By Carol Stocker,
Boston Globe Garden Writer:
The biggest trend in gardening is growing your own food. "Easy Container Combos; Vegetables & Flowers" by Pamela Crawford (Color Garden Publishing, $19.95, paperback) is terrific for beginners and people without garden space. It can be much easier to grow vegetables in containers than in the ground. Start with a potting mix (which is basically peat moss) and time release fertilizer and you can practically forget about weeding and bugs. Just add water! Last year Crawford test planted nearly 1,800 plants in more than 200 containers and recorded what worked and what didn't. (So forget about Brussels sprouts.) Her best performers were arugula, beans, collards, mustard and turnip greens, lettuce and hot peppers. She provides profiles of her 18 winners - how much sun and water they need, what size container works best, plus fertilizing, pinching and harvesting tips. For a real pretty planting use red leaf lettuce such as Red Velvet, Mascara or Red Sails, and add a few annual flowers. Crawford tells you which ones.
I love DK books because they are so well illustrated and organized. "Grow Fruit" by Alan Buckingham (DK Publishing, $22.95 paperback) is a case in point. Even Weight Watchers is saying now that we need more fruit. Here is an easy and attractive one-stop reference for growing your own grapes, tree fruit such as cherries, plums, pears, figs, peaches, quinces and apples, and soft fruit such as raspberries, black berries, hybrid bramble fruits, gooseberries and blueberries. Directions are easy-to-follow and I like the fruit grower's year planner and the troubleshooting section for common fruit pests and diseases.
And don't overlook "The Cook's Herb Garden; Nurture, Harvest, Cook," by Jeff Cox (DK Publishing, $18.00 hardcover). Vegetables and herbs can be tricky to grow, but fresh herbs are easy money-savers. If you are just starting to grow your own food, start with herbs and this plot-to-plate guide. From Basil to Vervain, this photographic catalog of more than 130 culinary herbs will teach you everything you need. It includes planting schemes for pots, 70 recipes, and charts on the best herb-with-food flavor combinations.