its overly basic in some things and way too advanced in others.
I do like the discussion of “super soil” but “keep plants happy with the right amount of sunlight and water” does not go into enough detail for the Southwest. The “complete garden gear guide to get you ready for growing” is good if you have soil without caliche in it. The rest of the book is all about things to do – and some of these projects work fine.
Chapters and Projects
There are clearly written steps and helpful photographs with the male child showing the both younger and older female child or two female children working together. The science of composting chemistry is not the way I would teach it, but the math behind a square foot garden is good for those that like math.
Starts with how to test soil drainage – which is kind of fun for mor patient or scientific kids.
The project to start plants in an egg carton is a consistent fail in the Southwest. Our low humidity is the reason I believe, and 6 years of disappointing K-5 kids in our region tells me to tell you to skip this one.
Great Bed Gardens
In theory this should set kids up for success when planting a row garden but only if you already have a good bed of garden soil. Also start in winter in Low and Middle Desert, not in spring as directed.
As for the colorful summer flower garden – sorry but NO! Wrong flowers – wrong season unless you live above 5000 feet in the Southwest.
Shows how to grow strawberries in a 5-gallon bucket. Alas, strawberries need higher humidity than much of our region. Also – if you do try, start these on last frost day for your area. I do wish they had done growing potatoes or sweet potatoes, two plants with a high success rate in our region – and kids like to eat them.
Also shows how to create a beautiful bulb box – an excellent project for October.
Raised Bed Plots
These can work well in our region if you purchase soil. The projects discuss a square foot garden, uplifted herb garden, and a vertical garden.
Final Answer – 3 Stars
If you are a grandparent, you could buy this for your back East grandkids. You could also use this book with a child to make some of the projects – but you will need to work together most extensively.
The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening; Attract and Support Bees, Beetles, Butterflies, Bats, and Other Pollinators
by Kim Eierman, published by Quarry Books
Pollinators are important, and easy to invite into our landscapes – given the right focus. Kim shares with us the lives of the myriad pollinators that inhabit our Earth, and does so in a far less scientific way than I would have.
Why A Pollinator Victory Garden?
The passion and urgency that inspired WWI and WWII Victory Gardens is needed today to meet another threat to our food supply and our environment—the steep decline of pollinators. The Pollinator Victory Garden offers practical solutions for winning the war against the demise of these essential animals.
Pollinators are critical to our food supply and responsible for the pollination of the vast majority of all flowering plants on our planet. Pollinators include not just bees, but many different types of animals, including insects and mammals. Beetles, bats, birds, butterflies, moths, flies, and wasps can be pollinators.
But, many pollinators are in trouble, and the reality is that most of our landscapes have little to offer them. Our residential and commercial landscapes are filled with vast green pollinator deserts, better known as lawns. These monotonous green expanses are ecological wastelands for bees and other pollinators.
This Book Can Help Pollinators
With The Pollinator Victory Garden, you can give pollinators a fighting chance. Learn how to transition your landscape into a pollinator haven by creating a habitat that includes pollinator nutrition, larval host plants for butterflies and moths, and areas for egg laying, nesting, sheltering, overwintering, resting, and warming. Find a wealth of information to support pollinators while improving the environment around you.
Book Highlights Include
How to provide food for pollinators using native perennials, trees, and shrubs that bloom in succession. Perennials are discussed in my post for National Pollinator Week – here.
Detailed profiles of the major pollinator types and how to attract and support each one. (Did you know the solitary squash bees are to the Southwest!?)
Tips for creating and growing a Pollinator Victory Garden, including site assessment, planning, and planting goals.
Project ideas like pollinator islands, enriched landscape edges, revamped foundation plantings, meadowscapes, and other pollinator-friendly lawn alternatives
Final Answer – 5 stars
The time is right for a new gardening movement. Every yard, community garden, rooftop, porch, patio, commercial, and municipal landscape can help to win the war against pollinator decline with The Pollinator Victory Garden.
About the Author – Kim Eierman
Kim Eierman is an ecological landscape designer and environmental horticulturist, specializing in ecological landscapes and native plants. She is the Founder of EcoBeneficial, a horticulture consulting and communications company in Westchester County, New York. Kim teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center, Rutgers Home Gardeners School, and advanced education classes for Master Gardeners. An active speaker nationwide on many ecological landscaping topics, she also provides horticultural consulting and ecological design to commercial, municipal and retail clients.
In addition to being a Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticultural Science, Kim is an Accredited Organic Landcare Professional, a Steering Committee member of The Native Plant Center, and a member of The Ecological Landscape Alliance and the Association for Garden Communicators (GWA). Kim received the Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association in 2014, 2015 and 2017.