December 11, 2018

Sneak Peek - My first gardening book is published - Pre-orders are welcome!

My first book - Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening launches on Jan. 1 with pre-orders started already on Amazon looking good. Thanks to all of you who placed orders early. I know the delivery date was originally Dec. 18 but Amazon tells us that it is now the first week of January. Hey, maybe that's a good sign?

You know, for someone who may seem as perpetually busy as a woodchuck I am known to be as lazy as one too. Here it is - three weeks before my book Mastering The Art of Vegetable Gardening ships from Amazon, and I get a call from my publisher (who is thrilled with the presales already - thank God), but who reminded me that I haven't posted any social media about ordering my book on this blog.  You can preorder it here: Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening. Thanks, bunches in advance!

You all deserve a sneak peek of this impressive, hardcover book. Im pretty proud of it (I mean - you never really know how a book is going to end up looking, right?). I wanted a mix of a cookbook that was written by a top chef - that style visually and a nice layout. No, before you ask there are no recipes in this book. I've been surprised with how many people have been asking for that. The cookbook version will need to wait.  I wanted this book to be pulled out to read on a winters evening while planing as a garden or referred to throughout the gardening season as needed. It had to be useful and with correct information. Of course, not everyone will agree with everything in it, but there was a need for a useful book as most, in my opinion, were lacking information that I needed.  I hope that you feel that I achieved that.

I share some family photos of the garden, home and lifestyle in the introduction section. I think this part is important to set a tone and to show what goes on around the garden behind the scenes. Besides, people like these sort of behind the curtain looks.

The book is still packed with step-by-step photos though. I've been growing mesclun since the late 1970's when my parents would buy something called 'Saladisi' - a micro green mix from Europe. I never knew that Mesclun itself is a rather new thing, even though it was common for Italians in the south of Italy to forage for herbs and bitter greens to create a mixed salad with a similar name. Today's commercial version in a poly bag doesn't even come close, but you can mix your own seed - find out how in the book!

You expected lots of varieties and lots of photos, right? I hope that I delivered to your expectations. I mean - how many okra varieties grown in containers is enough for one family? I found out over the past 2 years. So beautiful though, right?

Joe hates eggplant (which is crazy because he is Armenian) but I had to grow as many as I could, and honestly - that was alot. The plants consumed my container gravel garden, the deck and 4 rows in our back 40. No regerts, as the tattoo's say.

Apparently, pre-sale numbers are important in the publishing world - and hey, I 'get it'. But the last type of blogger I want to be is one of those who endlessly push their book on readers telling them how "awesome" it is, followed up by line after line of exclamation marks!!!! PRe-order, or buy after it goes on-sale after Jan. 1, I will appreciate it either way.

My friend (and barber) Juistin Pitts posed as an onion model for me. His tat's are better than mine as he has two sleeves.

Instead, I will do this, as you deserve at the very least to know the facts, and what this book is, and isn't. First of all, if you haven't noticed already, I'm rather fussy about aesthetics, so I tried every trick in the book to get my grimy fingers around the visual design of this book. Surprisingly, my publisher Cool Springs Press was completely open to collaborating (something I have heard horror stories about with some other publishers - though as a past creative director, I understand, as the last thing I would have wanted was some shmuck demanding that I use a certain photo, color or typeface which I didn't like.

I wish my step-by-step photos for how to grow Belgian endive and how to force it made it into the book but at least this one did - a new red variety from Italy. In my talks during my book tour, I will show everything though, as well as on a website.

I first assumed that any publisher would be resistant to working with me as I come with 29 years of graphic design and layout experience - that could drove anyone crazy. But then I felt that I also bring some good skills to, great photos that were all my own, and a good design sense. I sent a pdf of about ten pages that I designed to my publisher, and they ran with it. Sure, there are some things I might have changed, but mostly it's all me, 99.9 perfect.

Some of the step-by-step photos that did make it into the book show you how to grow parsnips, as there are at least four ways to grow them. I practiced even the British method of drilling holes and starting seedlings in root trainers.

Of course, about a third of the 1000 photos I sent in with the manuscript was never used, but the page count was pre-set early on, and while there are less step-by-step photo breakouts than I had hoped for, at least some still made it in. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with what the book designers were able to keep in the book, and while I wanted and was willing to have some copy cut, my editor said that it was too good to cut (maybe he was flattering me, but hey - maybe not?). We did end up cutting a few chapters instead, so no chapter on corn and a few other veggies. Maybe in a second edition?

