Groundwork CL

Roger B. Swain, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $18.95 (162p) ISBN 978-0-395-68400-9
For those who regularly read Swain's essays in Horticulture magazine, Groundwork will have a familiar ring, since the essays collected in it were originally published there in slightly different form. No matter; it's always a delight and a (painless) learning experience to partake of Swain's work. As a biologist, his basis for ecologically sound practices in gardening is grounded in a broad interpretation of what it means to garden in harmony with nature. Readers won't find esoteric solutions here, however; the author is nothing if not practical. ``A single woodchuck can tuck away an entire planting of pea seedlings in a single meal,'' he writes, and continues with advice for gardening not by force but by fence. A chapter devoted to winter storage of vegetables offers thoughts on the wrong-headedness of demanding foods out of season and, at the same time, describes exactly how he preserves/stores the summer's harvest so readers can avoid those pale store-bought counterparts. However, Swain never sets out to write a primer; like other, thoughtful writers before him, he assumes his readers are as interested in the ramifications and reasons for methods and results as in the techniques for them. He often digresses and rambles--to the enjoyment of all--a luxury that mere pages in a magazine cannot afford. But then, he is attempting to explain his perspective in the hope, it would seem, of educating readers and gardeners about the importance of the simplest choices they make, from how they nourish the soil to what they use as mulch. He has certainly laid much more than the groundwork here. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
Paperback - 978-0-395-71825-4
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