Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Review

As I sit here and watch the snow start to fall, I can't help wonder at our weather. Not that spring isn't always like this. It is. It often snows in April and very much like it is today. It started as rain. A few minutes ago it switched to snow. There will be little accumulation if any I'm sure. Our little hill has an interesting micro climate. We get snow here when a minute away has nothing but rain. However we tend not to get the late frosts as the valleys do. It is weird that we seem both colder and warmer then our neighbors.

So what do I do on a frigid dreary day? I read. I've finished "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth. It is one of the two books I decided to read for the Seed to Seed Challenge. "Breed Your Own Vegetables" by Carol Deppe was the first one. That one was a much better read. It had stories and was fun. The issue with that book is that it didn't make a good reference book. It had a lot of good information in its stories, but when I wanted to find that information again it took a lot of time. Where was that reference for corn genes? The index had references for Zea mays from page 70 on and off until page 321. I don't want to look them all up. I tried several times to refind information I had read, but failed.

Seed to Seed is the opposite. It was a terrible read but a great reference. I slogged through most of it. It is organized into families and repeats the same information for every crop. So if you are looking for corn and how to collect seed. It is easy. All the references to corn are in the same section. I've looked up many things in that book and it is always easy to find.

I find its one flaw as a reference book is that I don't trust the information in it. Most of it is probabaly very accurate mind you, but it did say and I quote "Common chives and garlic chives are both perennial, tolerating frost but not prolonged freezing . . . frequently grown as annuals in climates with winter temperatures below 32°F." Really? I must have unusual chives if that is the case. Mine have seen -6°F and still thrived. I'm pretty sure chives are hardy to at least zone 4 if not 3. It also mentions sea kale, which I keep thinking of growing. It says that it can't be grown in the northeast. I live in the northeast and it is hardy to zone 6. It grows naturally near the ocean in England. Surely it would grow here. I don't see any reason why it wouldn't.

So though it has a lot of useful information, how trustworthy is it? I'm not sure. I'm still going to use it as a reference for seed saving. Most of what I do know about seed saving it agrees with, so I'm going to assume that most of it is correct. If it doesn't sound right though, I'll find a second source.

And just in time to finish the post, my snow has turned back to rain. I think I need some tea.


  1. Snow, snow, go away. Little Daphne wants to her garden, in the sunshine! Enough is enough!

  2. Oh, I hope it stops snowing for you. I'm so happy that the rain and snow missed us this week and things have had a chance to dry out a little.
    I agree with you on chives- I'm in zone 5a. Who grows chives as annuals!?? They have come back every year since I planted them long ago.

  3. Perfect way to spend that kind of day.

  4. Chives are common perennials in zone 4 (temps. up to -40) with no problems.

    I think sometimes people get caught up in their own area and want to be as careful as possible making recommendations outside of it.

  5. Every time I scroll down my blog to the photo of last Mondays snow I shutter, I hope it doesn't come back.

    I hate when garden books have little blurbs within each chapter. Do you read the chapter then go back and read the blurbs or read the blurbs and get totally side tracked, erg.

    I just finished four-season harvest and am starting The Rodale Book of Composting. I thought 300 pages of compost would be a bore but it has actually been very informative and interesting.

  6. Annie's Granny, luckily my prediction yesterday was accurate. We didn't have any accumulation. I don't think it even dipped below freezing at night, thought it was supposed to.

    Judy, we are going to get a chance to dry out this week. I may even have to water for the first time. Our forecast now is for sunny weather for a week. That is so unusual in the spring.

    Barbee, It was.

    Tam, the weird thing is that the book has "local" experts for growing information. The northeast had an expert that was from Maine (which is why he probably thinks you can't grow sea kale). But the chive error was in the main body of the text and probably not looked at by the local.

    Dan, I usually wait for a good break before reading the blurb. Though I always read it before turning the page. I would love to read four-season harvest. Maybe my library has it.

  7. Daphne, I'm right with you on the books. Yes, of course chives and garlic chives are foolproof, indestructible perennials (I do grow variegated garlic chives as a container plant), and you can damn well grow sea kale! What are people thinking?! And as Allan Armitage has amply proved, there's no excuse for a reference to be boring, however authoritative!

  8. Chives are definitely hardy to zone 3, you can barely give them away at perennial swaps here. I've never grown garlic chives, but I would guess they would make it through most winters as well, although they're usually considered slightly less hardy.

    Just shows books are good, but experience is even better!