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New Edition of Northwest Vegetable Gardening Classic

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Oh, my aching muscles...

Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades

The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening

Sixth Edition

By Steve Solomon

ISBN 1-57061-534-9

368 PAGES, $21.95

Sasquatch Books, Seattle

Reviewed by Mary Gutierrez

Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades is a regional classic. The 6th Edition, published at the end of 2007, offers vegetable gardeners the benefit of the author’s 30-plus years of experience, most of which he spent gardening in western Oregon. It’s the first—and best—gardening book written specifically for the maritime Northwest vegetable gardener.

The author, Steve Solomon, began writing about growing vegetables in the Pacific Northwest in 1979, the year he founded Territorial Seed Company. He homesteaded in Lorane, Oregon (near Eugene) and conducted trials of many varieties of vegetables to identify those that perform best in our climate. Though he no longer owns Territorial Seeds, the company continues to test seed for viability and performance to ensure that gardeners get good value for their “seed money.”

In the introduction, Solomon says that this book is most useful to the gardener with some experience—as opposed to novice gardeners. But I beg to differ. While a new gardener could read a book about soils to understand its properties and how soil affects plant health and growth, the information provided in the 50-page chapter on soils is dense with information. And since many gardeners today don’t have time to read an entire book about dirt, Growing Vegetables is a good place to start learning the basics.

Solomon has excellent advice and instructions on pest management, compost, fertilization—all the gardening fundamentals.

I particularly enjoy that Solomon not only gives readers the “how-to,” but also the “why” of gardening techniques. He tells you, for example, how to make high-quality compost and then goes on to explain why compost is so important to the soil and why it is vital to plant health.

Solomon gives detailed seed starting instructions for just about every vegetable crop you can imagine, explains how far apart to space plants, how to transplant, water and fertilize them—everything you need to know right up to harvest. And throughout, he explains which gardening methods are superior—and why.

In a chapter on garden planning, he gives detailed instructions on how to grow vegetables year-round, and includes useful tables for when to start seed and when to transplant vegetable starts out in the garden. If you have limited space, he even advises on which crops offer the greatest dollar value relative to the space they occupy.

Solomon lives a life epitomizing the meaning of the word “independence.” Throughout Growing Vegetables, he encourages readers to be independent thinkers, and to enhance their self-sufficiency and health by growing their own vegetables year-round, rather than just in spring and summer (like gardeners in other parts of the country). He was one of the Pacific Northwest’s first garden writers to recognize that most information on gardening was written for folks on the Eastern Seaboard or in the Midwest, and that growing conditions west of the Cascades are unique.

I can’t recommend Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades enough. I’ve been a gardener for the better part of two decades, and I learned a few new things from this book. Just as important, I gained new insight into the gardening practices that I’ve used for years.

Steve Solomon now lives in Tasmania, his website is: soilandhealth.org

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