Review: Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables by Mel Bartholomew Foundation

Title: Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables
Author: Mel Bartholomew Foundation
Pages: 276
Genre: Instructional, Gardening, Nonfiction
Source: Free ARC from Cool Springs Press

Rating: A+

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Cool Springs Press via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.

Review: A book that every beginning gardener should own! In fact, anyone who eats fruits and vegetables, whether your grow them or not, would benefit from the information in this book. The title is part of a series that started with All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and has since grown to be so much more. That said, the title of this edition – Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables – is a little misleading. While it touches on the square foot gardening approach, it is generally about how and when to plant certain species, and the process of ripening. So, if you don’t have a square foot garden, if you don’t have a garden at all, this book will still be of great benefit if you’re in the position of selecting ripe fruits and vegetables – even if it’s only at the grocery store or farmer’s market.

The greatest strengths of this book are its simplicity and clarity. It is full of bright, clear pictures depicting each type of fruit and vegetable in ripe and unripe stages. It explains which fruits and vegetables are done ripening the minute you pick them and which either continue to ripen on their own after picking or can be cajoled into ripening through simple methods (like placing them in a paper bag alone or with another species that puts off pheromones that cause ripening). It also tells you which vegetables and fruits to keep separate.

Storage is another part of the equation, right? We don’t just want produce that is at its peak when we consume it, but we want to know how long it will keep for, and what is the best way to keep it for as long as possible. Should it be in a plastic bag? Open or closed? With or without paper towels? In the fridge or on the counter? That information is in here, too. And a lot more.

And it isn’t just your basic produce like tomatoes and carrots. Exotic fruits are included as well. Don’t know how to tell if a pineapple is ripe when you buy it at the store? This book will tell you. Guava? Mango? Starfruit? Even Lychee (yummy!).

For those who are growing their own produce, there is very useful information about knowing when to harvest, how to store, even what to do with extras.  There are clear and simple charts that show when you should plant (based on last frost – so it’s applicable to all hardiness zones!), whether you should start outside from seed, inside from seed, and at what stage of growth to transplant. The very same chart shows you when harvesting is likely to begin and how long harvest will last, as well as whether or not the plant is suitable for succession planting (if you don’t know what that is, this book will tell you!).

That sounds like a lot of information – and it is – but the genius of this book is that it is visual and straightforward. There aren’t seven typed pages about blueberries. A few brief paragraphs, some great pictures for clarity, and a simple chart about planting). I blew through it and immediately wondered why I had to wait until now to have it.

Normally, I don’t review non-fiction books, but this is the year of the vegetable garden for me. My first year planting and I’ve fallen in love hard. There is nothing like serving a salad made of produce you grew yourself or sautéing fresh summer squash in homegrown garlic with butter and salt and pepper. When I saw this book, I had to have it. Had. To. And it is so much more than what I expected. Even if you purchase all of your produce, this book will be immensely helpful. Everyone who eats fruits and vegetables should have a copy on hand.

5 Replies to “Review: Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables by Mel Bartholomew Foundation”

  1. This sounds like great book for the beginner and experienced gardener. We can always benefit from new ways of doing things in the garden. Knowing the proper way to store them is so important after putting all that work into the garden.

    • Yes! Once I started my garden, I realized how little I actually knew about produce. There are things I’ve never purchased at the store because I didn’t know how to tell if they were ripe or not. And I’d get frustrated that things seemed to go bad so quickly. Now I know more about when to pick what, what it should look like, whether smell mattters or color, and I have a better grasp on how long something should reasonably be expected to last after purchase/harvest. It really is a great book. 🙂

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