These three new books give those preparing edible gardens some tips on how to maximize the harvest and minimize the workload and planting space.
• Chris McLaughlin, "Vertical Vegetable Gardening": Vertical gardening is one of the easiest and most practical ways to grow edibles. Vertical gardening means people living in condos, apartments and other places with limited yard space can reap the benefits of fresh food.
Besides the traditional trellises and arbors, the book shows how to grow on common household items you can recycle or reuse for free: broken baby gates that can be folded side up and spread to create an A-frame, crib springs turned on their ends, ladders with boards put across the rungs to holds pots, shoe bags filled with soil, tin tub gardens you can hang and 5-gallon buckets that are suspended from trees or poles.
The author also identifies about 30 veggies, fruits and herbs best suited for vertical gardening.
• Mel Bartholomew, "Square Foot Gardening Answer Book" and the "All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition": The answer book draws on hundreds of questions he's heard over the years, including how to garden in a shady yard, how to calculate the potential yield from a square-foot garden, how to deter pests and how to rotate crops for maximum results.
He also addresses common problems all gardeners face: The gnats in my square-foot garden are a real bother; how can I deal with them? Make a spray by mixing 1 part vodka with three parts water. Spray the area infested by the gnats. You can check whether you've gotten rid of the gnats by cutting a potato in half and leaving it in the area. If, after a week, the potato is still clean, your gnat problem is gone.
• Kay Maguire, "Grow Your Own in Pots": The book features 30 step-by-step projects using vegetables, fruits and herbs.
She shows how to sprout seed potatoes in egg cartons and then grow them in recycled, porous bags or large tubs; spinach in a window box; rhubarb in old garbage cans; and beans and sweet corn as companion plants in a tub.
Her chapter on Garden Soil 101 is helpful because healthy soil makes a healthy plant. You'll like her "compost sandwich," which uses layers of newspaper, cardboard, yard debris and topsoil to create the best of best beds for growing anything.