From Seed to Skillet

From Seed to Skillet
A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love
by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger

176 pages
Chronicle Books, 2010
List price: $30.00

With so many books being published about edible gardening, I can't help but wonder how well any one of them is doing in the sales department. Each must bring something a little different to the table or they all start to be just one more edible gardening book. It can be overwhelming.

But there really are that many unique takes on the veggie gardening trend in our country today. And there really are that many good books on the subject for gardeners to choose from. Here's another one.

From Seed to Skillet has the basics that all good gardening books should have - simple instructions on basic gardening, several ideas for garden design, suggestions for what to plant, and what to do with it when it's all grown up. But what this one has that sets it apart is its cultural flavor.

Jimmy Williams learned about gardening from his Grandma Eloise, who grew up in a Gullah community in South Carolina. Friends and neighbors were descendants of Caribbean slaves and by the time you get to the back of the book and all that's left is the eatin', you'll be able to share in the reason they grew their own food.

Jimmy includes recipes for dishes that I've never even heard of, but look and sound absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try the sweet potato biscuits.

Jimmy Williams is an urban farmer and landscape designer who oversees his growing grounds, plants edible gardens for clients, and dispenses cultivation and cooking tips, plus vegetable, herb, and fruit seedlings, at three Los Angeles farmers' markets. He grows and sells heirloom tomatoes from seeds that have been passed down from his great-great-great-grandmother, who carried them in her pocket on a slave ship.

Susan Heeger is a long-time magazine and newspaper feature writer with a specialty in garden, design, home, lifestyle, and food stories. A contributing editor for Coastal Living and Martha Stewart Living, where she served as staff writer for several years, she also co-wrote The Gardens of California, which was published by Clarkson Potter. She has written extensively on edible gardening for publications ranging from The Los Angeles Times Magazine to Country Living and Whole Living. She lives in Los Angeles.


Listen to Kate Copsey of America's Homegrown Veggies Radio Show as she talks with Susan and Jimmy about their book, and they give tips for growing veggies on rooftops and every other space that you have available.

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.

Planting the Wild Garden

Planting the Wild Garden
by Kathryn O. Galbraith

32 pages
Peachtree Publishers, 2011
List price: $15.95

My children are now grown, but if they weren't, Planting the Wild Garden would be in their home library. As a gardener, I love the premise of this beautifully illustrated children's book, which explains how meadows and woods and ditch banks come to be a medley of wildflowers and native plants, thanks to wind, water, birds, animals, plants, and people.

Halperin's stunning illustrations tell the story as clearly as Galbraith's words, making them the perfect complement to bring this story to life. In fact, I don't know which I like more - the illustrations or the story itself. The endpapers alone deserve close inspection and will launch questions like, "What kind of seed is that?" and "How do you think that seed travels?"

The story is presented in easy-to-understand language that children ages 4-8 will find fun to read. Parents will enjoy it, too, as it lends itself to the animated voice that seems to come naturally when reading aloud to children. And by the time the story comes to its conclusion, both children and parents will have learned something about the natural world around them.

"Under the afternoon sun, the pods of the Scotch broom grow hot and dry. Snap! Snap! Out pop their seeds, like popcorn from a pan. They land here. And there. And snap! over there, where they will have more room to grow."

For now, Planting the Wild Garden is on my bookshelf, awaiting the day I can read it to future grandchildren. It will be a pleasure.

Kathryn O. Galbraith is an award-winning children's book author with more than a dozen picture books to her credit, including Boo, Bunny!, Arbor Day Square, Traveling Babies, and Laura Charlotte. Her most recent picture book, Arbor Day Square, won a 2010 Parents' Choice Award. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and their pup, who loves to dig in the garden too.

Wendy Anderson Halperin has illustrated over twenty-five books, including Thank You, God, For Everything and Turn! Turn! Turn! She also created the award-winning project "Drawing Children into Reading." Wendy lives with her husband, John, in South Haven, Michigan. They have three children.

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.

Garden Up!

Garden Up!
Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces

by Susan Morrison & Rebecca Sweet

224 pages
Cool Springs Press, 2011
List price: $19.95

Sears had “The Wish Book.” Many companies have an “idea book.” Garden Up! is both. Though written to help those who may have limited space in which to garden by focusing on vertical gardening, authors Rebecca Sweet and Susan Morrison put their creative brains together and the result is a book that is for every gardener.

When I first received Garden Up! in the mail last week, it was much like when I used to sit down with the catalogue before Christmas. I had paper and pen in hand, and I jotted down notes of ideas that I might be able to use in my own garden. Though I have an acre of property to work with, there are places where one or two (or three) of the growing solutions in this book would make my space more attractive and interesting.

While I’ve always had a little trouble thinking outside the box when it comes to design, with Garden Up! I don’t have to. Sweet and Morrison have done it for me. Some of the ideas were so beautifully simple that they had me smacking my forehead, saying, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Others, I would never have thought of in a million years.

This is a hefty book for its size, owing to the nice quality of the soft cover and pages. But I just know I’ll wish it was hardcover, because this is one book that will be getting lots of use, as I continue to pore over the sizeable collection of garden ideas with a vertical twist.

As a gardener who has been at it just long enough to begin to feel bored with how my gardens look, Garden Up! has me excited to get out there and create some interest where there isn’t any – just as soon as spring decides to come and stay.

Susan Morrison is a landscape designer, garden writer and Master Gardener based in Northern California. In addition to writing for traditional media publications such as Fine Gardening, Susan blogs about her life as a garden designer and shares her challenges and successes as a home gardener at Blue Planet Blog. She is a founding member of the Lawn Reform Coalition and the Garden Designer’s Roundtable.

Rebecca Sweet is the owner of Harmony in the Garden, located in Northern California. Her gardens have been featured in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, and Fine Homebuilding as well as regional newspapers and publications. Rebecca is a featured columnist for Horticulture, a contributing author for Fine Gardening, and writes design-focused articles for Fiskars®. She contributes to online gardening sites as well as being a founding member of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable. She writes about gardening on her blog, Gossip in the Garden.

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.

Plants for Atlantic Gardens

by Jodi DeLong

252 pages
Nimbus Publishing, 2011
List price: $29.95

Don't let the "Atlantic" in the title put you off, just because you don't live in that part of the country. And in this case, Atlantic means Atlantic Canada. Again, don't dismiss this book because you think it doesn't apply to you. You'd be missing out on some valuable gardening information if you do.

DeLong lives and gardens in the many times harsh conditions of coastal Nova Scotia. Her garden and mine are in USDA zone 5, and although I'm well inland, I've sought her advice many times. You see, the Atlantic Canada provinces can be a challenge for gardeners. Between the weather and the soil, Mother Nature creates many conditions that are not unlike many of ours; it's just that there, they experience just about all of them.

When DeLong says she can grow it, chances are pretty good that I can, too. Describing herself as a compulsive gardener, DeLong has grown nearly every one of the 100+ plants profiled. In her conversational style that has won the hearts of many readers, Jodi describes each plant in detail, including their needs, habits, and her own experiences with them to help you better choose great growers for your own gardens. Over 200 color photographs illustrate the text.

Plants for Atlantic Gardens is DeLong's second book. In 2005, she authored The Atlantic Gardener's Greenbook, which I described as being a good basic book for beginning gardeners, no matter where they live. This book has equally widespread appeal.

Jodi DeLong is a contributing writer, photographer, and long-time gardening editor for Saltscapes magazine, and she also writes regular gardening columns for other publications, including the Halifax Sunday Herald and the Atlantic Co-operator. Visit her popular gardening blog at:

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.