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Provided by the publisher
"Container Gardening" is by Ian Hodgson.

Folks who are itching to get their hands in the soil to start another year's crop of vegetables and flowers will want to look at these titles, from growing container gardens to turning a much larger piece of land into an edible or aromatic source of pleasure. And there are recipes, too!

"AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDENING TECHNIQUES," edited by David J. Ellis, Fiona Gilsenan, Rita Pelczar and Graham Rice, Mitchell Beazley/Octopus Books, 29.99, 480 pages (nf)

I have a new knows-everything reference for gardening, thanks to this astonishingly useful guide to all things garden. It has beautiful — and comprehensive — illustrations, it's easy to understand, and I can't think of a gardening question it didn't tackle.

It's a complete guide to soil, plants, techniques and tools, with information to fit whatever type of garden you have. Containers? Raised beds? Traditional? No problem. It will even tell you how to grow and enjoy plants in the greenhouse.

The book has a complete section on propagation, so if you have a favorite tree or bush or flower, it explains how to make the most of it. The planting guide and pruning guide are both detailed and comprehensive. Best, it meets you at your skill level, so the beginning gardener can pick it up and get off to a great start or a skilled gardener can flip through and find new ways of doing things, reinforcement for good habits and more.

This is a very sturdy paperback with more than 2,000 illustrations and 200 color photographs. Reading it is almost as enjoyable as gardening itself.

"THE FOUR SEASON FARM GARDENER'S COOKBOOK," by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, Workman Publishing, $22.95, 496 pages (nf)

This book is a seed-to-satisfying-meal treat, unusual in that it is a comprehensive organic gardening guide that then helps the gardener harvest the crop, clean it up and turn it into a sumptuous repast.

It's also a seasonal guide to gardening, covering everything from regular crops to winter gardening, how to help the soil, crop rotation and detailed instructions for various popular vegetables and herbs. It's all about food, and just looking at the pictures made my stomach growl. The photography is beautiful, the details easy to understand, the range exciting. For example, this book tells a novice gardener how to fool roots into thinking it's spring so that you can grow fresh greens in winter.

It also has a section on building a portable greenhouse, saving seeds, vacuuming up garden pests and a lot more. The book is organized in an orderly way that starts with soil and composting, moves you through how to plan and set up the garden, then discusses what you should grow and how to do it.

Ready to go into the kitchen with your bounty? Besides 120 recipes, the book is full of tips for saving time and money while capturing great taste. Best of all, the recipes are easy, but not necessarily ones you'd come up with on your own: Stuffed squash blossom fritters or shell beans with tomatoes and sage. Yum.

Can't wait to dig in. Literally.

"ROCKY MOUNTAIN GARDENER'S HANDBOOK: All You Need to Know to Plan, Plant and Maintain a Rocky Mountain Garden," by Mary Ann Newcomer and John Cretti, Cool Springs Press, $24.99, 272 pages (nf)

Gardeners in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, northern Nevada, Utah and Wyoming are certain to love this beautifully designed guide to great growing in an area that sometimes offers some challenges.

The big trick is figuring out what grows in this region, and the book takes all the guesswork out with valuable summaries. Each of the plants has a "why it's special" section, a simple description of how to plant and grow it, information about its care and problems, as well as a list of colors, peak season, its mature size and water needs. It also tells you all about the light needs, too.

The book is well organized with sections on annuals, a separate chapter on bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes and how to plant and care for them, edible foods, ground covers, lawns, perennials, roses, shrubs, deciduous trees and conifers, vines and more. You can also find a very valuable plant nursery locater, vegetable planting guide and lots of tips, in addition to the individual-plant summaries and their photos.

I particularly appreciated the information on pollinators.

"CONTAINER GARDENING," by Ian Hodgson, Mitchell Beazley, $19.99, 192 pages (nf)

If you think of container gardening as just for flowers or always happening in clay and ceramic pots, you need to broaden your approach. And with this guide, you'll be ready to use barrels, boxes and hanging baskets or even an old boot to house your fruits and vegetables, succulents and more in a number of creative and eye-pleasing ways.

The book's best feature, aside from very pleasing photographs and how-to-sketches, is a complete list of steps to take to achieve your gardening goals, from what to do each season to what to do with a particular type of plant or pot. There are big differences in how you water or harvest or just plain handle different plants.

The book includes ideas for very tiny gardens, how to use containers as a successful accent in a large garden, what actually grows in pots — there are more than 525 different species and varieties of container plants — design ideas and some money-saving tips.

Containers are trickier than one might expect, and this book increases the chance of real success.

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