Celtuce is somewhat new, or at least it is experiencing a re-discovery. I really wanted to show how to grow it by showing step-by-step pictures of my crops as this is the best way to learn the many things that could go wrong. The last thing I wanted to do was to buy some at a store, or show some grown poorly. This principle applies to everything in this book. If I never grew the vegetables before, I would not show it or talk about it. I was fortunate to have access to farmland and materials from a farm in central Mass for artichokes and other crops where I visited most every week, for things that I didn't have room to set out here in properly long rows. This celtuce was grown in the garden next to my greenhouse.

OK, I am rambling here more than Mrs. Maisel, so here is what you will find different about my book.

As I reread the manuscript I can see why they left so much of the copy in the book. Every sentence seems to have some sort-of nugget of information.

Asian melons an gourds are the next hot thing. You heard it here first. My friend Chou's parents who are from Viet Nam live near me and after a delicious meal of shrimp and noodles waiting for the sun to dip behind Worcester Airport I was able to get the perfect fuzzy sillouette on the fuzzy gourd. Our kitchen was full for weeks with bitter melon even this year when we built out own gourd tunnel. Luffa is so delicious when immature, I have no idea why we all are not growing it.

My goal with this book was to actually write a book that would be useful, over and over again. Need to know the best germination temperature for eggplant or lettuce? It's here. Ever wonder what the exact fertility ratio is proper for giant onions? It's here, even if you dare never use 30% urea, it's still helpful to know what an onion wants if you are looking for an organic alternative.

I didn't have enough room to grow all of the squashes I wanted, so I begged friends to loan me their gardens or farms where I could plant seedlings, or could camp out for the perfect shot when the sun was setting.  Thanks, Mike, Darrell, Chou, and Steve for dealing with runaway vines, muddy photoshoots or me leaving random squashes on your front steps, or letting me raid your parents bitter melon extravaganza with photo equipment. The last thing I wanted to do was to just go buy photo props at a farm stand in the fall.

What isn't in this book are novelty growing methods. Nothing against lasagna gardenings, hay bale methods, compost tea recipes or folk remedies, myths or even upside down tomato plants.  You would have a problem trying to find posts or books about those. What you will find in here is why that flat of Brussel's sprouts that you bought at the garden center never seemed to head-up, or why your radishes have tiny wormholes in them, and what you can do organically about eliminating them.

I outline the many benefits of proper fertility, not shying away from chemical fertilizer (the blue kind) for some crops as the truth is, some fast-growing crops require quick access to nutrients. For all, however, I offer both organic and inorganic solutions. Gardening is a science, remember. I leave it to you to decide what you are comfortable using. I promote no use of insecticides, however. Those nasty bugs need to be outsmarted, so there are ways to do that.

You will also learn about some newer veggies perhaps. I grew 36 varieties of eggplant and 14 varieties of Okra for this book. I forced endives, grew exhibition sized parsnips three ways and far more fava beans than any human would ever need, not to mention row after row of various peas, beans and limas. Of course, not everything is in here, but it does share the newest research, and I did the hard work of proof-checking through loads of misinformation out on the internet. Talk about fake news! Naturally, there is more than one way to do anything, as it is with cooking, but as with baking, there is usually the best way, and then one customizes down from that. Celery, for example, is extremely difficult to grow for many people, but with a few tweaks, one can do it.

Interested in growing French melons or watermelons? You can, because I did. Sure, they have exact requirements and not everyone can have success, but it will be helpful to know what they require.

I also shared vegetables that I think you really should try growing, especially as an autumn crop such as these Tokyo Cross white turnips.

All sorts of bits of information are in my book, along with fun stories, fascinating historical perspective for each veg featured and guidelines for how to start from seed, when to sow for each season and even what varieties are better in the kitchen for flavor or yields.

Once again, here is the link to my Amazon page where you can order the book now for less than $19.99 before it ships in early January. I thank you all in advance for staying with me on this blog journey since 2006, and for supporting my passion. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy Holidays. If you do order the book and love (or even hate it)

Lastly, I was so honored to have Roger Swain from PBS's The Victory Garden tell me that he was a huge blog follower and that he was very supportive of my work. My hero, as I grew up watchin him every Saturday.


  1. I pre-ordered the other day...sort of as a gift for my husband but also really for me. ;) Looking forward to reading it!

  2. hodges_ca@mercer.edu8:38 AM

    Ordering it now. Really enjoy your blog.

  3. Hello Matt. I pre ordered it on Amazon on Nov, 12th and I expect it to be the 1st one delivered to France! :)
    It is estimated on Dec, 19th... I can't wait!
    I'm not really into vegetables gardening now, more into flowers actually. But that's how I support your blog and your work.
    Have a good one

  4. Hello,

    It seems your gardening book will be resourceful. I am also planning to order one. I am fan of Vegetable gardening.


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