Book review: "Vegetable Gardening in the Mountain States"

by Susan Mulvihill

I’m always on the lookout for helpful, new gardening books and have found a good one for experienced and aspiring veggie gardeners alike.

“Vegetable Gardening in the Mountain States” (Timber Press, 224 pp., $19.95), written by Mary Ann Newcomer, was published earlier this year.

But don’t let that reference to the mountain states put you off! This book covers the intermountain west, which includes Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, northern Nevada, eastern Washington (ah, there we are!) and eastern Oregon.

After covering the features of, and weather variations in, each of the above regions, the author
discusses the various aspects of vegetable gardening that we need to know: watering methods, soil types, organic practices and how to sow seeds.

The following chapter is all about planning for your garden: choosing an ideal site, why it’s important to rotate crops, and the best plant supports for tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Mary Ann is a strong proponent of planning ahead and emphasizes the importance of not planting more veggies than your garden can support. An important lesson for all of us, right?

From there, she proceeds into a month-by-month to-do section which makes it easy to stay on task throughout the year. She divides the tasks by climate zone, so it doesn’t matter whether you live in zone 3 or zone 7 -- you’ll know what to do and when.

Throughout the calendar section, there are reminders for new gardeners to be wary of the changeable spring weather this region is known for. The author recommends keeping a journal, especially about weather-related dates and events that affect one’s garden.

There are also many interesting tips sprinkled throughout the book. While reading it, I learned how to pre-warm the soil in spring, ways to deal with earwigs and slugs organically, and how to make organic manure tea.

Other useful information includes reminders to pick vegetables regularly so they continue to produce, when and how to harvest garlic, how to store the last of the veggies in fall, and how to save seeds.

In her “Edibles from A to Z” section, Mary Ann covers the most important information on growing and harvesting over 30 popular vegetables, herbs and berries, and makes variety recommendations to boot. There are also planting and harvesting charts for zones 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and zone 7.

I recently met Mary Ann while she was in Spokane for a speaking engagement and discovered her delightful sense of humor, which is evident throughout the book.  While there aren’t any photos in it, readers won’t miss them because the text is so engaging.

I think “Vegetable Gardening in the Mountain States” would be ideal for new vegetable gardeners -- especially for the timing of tasks -- or those who have moved here from warmer climates and are trying to get the hang of gardening in such a different region. But for those of us who have grown veggies for a long time, she demonstrates that you can teach old dogs new tricks!