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Growing plants

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, March 2020; written by Lisa Pearson.

It’s spring. I know it doesn’t look like it, and it certainly doesn’t feel like it, but it’s here and if you have a drop of gardening blood in your veins, you are itching to be growing something. We have a selection of new books at the library to help you scratch that itch.

If you have admired the Children’s Garden outside the library and thought how great it would be to have something like that in your yard, I recommend “Kitchen Garden Revival: a modern guide to creating a stylish, small-scale, low-maintenance edible garden” by Nicole Burke. Burke takes you through the entire process of creating a raised-bed garden: planning, construction, soil, planting, tending, and harvesting. She gives you design options for the layout of your beds, covers the pros and cons of different building and pathway materials, and talks about calculating the amount of soil and proportions of soil amendments you will need to fill your planters. Her advice – particularly the construction portion – is very practical and useful, and the photos of the end product are inspiring. Her designs are very stylish and built to last. If you’ve ever dreamt of strolling through your own kitchen garden, selecting the produce for that evening’s meal, then this is the year to get started, and Nicole Burke’s book is your guide.

Perhaps you have a dream of creating your own kitchen garden, but you don’t have the bankroll to put together something elegant. British author Huw Richards set himself the goal of creating a zero-cost food garden in one year. His book “Grow food for free: the sustainable, zero-cost, low-effort way to a bountiful harvest” shows you how to create your own garden with a minimum amount of money. He explains how to build raised beds from old pallets; how to use recycled materials for mulch, planters, and compost bins; and how to start your crops from kitchen scraps, seed swaps, and cuttings. At the end of the book he includes his month-by-month journal, which shows that the garden he starts planning in March is full of produce to harvest in September and October. Looking through this, you get reassurance that creating your own garden is a completely realistic goal. You also get lots of ideas on how to keep things simple, scalable, and sustainable.

Another book that contains a lot of helpful hints on organic, sustainable gardening is “No-waste organic gardening: eco-friendly solutions to improve any garden” by Shawna Coronado. A lot of times in the gardening world, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘extremely cheap’ are synonymous, so this is a good book for anyone looking to save money as they grow their own food and flowers. There’s plenty of advice here on making your own compost and fertilizer tea (buying compost adds up quickly!), as well as landscaping and planting using upcycled and recycled materials. Learn how to make your own seed tape, how to effectively kill weeds in your driveway without toxic – and expensive – chemicals, and how to harvest seeds for next year’s planting. The section on installing a drip line system and creating a rain barrel garden to conserve water didn’t really catch my eye, but using coffee filters in the bottom of planting containers to keep soil from running out the drain holes is a genius tip!

Even if you don’t feel up to creating a food garden this year, you can still learn how to bring a little greenery into your home with “Houseplants for all: how to fill any home with happy plants” by Danae Horst. The thing that sets this book apart from your standard houseplant guide is that it is not focused on selecting specific houseplants, which is good, because we don’t have a lot of options here. Horst’s book is about how to grow the plants and keep them healthy. She spends a lot of time talking about differences in light (direct vs. indirect), and she provides concrete ways to measure the type of light you have in specific areas of your house. She also talks about humidity and ways to increase it (not that most of us have a problem with lack of moisture!) as well as ways to repot and prune your plants to keep them healthy and happy-looking. If your houseplants are starting to look a little sad, this is the book that will help you get them back on the road to green.

In addition to our wide selection of gardening books, we also have a Seed Library that is available to the public. Come in and select some seeds to try out, or donate leftover seeds you may have at home. There’s a variety of vegetable and flower seeds to choose from, and it’s absolutely free!

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