Great Gardening Books, Garden Planning, and the Fight Against GMOs Continues

Reader Contribution by Ira Wallace
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Winter is finally here, bringing the kind of chilly days when all I want to do is curl up in a warm corner with a stack of catalogs or a good garden book.  The two top picks on my new book list haven’t been released yet officially.  I had the pleasure of reading a review copy of Pam Dawling’s Sustainable Market Farming. Don’t be put off by the “Farming” in the title: this book has something to offer anyone serious about food production. The book is well organized and easy to read for the beginner, but detailed enough to be a useful reference for experienced growers who want to bring a variety of healthy fresh delicious food to market year-round.  What really gets me excited about Sustainable Market Farming is finally having details and examples from the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. 

The other book I am anxiously awaiting is The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach of, one of the best garden blogs I’ve read. Even though Margaret gardens way up north, her blog never fails to amuse, educate, and inspire me. You don’t have to wait until the book is released January 15th to read an excerpt and see if you love her brand of ‘horticultural how-to and woo-woo’ as much as I do.

Cold weather and Christmas signal it’s time to get serious about garden planning and seed ordering. I finished inventorying and evaluating the vigor of the seeds we are carrying for our trial gardens. If you aren’t sure about old seed, just do a Quick and Easy Seed Germination Test.Mother Earth News contributing editor Vickie Mattorn has also posted a good introduction to home germination testing.

Speaking of germinating old seeds, I just found out that my “kibbutz mother” and mentor from 25 years ago, desert botanist Dr. Elaine Solowey germinated 2000 year old date palm seed and grew the tree known worldwide as Methuselah. It was so excited when we were reunited recently via email to learn her research covers a wide range of subjects from the study of endangered medicinal herbs to the search for plants that can be grown in marginal and arid areas using underutilized water resources (for the production of ethanol or biodiesel) — from the study of biblical plants native to southern Israel and Jordan to her ongoing research for crops suitable for arid and saline lands. Elaine has two books available on the Amazon that I have just read Small Steps Towards Abundance: Crops for a More Sustainable Agriculture and Growing Bread on Trees: The Case for Perennial Agriculture.  I am looking forward to staying in touch with Elaine and learning from her about finding the right plant for where you are. From a small orchard of biblical trees that she tended and studied 30 years ago, groves of hundreds of trees thrive in the desert with little supplemental watering.

The next steps of  figuring out what you would like to plant, when it should be planted and harvested, arranging for succession sowing, when to do your summer planting for an abundant fall and winter harvest is so much easier with the new Garden Planner tools available online: Mother Earth News Vegetable Garden Planner and Southern Exposure Vegetable Garden Planner. Just enter your ZIP code to get started with your first and last frost date.  When you use the planner information about plant spacing, planting, how long the crop will be in the ground and more is just a click away. The best part is you can try the planner out free for 30 days to decide if you like it. You can even sign up for twice a month reminders of what to plant and harvest.

For gardeners who prefer to use pencil and paper, the Growing Guide and Resources section at offers a Beginners Growing Guide, planting dates guide, and information on succession planting to help with mapping your plot and scheduling your plantings.  Barbara Pleasant’s Starter Gardens is an excellent book that can help a beginner plan and grow their first garden easily and successfully.

Thinking about the wonderful fresh organic vegetables we’ll get from our gardens is a good segue to the continuing fight to protect our seed supply against GMO contamination. We need your support when the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., hears the Appeal of the Dismissal in Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto at 10am on Thursday, January 10, 2013. The lawsuit was originally filed in Federal District Court, Southern District of New York, in March 2011. 

Wood Prairie Farm reports in Ag Professional, Court sets date for hearing of lawsuit against Monsanto: Lawyers from the “Public Patent Foundation are providing their legal services to the farmers pro bono. Plaintiff lawyer Dan Ravicher asked Monsanto for a binding legal covenant guaranteeing family farmers that they would not be pursued for patent infringement should they become contaminated by Monsanto seed. Monsanto refused to provide this assurance to the farmers.” The lawsuit is to protect farmers’ right to be free of the fear of GMO contamination and ensuing legal problems.

Avery Yale Kamila reports in the article Maine farmers, others have court date to refute Monsanto ruling, “The trade association is raising money to enable its member farmers to go to Washington, D.C., to hear the oral arguments in January. During oral arguments this year in New York, 60 farmers from more than 20 states and Canadian provinces filled the courtroom.” You can help by contributing to the travel fund or joining in the respectful demonstrations of support outside the district court building on January 10th in D.C.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing and cooking.

Ira Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm, home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange,where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+ varieties of non-GMO, open-pollinated, and organic seeds. Ira is a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs and many other eventsthroughout the Southeast. Her first book, “The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast” will be available in early 2014.