For info and archives, see http://www.armory.com/~web/notes.html
Since I became interested in gardening last year, I've read numerous gardening books and found almost all more confusing than helpful. Many books--with the exception of the Western Garden Book--could almost be describing a different planet in terms of the climate and available plants they describe, and most of them--even those supposedly intended for beginners--give their information in a convoluted fashion that only experience (and lots of mistakes) makes intelligible. I wish Northern California Gardening had been published then, but at any rate, I'm very glad to have it now.
Focusing specifically on the needs of Northern California gardeners, this is a very sensibly designed book that spells out, month-by-month, just what gardeners should be doing. Each section is divided into specific areas, encyclopedia fashion: in July, for example, there are entries on Ants, Azaleas, Bee Stings, Berries, Bulbs, etc. At the beginning of each section is a list of key garden tasks geared to the different regions of Northern California, and each month has a listing of what's in bloom and what should be available at nurseries. Recurring information is repeated in each section, so there's no need to read the book through or to keep flipping back to previous months.
Even though my gardening needs are quite specific--all I have is containers--I found plenty of applicable advice. I also enjoyed browsing through the entries and learning more in general. For further education and assistance, there's also a thorough glossary of gardening terms, a long list of mail-order supply houses, a list of specialty publications and a bibliography, as well as an index and several pages for notes.
The text is friendly in tone and very readable and Endicott, an award-winning columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, is not embarrassed to admit that different theories about gardening abound and that the rules are constantly changing. I also like her emphasis on environmentally-safe pest and disease control, although some pesticide information is included. I would highly recommend this book to any Northern California gardeners who haven't completely developed their own gardening theories and want to consult a knowledgeable source for simple answers to simple questions--the kind of practical advice, as Endicott puts it, "you would get from an experienced and enthusiastic gardener who happened to live next door." *
* indicates a book the reviewer feels is outstanding in its genre
Review by Wendy E. Betts,
Editor "The WEB: Celebrating Children's Literature"