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What makes your region unique? Q&A with vegetable gardening guide authors

by Timber Press on February 25, 2014

in Regional

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Gardeners are not all the same. But gardening advice often is. What works for one gardener may not work for another, especially if they live in different parts of the country.

The Timber Press Guides to Vegetable Gardening solve that with advice from regional experts. These gardeners know what works, where. And they want to save you from frustration.

Read on to find which one is right for you.

Note: Midwest & Southwest coming soon!

PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Forkner_Cover3D-WEBLorene Edwards Forkner

What is the most common misconception about gardening in your region?
Most people think the Pacific Northwest is synonymous with RAIN. Well, they’re not far off, except for summer—July, August & September—when we actually get very little, if any, rain at all. Ours is a maritime climate influenced by the largest body of water on the planet. Ours is a very moderate climate. We never get too hot, or too cold.

What is the most common mistake gardeners make in your region and how can your book help them prevent or correct it?
Most vegetable gardeners (and people who read most vegetable gardening books) fall into the trap of thinking they live in Iowa, or the California central valley. Everything is beefsteak tomatoes, and knee-high corn by July 4th, peppers, and the like. Frankly, that’s crazy talk here in the PNW and a sure path to heartbreak. For the greatest yield from their garden, PNW growers need to embrace cool season crops. I hope my book introduces readers to the rest of the growing season beyond those few brief weeks of relative sun and heat in midsummer to the abundance and productivity that’s possible during the other 9 months of the year.

Does your region have a distinct advantage? If so, what is it?
The PNW has one of the longest and most hospitable growing seasons in the country, coupled with generally healthy native soils, abundant resources, and enlightened municipal resources that encourage recycling and active composting programs and community gardens. If you want to have a garden there’s no better place to start than here.

“Any crop picked fresh from the backyard is a revelation,” says Lorene Forkner. Fava beans are one of her favorites. Image: Wikimedia

“Any crop picked fresh from the backyard is a revelation,” says Lorene Forkner. Fava beans are one of her favorites. Image: Wikimedia

Do you have a particular favorite vegetable to grow in your region? Or perhaps a particular vegetable that reflects the character of your region?
I adore FAVA BEANS! Actually, any crop picked fresh from the backyard is a revelation compared to what you can purchase at the grocery store. The smell of the plants, the warmth of the sun; it all adds up to delicious. Something unique to the PNW? That would have to be strawberries. Local berries so fragile they about burst just looking at them. They stain your fingers, your clothes, and your counters, and only last about a day before spoiling but oh what flavor and perfume. Heaven on a plate.

forkner_l-sLorene Edwards Forkner is an award-winning garden designer who lives, gardens, writes, and designs in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has appeared in several national and regional publications including Organic Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, MaryJane’s Farm, Northwest Garden News, and Edible Seattle.

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NORTHEAST
Iannotti_Cover_3D-WEBMarie Iannotti

What is the most common misconception about gardening in your region?
That we can’t grow long season vegetables, like artichokes, okra and lima beans. We may never become a growing center for these veggies, but there are varieties that do well in our climate that are perfect for a backyard garden. And fresh is always better.

What is the most common mistake gardeners make in your region and how can your book help them prevent or correct it?
Planting at the wrong time. After an interminable winter, we’re anxious to get everything going at once and the garden centers are happy to encourage this. Then a freak frost damages our plants and our enthusiasm. We need to learn to take advantage of our cool seasons, with plants that shrug off frost, then be willing to make space to get the heat lovers in.

Does your region have a distinct advantage? If so, what is it?
It may not seem like an advantage, but I think our winters are a huge plus. When the first hard frost comes, that’s it. Whatever is not under cover is gone. We get to take a break, stop stressing, and make a new plan of attack. It doesn’t matter how the prior season went, every year we get a chance to start over from scratch. And a long, snowy winter cuts down on the pest population.

