Between the Rows: Books for under the gardener’s tree

  • “Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space” Contributed photo

  • “Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Know-how for Keeping (Not Killing!) More Than 160 Indoor Plants” Contributed photo

  • In her book “Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space,” author Amy Andrychowicz recommends vegetable gardeners looking to maximize their growing space use a wire arch tunnel, allowing them to grow vegetables vertically. Contributed photo/Tracy Walsh

  • In her book “Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space,” author Amy Andrychowicz recommends vegetable gardeners looking to maximize their growing space use hanging gardens made with landscaping fabric. Contributed photo/Tracy Walsh

  • LEUCHTMAN

For the Recorder
Published: 11/23/2018 4:49:54 PM

Vegetable gardeners who feel they never have enough room would be well advised to read author Amy Andrychowicz’s new book.

As I read Andrychowicz’s “Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space,” I saw ways space could be saved while using creative techniques to beautify a garden.

Most of us have some experience with the various supports that are used in the garden. Trellises are great for vining plants and staking is used for vegetables that don’t twine. Nowadays, there are also cages that circle and support a plant like tomatoes. Andrychowicz also talks about the ways plants can be trained on vertical supports, describing how the many varieties of container gardening can be used vertically.

The list continues with teepees, pergolas, arches, obelisks, A-frames and lean-tos, words not always used for supporting floppy plants. One of the latest ideas in limited space gardening is the hanging garden. The kind of vertical supports you need will depend on the plants you want to grow with regard to strength, height and access to the harvest. Happily, vertical supports can be made of many materials — including wood, wire and pipes — depending on the strength needed and your budget.

The next section of the book expands on the kind of supports that specific vegetables need, from peas and beans, to grapes and hardy kiwis, to melons and non-climbing plants like lettuce. I was surprised to see that strawberries could be grown in a hanging garden.

Of course, gardeners must always consider how to fertilize, control weeds, disease and insects, and Andychowicz has advice on those issues as well.

Andrychowicz has been busy at her writing desk as well as in her garden. She created the Get Busy Gardening website where she has been blogging for nearly 10 years. The website is full of information about plant propagation, houseplant care, projects for the garden and more.

While some gardeners struggle with limited space, other gardeners, and some of our friends who have never gardened, have no outdoor space at all. The gift of a flowering plant is especially delightful and welcome at this time of the year when the days are so short. The problem is that while welcoming a blooming orchid or cyclamen or poinsettia, the recipient might enjoy it, and then weep when it shrivels up and dies. I have always thought that a book about houseplants should accompany the gift of a plant.

There are many reasons that a houseplant might wilt and fail. Perhaps the amount of light was wrong. Perhaps the plant received too much or too little water. Perhaps the temperature was too high or too low. These are all problems that can be easily corrected if the plant recipient is given some basic information.

In fact, I think it would be sensible for those giving plants to a relative or friend to take into consideration the type of living space, how much heat the recipient has at night as well as during the day, and the alignment of the windows.

There are many books that could accompany the gift of a plant. I like the encyclopedic “Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Know-how for Keeping (Not Killing!) More Than 160 Indoor Plants” by Barbara Pleasant. Not all houseplants bloom, but a bit of grape ivy, a fern or a variegated creeping fig can bring a whiff of the natural world into the house.

In addition to a photo and a page of specific information about the needs of a plant, Pleasant has a section on general houseplant care. She gives great information about containers, pruning, repotting and dealing with specific pests that are likely to make a try at your beautiful plant.

Pleasant has written other books for the novice and is an experienced gardener. Check out “Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener's Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round.”

If a big book like Pleasant’s is too much for the recipient, Tovah Martin’s The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow might be the perfect alternative. Martin takes us on a tour of tough plants from African violets to the ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) plant.

This book has wonderful photographs of plants and containers. Martin’s advice about care includes light needs, temperature tolerations and growth rate. She also gives good advice about creative and beautiful ways to pot a plant. She has also written other prize-winning books about houseplants including “The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home.”

I don’t know about you, but I have to confess that when I am buying gifts for my nearest and dearest, I often have trouble keeping my own desires under control. Perhaps you’ll find a houseplant for yourself while choosing one for a friend or relative, and perhaps you’ll want to splurge on a little book for yourself, too. Happy holidays!

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her website: commonweeder.com.


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