June 21, 2007

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The New Hampshire Gardenerís Companion: An Insiderís Guide to Gardening in the Granite State, by Henry Homeyer (The Globe Pequot Press, 2007, 182 pages)
Reviewed by Amy†Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com

Stupid bell peppers.

Contemplating one of the few tiny peppers that managed to grow in my first attempt at New Hampshire gardening, I figured out that each misshapen vegetable probably cost me about the same as if I had had a fresh-picked bell pepper air-mailed to my house from, oh, I donít know, the yard of somebody whose garden contained more on-purpose plants than weeds.

Were The New Hampshire Gardenerís Companion around at the time, I might have thought to check the quality of the soil and the amount of sun my garden received (Homeyer suggests eight hours or more for peppers). I might have turned my attentions to something less discouraging ó like woodland peonies (a perennial that is perfectly happy with light shade).

For whatever garden youíre planning, Homeyerís book offers solid, state-specific advice that can save you a lot of heartache. Homeyer (whose gardening column appears weekly in the Hippo) has a can-do attitude about gardening ó if you keep killing plants, it might not be you, it might be your soil thatís lousy. He doesnít make those of us who buy seedlings rather than start seeds indoors feel bad about our corner-cutting; Homeyerís book never forgets that most gardeners are working their small patches for fun and he gives advice accordingly (such as, donít take on more vegetable garden than you can handle). His most strongly held belief is in the local nursery over the big box store. Local gardening experts can help you find plants for your soil, and their plants (most of which will be cultivated locally) will be better able to handle the climate in your yard.

The book covers pest and weed management and the kind of gardening that is more about keeping the yard looking pretty than it is about growing your own salad or bouquet. And, for those who have decided to make gardening their new obsession, Homeyer also gives a list of professional, fancy gardens worth visiting (and, naturally, borrowing ideas from).

Even within New Hampshire the climate and soil vary ó so itís helpful to have a guide like this that sets us apart from the rest of New England (in many a guide, the Granite State is so often lumped in with the neighbors). Planning to grow your own $64 tomato this year? Let Homeyer save you some headache. A