Pumpkins "are like trophies at the end of a hard fought gardening season." Marie Iannotti turns her trophies into soup and enjoys them all winter. Image: Teo

Pumpkins “are like trophies at the end of a hard fought gardening season.” Marie Iannotti turns hers into soup and enjoys them all winter. Image: Teo

Do you have a particular favorite vegetable to grow in your region? Or perhaps a particular vegetable that reflects the character of your region?
Two things jump to mind, when I think of the Northeast; apples and pumpkins. Apples take a lot of care, but pumpkins will grow themselves. They are like trophies at the end of a hard fought gardening season. It’s nice to have something from the garden on the Thanksgiving table, not to mention a bowl of soup to enjoy when the catalogs start arriving in winter. You can top with more walnut pieces, candied walnuts or chopped apples.

iannotti_m-sLongtime Master Gardener Marie Iannotti is the former owner of Yore Vegetables, an heirloom seedling nursery. She is the former editor of The Mid-Hudson Gardener’s Guide., and her garden writing has been featured in newspapers and magazines nationwide.

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MOUNTAIN STATES
Newcomer_Cover_3D-WEBMary Ann Newcomer

What is the most common misconception about gardening in your region?
I see this all the time. Folks move here from milder climates (OR/CA/WA/Eastern US) and are unprepared for our (yes, but it’s a) DRY heat. I mean really dry.

What is the most common mistake gardeners make in your region and how can your book help them prevent or correct it?
You must water thoroughly and deeply. You can’t just splash some water on the vegetable garden. Soaker hoses and drip are the best. A good, deep watering will suffice once a week—twice if temps are over 90°. See the first question re: lack of humidity. In a hot and dry region such as ours, the water needs a chance to soak in, say 6–12 inches deep for good root development and strong plants.

Does your region have a distinct advantage? If so, what is it?
Our very long, warm days are outstanding for all the heat loving edibles: melons, squash, fruits, etc. And believe it or not, our lack of humidity is a good thing, since it is not conducive to powdery mildew or other humid climate issues.

Mountain states may not be known for growing melons, squash, and fruits, but the dry, hot weather is  Image: Lionel Rich

The dry, hot summer weather of the mountain states favors growing such unlikely vegetables as melons, squash, and fruits. Image: Lionel Rich

Do you have a particular favorite vegetable to grow in your region? Or perhaps a particular vegetable that reflects the character of your region?
Yukon Gold or Red Pontiac potatoes, organically of course. Why must I pick just one?

newcomer_m-sMary Ann Newcomer has gained a regional following with her blog, Gardens of the Wild Wild West. She is an accomplished horticulturist, garden designer, and the former president of the Idaho Botanical Garden.

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SOUTHEAST
Wallace_Cover_3D-WEBIra Wallace

What is the most common misconception about gardening in your region?
That fall and winter gardening is all about traditional southern greens. With the correct timing and proper storage, gardeners can enjoy not only the traditional favorites like collards, mustards, kale and cabbage, but also a wide variety of greens from Asia and many different cultures. Root crops both fresh like carrots and parsnips or stored sweet potatoes join broccoli and winter keeper tomatoes are just a few of the less traditional items on the holiday table of  resourceful gardeners in the Southeast.

What is the most common mistake gardeners make in your region and how can your book help them prevent or correct it?
Not planning for enough successions planting of summer crops like corn, beans and summer squash, to take full advantage of our long growing season is a common mistake new gardeners make in our region. My month by month to-do list, as well as the sections on succession planting, and summer planting for fall and winter harvest for both new and experienced gardeners with timing plantings for an extended harvest.

Image: Ira Wallace

Thai Red Roselle is great for summer tea or as a substitute in jam and baking. Image: Ira Wallace

Does your region have a distinct advantage? If so, what is it?
The Southeast generally has mild winters and ample moisture somewhat evenly distributed throughout the year. Even in areas like Texas there are enough water resources for a productive vegetable garden.

Do you have a particular favorite vegetable to grow in your region? Or perhaps a particular vegetable that reflects the character of your region?
The okra and southern peas both remind me of my grandmother who first introduced me to vegetables and flowers in her Florida garden. I can’t imagine New Year’s without blackeyed peas and corn bread for good luck. Okra graces the cover of my book and is the symbol of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Both of these vegetables fed both African–American and White southerners in the difficult years of healing after the Civil War. I can think of no better combination of tasty and resilient vegetables for gardeners in the Southeast. I really enjoy growing unusual vegetables and herbs in my garden as well as the traditional favorites. Thai Red Roselle (Hibsicus sabdariffa) also known as red sorrel in  Jamaica is one of my favorites for a refreshing tea in summer and a substitute for cranberries in jam and baking.

wallace_i-sIra Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm in Mineral, Virginia — the home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Ira serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is also a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.

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