I GARDEN: Urban Style

by Reggie Solomon and Michael Nolan

160 pages
Betterway Books, 2010
List price: $17.99
Kindle edition: $9.99

There are many things I like about this book. Visually, it's a treat. Not too overwhelming with its photographs, which are complimented by the colors and layout of the pages. On my first thumb-through of the book, I got the feeling of a scrapbook - a gardening treasury of tips and tools for not only general gardening, but the best way to do it in the sometimes confining spaces of urban living. 

Though the focus is on edibles, annuals and perennials are spoken for too. In fact, when it comes to what you need to know about urban gardening (and then some), I'm not sure they left anything out.

Authors Reggie Solomon and Michael Nolan, both come with credentials of their own as well as collectively, being the creators of the popular website, Urban Garden Casual. Here, they collaborate again, to share a wealth of information about how you can garden, even if you don't have a large expanse of yard in which to do it. They also enlist the help of some other internet urban gardening rock stars throughout the book.

The best books about gardening are those that have a wide appeal to gardeners of all types. Though this book was written for urban gardeners, the information shared here will benefit gardeners, period. And it's done in a fun, hip way that will leave you feeling as if you have no excuse not to garden if you really want to, no matter what your dwelling situation might be.

Reggie Solomon is the creator of two blogs - UrbanGardenCasual.com and TomatoCasual.com. Urban Garden Casual is focused on helpin gurban dwellers garden. Reggie enjoys ending to a small backyard garden located a block from the intersection I-95 and I-91 in New Haven, Connecticut, where he grows more than twenty varieties of tomatoes and ten varieties of basil.

Michael Nolan has been a gardener since childhood and is the founder of the Riverside Community Garden in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a full-time writer who lives the casual gardening lifestyle that he writes about. Michael also hosts the weekly Internet-based radio show, The Cheap & Easy Show that combines gardening and frugal living topics with music from unsigned musicians.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden

by Sara Alway

128 pages
Quirk Books, December 2010
List price: $16.95

If I were to see Soil Mates on a bookstore shelf, it would be the kind of book I would pick up immediately to leaf through. It's got a hardcover binding, covered with paper that looks like burlap, with a folk art cover. The size is comfortable (5½ by 7 inches), and inside it has a rainbow of colored pages and more folk art graphics. This book is visually appealing all the way around.

As I began to read it, I first thought that the writing style was clever - the anthropomorphism of vegetables - and it is. But I began to tire of the cuteness of it all as I worked my way through the book. There were times, due to the author trying to be consistent in language style, that I wasn't sure which vegetables truly were or were not compatible. I guess "Love Triangles" can be confusing, even in the plant world.

Nevertheless, the book is well-organized, presenting 20 pairs of commonly-grown vegetables for companion planting, with tips for growing them. With each pair, there is a recipe using both vegetables, demonstrating that not only do they grow well together in the garden, they go well together in the kitchen, too. At the back of the book, the section titled "Garden Preparation, Planning and Care" is probably the most concise general gardening guide I've seen.

Novice and experienced gardeners alike will gain insight into a better way to grow vegetables and will likely be entertained by Alway's lighthearted approach to a subject that could be mundane. I had to giggle myself when I saw seeds and seedlings listed as "Foreplay."

Sara Alway is a professor of graphic design who believes in sustainable agriculture. She lives in Ohio, where she tends her own garden of happy soil mates.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.