cover image A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season

A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season

Margaret Roach. Timber, $30 (316p) ISBN 978-1-60469-877-0

Roach (The Backyard Parables), former gardening editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine, thoughtfully and thoroughly updates her 1998 guide to organic, year-round gardening. As Roach notes, it is “still titled A Way to Garden because it is not the only way, just my way.” She moves through the year in two-month increments, each identified with different phases of life, from conception to death, and opens every section on a personal note, such as about her changing relationship with her sister or memories of “the first gardener I ever knew,” her grandmother. These snippets of memoir are followed by lists of seasonal chores (including learning all the proper Latin plant names), practical advice (“Always go inside and look out the window before digging a single hole”), and best practices (for lawns, Roach keeps grass long and leaves the clippings). Throughout, she reflects on her evolving understanding of the impact of seed genetics, importance of native plants, and increasingly unpredictable weather, among other topics. Filled with expert and sometimes highly specialized information—such as about water gardens—this book is less a “how to” for novices than a meditation on “why to” for veterans. Those with dirt already under their fingernails will treasure Roach’s in-depth knowledge, wry humor, and reflective look at how seasons in gardening mirror the passage of time. With color photos. (Apr.)