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Garden Book review: The Bountiful Container

About "The Bountiful Container"

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While most of us know that containers of flowering plants or lush foliage add extra impact to a garden, growing edibles in containers is somewhat less popular. In "The Bountiful Container," Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey cover the best methods for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs in containers.

Review: "The Bountiful Container"

My first garden was a raised bed at my mother-in-law's house. Shockingly enough, she was not open to the idea of digging up her lush green lawn and flower beds and replacing them with vegetable gardens, so I used a strip of land along the back porch, built a little retaining wall, and filled it with good soil.

Of course, you know how gardening is. No matter how much space you have, you could always use more! I grew basil, tomatoes, green peppers, and a few marigolds that first year. The second year, my list of "must grow" plants had completely exceeded the amount of space I had.

And then, I spotted a copy of McGee and Stuckey's The Bountiful Container at my local bookstore. It was like a whole new world of gardening had been revealed. According to these lovely ladies, I could grow window boxes of mesclun, hanging baskets of herbs, and flower pots or buckets of tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers!

Needless to say, I got into container gardening very quickly.

Even though I now have an entire yard to garden in (and can dig up as much lawn as I'd like, thank you very much) I still use what I learned in The Bountiful Container to make the most of my space. Why leave my front porch bare when I can line it with containers full of herbs and eggplant? And that walkway from my side door to the back yard? Perfect for growing a wide variety of herbs and veggies, as long as I've got enough containers and soil to fill them with.

The Bountiful Container is organized into three parts. The first part is all about planning your garden: managing your space, planning based on what you want to eat, and making it beautiful as well as productive. The second part is a kind of "gardening basics" section: how to choose containers, trellises, soil, seeds, and tools. The third part, though -- oh how I adore Part Three of this book. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and totally well-worn by now. Part Three looks at those vegetables, herbs, fruits, and edible flowers that you can grow in containers. It takes an in-depth look at each type of crop. Each entry gives you information about the size of container to use, the basics of growing that particular crop, how and when to harvest, and recommended varieties suitable for container culture. Between The Bountiful Garden and Gayla Trail's Grow Great Grub, you'll have everything you've ever wanted to know about growing edibles in containers at your fingertips.

What's In "The Bountiful Container?"

Here are the topics covered in The Bountiful Container.

Part One

  • Managing Your Space
  • Planning for Good Taste
  • Making Your Garden Beautiful

Part Two

  • Hardware: Containers, Trellises, Tools, and Storage
  • Software: Soil, Seeds, and Plants
  • Keeping a Healthy Garden

Part Three

  • Vegetables (beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, leafy greens, lettuce and other salad greens, onion family, peas, peppers, potatoes, radishes, spinach, squash, tomatoes)
  • Herbs (basil, bay, borage, chamomile, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, feverfew, lavender, lemongrass, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, monarda, oregano, parsley, rosemary, saffron crocus, sage, salad burnet, scented geraniums, stevia, sweet woodruff, tarragon, thyme)
  • Fruits (apples, blueberries, citrus, currants, figs, grapes, peaches, strawberries)
  • Edible Flowers (begonia, calendula, chrysanthemums, daylily, dianthus, marigold, nasturtium, pansies, roses, sunflowers, tulips)

The book also contains USDA hardiness zone information (though it's now out of date, and a listing of mail-order sources for your container garden.

Recommendation

I very highly recommend The Bountiful Container to anyone looking for a way to grow food, no matter how much or how little space they have. If you only have a patio or balcony, this book is for you. If you have a large yard, but trees or other structures make it too shady to garden, use what you learn hear to plant a few containers and tuck them into the sunny spots in your garden. Any gardener can use the information in this book.

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