The first chapter of this book had me going "oh dear," with the idea this would be two stars. Nina Greene, the author, starts by talking about sun exposure and where to put your garden. She basically dismisses areas that have less than six hours of sun or southern exposure, mentioning you might try ferns, wild flowers or begonias. There are entire books dedicated to shade gardening, it can be a lovely experience with lily of the valley, Ivies, gingers, hostas, just to name a few off the top of my head. She says not to plant under trees, that can be true, or not. Again, there are plants that like a nice filtered light. My shrimp plants, ivy, and gingers all enjoy the filtering light of the tree. And a true tree that you can't grow stuff under, very dense trees like walnut, are perfect places to put a bench, a bird bath, and hang a bird feeder. The birds nesting in the limbs will appreciate it and you don't have to worry about the seeds scattering and growing ugly weedy sprouts all over.
then she goes on to say don't plant in rocky soil or standing water. Again, there are plants who like both. So we were off to a rocky start, but I persevered and discovered a really helpful little book once past the first chapter.
Chapter two is prepping the sight and it could have been more in depth, talk of soil conditioners and composting would have been good, but it wasn't a bad start
Chapter 3, tools and supplies, very good start up for the basic starting gardener.
chapter 4: how to navigate a garden center, hey, now we're getting into some good stuff, glad I read on after chapter one. I do wish she'd talked more about local nurseries. Big box chains can have some great deals but they also sell plants inappropriate for the zone they are in, since most stores get the same truck loads of items. A local nursery, especially for a beginner, is a treasure trove of local plants and local staff knowledge.
Chapter 5- how to read a seed packet. Simply brilliant and helpful for the beginner gardener. It mentions zone, which she hasn't yet, but she does later on
Chapter 6- she continues with seed gardening, sowing or starting indoors. This one could have used more detail but it was a nice little overview
chapter 7- How to read a plant tag, back to brilliant, great chapter
chapter 8- How to choose a healthy plant- this cannot be overstated for success. A lot of good info in this chapter
Chapter 9-How to read a hardiness zone map with a link to the usda gov site. Her own chapter is a paragraph, could be a lot better, not just saying climate is important but discussing why Arizona and Florida might both be zone 9 but one is humid and one is dry and why that is an issue. The usda site is a good start but google zone information and read more on this one
Chapter 10- how to read a fertilizer label. At least she tells us it's important, but the info is scant. She says how to read it but not so much what the information means. Could use a lot more detail here.
Chapter 11- how to improve garden soil, lacking detail, very brief overview
Chapter 12-watering, good basic info
Chapters 13-18 is on the plants themselves, annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs, trees, fruits and vegetables. Lots of good basic information to get started with, though not a lot of specifics on the plants themselves. Still, it will give the beginner a good overview and they can discuss with the nursery what sort of plants they want if they want, say, bulbs with red flowers.
This is right between a 3 and 4 for me, I wish we could do halfsies because this is a solid 3 1/2. Lots of good information in certain chapters, others are to brief and will need the garden beginner to find other sources for more detail. Still, I would recommend this book based on a few of the chapters like reading a seed packet and plant label and choosing healthy plants.