Tracey Finck: Gardening books are perennial favorites for the avid reader

Seed catalogs, illustrated magazine articles, how-to-garden books, reference websites.
Many people who love to garden also love to read about gardening. There are always new ideas and solutions and discoveries to learn about.
Guy Havelka of Princeton has been gardening—and reading gardening books—for decades. The most useful book he has found is “Getting the Most from Your Garden: Using Advanced Intensive Gardening Techniques” by the editors of Organic Gardening Magazine (1980). The book includes everything you need to know about making and sustaining growing beds. Used copies are available online.
Sue Hix of Princeton is into straw bale gardening. This technique uses straw instead of soil, so you could do it anywhere there is sun and easy access to water – even on a concrete driveway. The book she recommends is “Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method” by Joel Karsten. It’s important to use straw, not hay. Bales hold their shape and can be stacked on top of one another to make a taller garden that doesn’t require you to bend down. Hix says this is a great way to grow vegetables – potatoes come out clean! And this would be a fun project to do with kids, she says. But it has to be done properly. If you want to try it, she recommends getting the book and following the steps closely. Bales need to be prepared, so you’ll want to get started as soon as possible.
Hix is a master gardener. After her 30-year career in banking, she decided to pursue her interest in gardening more seriously by taking the course of study offered through the University of Minnesota Extension Service ( This is a terrific program. Here’s what I learned from their website: “2,336 University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener volunteers gave 142,194 hours of service to their communities in 2016. That is an average of 60.9 hours per volunteer and a public value worth more than $3.6 million. These enthusiastic and University-trained volunteers help Minnesotans solve yard and garden problems and make their communities more sustainable, beautiful, knowledgeable and fun!”
We are lucky to have 51 active master gardeners in Sherburne County and 12 in Mille Lacs County.
Are you having trouble getting things to grow in your yard? Hix recommends trying to figure out what plants would grow there naturally. You can have your soil tested. You can also consult reference books such as “Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota” by Welby R. Smith, published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Hix also recommends “Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants,” by Heather Holm, and “Northland Wild Flowers: A Guide for the Minnesota Region” by John B. Moyle and Evelyn W. Moyle.
Thanks to all of you gardeners in Milaca and Princeton who invest your time making our community more fruitful and beautiful. Rudyard Kipling was right: “The glory of the garden glorifieth everyone.”
What’s your favorite gardening book? You can reach me at [email protected]