The garden audience for Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles likely live in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, though anyone who delves into this garden read will come out with eyes considerably wider open.
Written by Jacqueline Soule and published by Cool Springs Press, this soft-cover book is a valuable tool for gardeners in my adopted region of the United States.
Jacqueline Soule writes what she knows: About the plants and how to grow them successfully in the Southwest. The author pulls no punches by recommending the food plants she thinks will give gardeners the best harvests without forcing a land to be what it is not.
For gardeners like myself, who still wears her Midwestern roots on her sleeve, it was a hard life-lesson learning that sandwich-sized tomatoes do not appreciate the low desert environs. Soule offers her readers a tough kind-of unvarnished advice on how to navigate our hardiness zones and the plant varieties which grow best in them.
Descriptive Southwest Growing Regions
Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening takes gardeners well beyond the usual United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Maps for the three states. A table of last and first freeze dates and number of frost-free days is laid out in a sampling of cities from Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Take April, for instance. “It depends where you live in the Southwest,” says Soule. She uses descriptions like Cold Mountains, which starts with cool season crops, and Low Desert, where temperatures are already reaching triple digits and growing warm-season crops like melons, make clear distinctions. Other gardening regions include: Middle Desert, High Desert, and Cool Highlands.
Especially for gardeners new to the area but with experience growing plants elsewhere; the differences can turn one’s head and get you believing you’ve landed in an otherworld.
Soule also addresses the five distinct gardening periods in the Southwest: Winter, Fall, Summer, Spring, and, my personal favorite, Monsoon.
Garden Book Sections in Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening
The garden vegetable and herb sections are each divided into cool season and warm season food plants. The fruit and nut trees section is large enough that it has its own chapter.
“When and Where to Plant” and “Recommended Varieties” are in each of the plant selections and throughout are transitioning tips for going from cool season to warm season, to cool/warm or warm/cool, and back to cool season again.
Narratives on soil types, including what to do with caliche, and integrated pest management (IPM) and genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds are found in the Planning and Planting chapter.
Southwest Botanist and Garden Writer Jacqueline Soule
Jacqueline Soule is a botanist and gardener. She has made her bones on growing plants in the Southwestern United States and, through the years, she has written weekly and monthly columns in “Gardening with Soule.” She is a native of Tucson, Arizona, and a graduate of the University of Arizona in horticulture and botany.
Soule has penned in many garden publications: Two notables are Success With Succulents and Butterfly Gardening in Southern Arizona.
Back of the Garden Book Reference Tools
Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow and Harvest the Best Edibles is a glossy covered soft-backed garden book. In the back of the book, you will find a Glossary of Garden Terms, a Resources List of plant and seed organizations, and an Index of terms and plants.
Cool Springs Press is a trade imprint of Quarto Publishing. The garden book may be found by using ISBN: 978-1-59186-614-5.
Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening is a worthy read for gardeners who want to understand how to grow food plants in Arizona, Nevada or New Mexico. There is enough white space for taking notes, which assuredly will help you to Stay Gardening.