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Gardening 101: 5 Books To Help You Get Your Garden in Order by Jen Karsbaek

EggplantFor a long time, I didn’t really see the appeal of gardening. When I was young, my parents had me help them plant color bowls for our front steps and I could sustain interest just about long enough to stick five or six plants into a bowl, but not a second longer. I liked spending time outside just fine, taking me camping or hiking, but gardening I really didn’t care for.

Flash forward twenty-some years, and last spring I spent just about every possible second outside in the sunlight, on my knees on my front lawn. The people who owned our house before us let the landscaping go a bit and with a four year old and two one year olds running about, I wasn’t comfortable spraying weed killer on the multitude of dandelions that took root in our yard, so I pulled them up. One by one. I filled up multiple yard waste bags with the greens and flowers and roots (oh, how I wished we were at the point of having compost bins for all those lovely nutrients), and although I didn’t always get the entirety of every plant, I could see the difference my hard work made, and it felt good.

It has been a long, hard, very cold winter in Chicago, and I’m to the point where I am itching to get back outside. Unfortunately, our ground is still half frozen and we’ve had more days in the past week in the 30s than in the 40s, 50s, or 60s, so even though spring is officially sprung, my yard hasn’t seemed to figure that out yet. Luckily, I can live vicariously through some really amazing books while I’m waiting for Mother Nature to get with the program here.

Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall – A garden can be a thoroughly magical place, even life-changing for some. It was exactly that for Carol Wall, who recounts the unlikely friendship between herself and her Kenyan gardener in her memoir, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp – If you know Kingsolver best for her wonderful fiction, it is time you check out this memoir, which she co-wrote with her family after they spent a year as strict locovores, not consuming anything which they didn’t either grow themselves or obtain from someone in the immediately surrounding area. Kingsolver writes with both passion and expertise, making this a compelling read.

Gardens are for Living by Judy Kameon – At this point we’re still basically at the flower beds and weeding stage of our gardening, but Gardens are for Living offers some amazing inspiration for future landscaping ideas. Kameon is a landscape designer who strives to essentially create outdoor rooms in which people will want to spend time and Gardens are for Living is a wonderful mix of her delightful narrative and truly gorgeous photographs which will have you inspired to get outside and start digging.

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach – Think Eat, Pray, Love, but with plants and dirt instead of travel and love affairs. If you’ve ever dreamed of drastically simplifying your life, Roach’s story of leaving Martha Stewart’s media empire for a life of self-imposed exile and connection with her garden will resonate with you deeply.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Atrocities by Amy Stewart – Once the weather shifts and you are able to get outside and put in a hard day in the garden, you need something light to lounge with on the couch. Enter Amy Stewart’s absolutely fascinating little book about some of the world’s most dastardly plants. Each entry is short and fascinating (that word again, I know, but between the facts Stewart pulls out and the way they are delivered, there really isn’t another word to describe it). Once you’ve devoured Wicked Plants, you’ll want to go ahead and help yourself to the companion books I (perhaps after you’ve been chewed on by mosquitos during some evening gardening?) and The Drunken Botanist.

Photo Credit: Lee Ruck / Flickr