This is the information age, and whether you're a novice or professional, it's not hard to keep up with the how-tos of gardening. Here's a list that will get you up to date, starting with new twists on an old topic: lawns
If you can wait three years for the perfect lawn "The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural Low-Maintenance System for a Safe Lawn" by Paul Tukey (Storey Publishing, 19.95) just might be the book for you. It is full of the ins and outs of lawn care for the organically minded. Topics include how to wean your lawn from fast-acting chemicals, building soil, getting a nearly no-mow lawn (!) and something Rogue Valley residents need to be concerned with: proper watering.
"I'm a big fan of going organic with lawns," says Don Steyskal, lawn and garden specialist at the Medford Grange Co-op. "Organic fertilizer sticks in the lawn better, improves the soil more effectively and, in general, brings more overall improvement to the lawn. The only problem is that it is a long-term care system."
Maybe you're ready to take the next step — to no lawn. Then you might want to think about reading "Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community," by former Oregonian H.C. Flores (Chelsea Green, $25). This book is about "converting the time and money and fertilizer that you spend on lawns and using it for food," says Susan Chapman, who cares for the garden books at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland. "More and more people are growing their own food."
If you're interested in growing food trees, Chapman suggests "Landscaping with Fruit: A Homeowner's Guide," by Lee Reich (Storey Publishing, 19.95).
"What I like about this book is that it includes more than landscape plans," Chapman says. "There's a lot of information on each variety — plants you don't find in supermarkets, plus the normal stuff." The tips include which varieties to choose, planting and care information, plus harvest and storage information.
Another useful read is "Saving Seeds: The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds," by Marc Rogers (Storey Publishers, 14.95).
The book includes basic botany in terms easy to understand, including how to pollinate plants so you know you're harvesting fertile seeds. The second part of the book catalogs plants and describes methods to harvest and store their seeds. The book will help you avoid some common seed-saving pitfalls, such as crossing plants and saving seeds from the least-successful plants in your crop. In other words, how to select seeds like a crop scientist.
You can't be successful in the garden if the bugs eat your crops. "The Gardener's Bug Book: Earth Safe Insect Control" by Barbara Pleasant (Storey Publishing, 14.95) describes the bugs each plant attracts, what the critters do and how to control them. The problem is that the illustrations are black-and-white line drawings, and the range of each insect is not always clear.
Solve those problems with "Insects of the Pacific Northwest," by Peter Haggard and Judy Haggard (Timber Press, $24.95). It includes amazing color photos of bugs you will see in our region, whether they are beetles or butterflies. This is a fun book for gardeners with children, who are remarkably more tolerant of bugs than some grown-ups. This book will tell you whether you've got an insect problem or an insect problem-solver. You will never kill a beneficial insect again with this book at hand.
From bugs to blossoms, these reads will take you to the growing season. Anyone counting the days?