Good books make good presents

Plus Garden To-Do's for December and January

By L.A. Jackson

Good books make good presents

With the Yuletide season upon us, 'tis the season for gift giving! Finding presents for gardeners is not really that hard — just give each of them a good book. Here are some good ones from regional authors that I read recently. And compared to shovels or rakes, they are much easier to wrap.

"Deep-Rooted Wisdom" by Jenks Farmer (Timber Press, 2014). Having been raised on a Beech Island, S.C., family farm that dates back to the 1700s, Jenks Farmer's heritage influenced his thinking that, in gardening, newer is not always better. His 248-page book is a delightful retro guide to simpler yet successful ways to grow and enjoy plants.

"Starter Vegetable Gardens" by Barbara Pleasant (Storey Publishing, 2010). Floyd, Va., resident Barbara Pleasant has been writing about the virtues of organic gardening for 25 years. Her 180-page guide details 24 plans for new veggie gardens along with heaping helpings of her organic growing wisdom to create a fun reference for beginning growers.

"Native Plants of the Southeast" by Larry Mellichamp (Timber Press, 2014). A professor of botany at UNC-Charlotte since 1976, Larry Mellichamp knows plants. And he certainly knows plants in the woods of the Southeast. His impressive 367-page work covers 460 native plant species and helps us not only identify wild plants, but also details how each can be used in a cultivated garden.

"Okra" by Virginia Willis (UNC Press, 2014). One of the new additions to the UNC Press "Savor the South" series, this 107-page book begins with a generous appetizer of essential okra growing information, and then it shifts to the main course: an extensive collection of recipes from across the South as well as around the world.

Garden To Do's

December

  • Turn over any vacated garden beds to expose overwintering insects and help loosen up the soil for next year's garden.
  • Drain the garden hose and store it for the winter.
  • Cold-loving bulbous beauties such as crocus, hyacinths and tulips can still be planted this month.
  • There can be dry spells in the winter. And if one does occur, consider spraying an anti-transpirant — Wilt-Pruf is one popular brand — on the foliage of evergreens such as azaleas, camellias, hollies, gardenias and rhododendrons to help the plants retain their vital moisture. This will be especially beneficial to new plants that have been added to the garden this year.
  • Now is not too early to have a soil test done. Some nutrients and conditioners take time becoming chemically incorporated into the soil, so the sooner you act, the better next spring's garden will look.

January

  • Keep the colors of Christmas bright during the gray months of winter by properly watering such leftover indoor Yuletide plants as amaryllis, Christmas cactus, Christmas cherry and poinsettia only when the upper half-inch of soil in the pots is dry.
  • Many outdoor flowering plants such as hellebores, winter daphne, wintersweet, sweetbox, winter honeysuckle and witch hazel will begin showing off at local nurseries this month, so if you forsake your friendly garden center until the spring, you could miss out on picking up some of these winter-blooming wonders.
  • Why wait until spring to start your vegetable garden? This month into February is a good time to plant asparagus. Two recommended high-yielding varieties for Carolina gardens are 'Jersey Knight' and 'Jersey Giant'.
  • Salt stains from fertilizers taking the pretty away from your clay pots? Wash them with vinegar to restore their original look.
  • Keep the bird feeder filled — your feathered friends will really appreciate it during these cold days! c

 

About the Author

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. If you would like to ask him a question about your garden, contact L.A. at: lajackson1@gmail.com

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