Book Review by George Harvey
The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening
By Ron Krupp, 247 pages, Whetstone Books, $18.
The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening is one of those books that may be exactly what you want it to be. It could be an introductory book on vegetable and fruit gardening, for those who need it, or a highly readable reference, for those who are more experienced. Or perhaps, it is just something to enjoy.
The book starts with a journal of the years 2012 and 2013, comparing the two years on a month-by-month basis. This is useful, because it contains a basis for planning the month-to-month goings-on of preparing the ground, planting, tending, harvesting, and preparing food. Unlike most chronologies of garden activities, however, by comparing months from two very different years, it illustrates the potentials, what to expect and what to be ready for.
The journal is followed by three sections, one each on vegetables, berries, and fruit. Each section begins with a general description of the tools, methods, and knowledge needed for the plants it covers. Preventing plant disease is one important aspect of this, but so are other principles. The amount of light exposure, the type of soil, soil pH, temperature ranges for growing, and other information are all covered generally. This is followed by a list of types of plants, each covered with a number of its own specific details, such as information on growing the different varieties, what they need, and what they are like.
Each section has commentary about things ranging from the politics of sugar to the history of fruit. The author’s background includes not only organic gardening, but also biodynamics, which was developed by Rudolph Steiner, founder of the Waldorf educational system. The book has many references to religion and spiritual practices as items of interest. There is plenty of information about heirloom seeds, both old varieties and new, and a few species most of us have not grown, but might now, because of climate change. People in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire are starting to cultivate pawpaws and kiwis, for example.
The book does not neglect the harvest once it has been gathered in. Brief descriptions of how the food might be prepared are given. The material on pickling does not go into detail, for example, but it does point the gardener in what might be a valuable new direction.
Ron Krupp is a resident of the South Burlington area, and the gardening he describes is the gardening he does there, with conditions in that part of Vermont. That said, nearly everything he says can apply to any of the Northeast. Given the rule of gardening that he often repeats, “It Depends,” what he says could apply to just about anywhere.
There are many illustrations, both photographs and artwork providing visual interest for The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening. There are also poems, observations, stories, and wit in abundance.
I highly recommend this book.