Home & Garden

Veggie Garden Remix – Nikki Jabbour

5 stars

Just in time to start planning my 2018 garden, I found Nikki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix. An inspiring book full of ideas that will excite gardeners at every experience level.


Cover from Goodreads


From the publisher:

Best-selling author Niki Jabbour invites you to shake up your vegetable garden with an intriguing array of 224 plants from around the world. With her lively “Like this? Then try this!” approach, Jabbour encourages you to start with what you know and expand your repertoire to try related plants, many of which are delicacies in other cultures. Jabbour presents detailed growing information for each plant, along with fun facts and plant history. Be prepared to have your mind expanded and catch Jabbour’s contagious enthusiasm for experimentation and fun in the garden.

I’ll be upfront about the fact that I am not an experienced gardener. My garden this year will be my first attempt at anything bigger than a single pot of lettuce and a tomato plant. But I haven’t been inspired by traditional veggies. My husband and I don’t enjoy eating a lot of the traditional vegetables such as squashes and zucchini. Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix is a wonderful compendium of alternative options for us to grow. I’m excited about my garden this year.

I love the way Jabbour organizes this book as well. It’s set up in easy to browse “If you like this, try these other options” sections so you can quickly jump directly to tomato alternatives or squash alternatives. In each section, she helpfully gives you a rundown of the pros, cons and other “good to know” facts about the plants she’s recommending. As a beginning gardener, I found her photos of the plants in different maturity stages to be incredibly helpful. I like to know what I’m looking for in a ripe fruit.

Many of the alternative fruits and veggie’s Jabbour is recommending are heirloom varieties or ethnic varietals from far-flung parts of the world. Japanese squashes, Mexican and Armenian cucumbers and Egyptian beans are just a few of the fun and funky plants Jabbour profiles in this accessible, easy to read book.

Nikki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix hits shelves February 6, 2018 and is a must-have for any gardener looking to do something new in the dirt this year.

I received an eARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Home & Garden · Nonfiction

Our Native Bees – Paige Embry

5 stars

There’s so much more to the story than honey bees. In the last few years, at least for me, bees have been in the news more and more frequently. Bees dying! We’re all going to starve! No one knows how to stop colony collapse! Mites, fungus, and disease – oh my! And then, on the edges, I started hearing about mason bees. And then leafcutter bees. And then suddenly I owned a house, and keeping bees was suddenly something I could explore for more than just curiosity’s sake.

Cover image from Goodreads

Our Native Bees by Paige Embry is a thoughtful introduction to some of the 4,000 bees native to the United States. Embry’s wry sense of humor and storytelling keeps this book from being a dry textbook recounting of bee facts and instead is an engaging book that will endear our tiny neighbors to anyone with a passing interest in our most efficient pollinators.

Embry’s book is full of anecdotes of bee hunting adventures and stunning photographs. From likely-extinct Franklin’s bumblebee to blue orchard bees, and even the ubiquitous European honey bee, Embry profiles the different species in such a way that I can’t help but want to install a mason bee house in my backyard as soon as the weather is appropriate.

In a wondrous turn of luck, Embry lives in Seattle, where I also live, so her personal beekeeping anecdotes are applicable directly to me, and where I live. In her section about blue orchard bees (also called mason bees), Embry references Crown Bees, a company based in Woodinville Washington, just across Lake Washington from Seattle, and a company I’m already familiar with. Crown Bees is the company that kicked off my interest in mason and leafcutter bees, and where I intend to purchase my cocoons and supplies from this spring.

Along with profiling the different bees, Embry also outlines the many challenges facing our bees – natural and manmade.

A fascinating read for gardeners and bee enthusiasts alike, Our Native Bees is on sale February 7 from Timber Press.

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Home & Garden

The Backyard Gardener – Kelly Orzel

I received an e-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my unbiased review. 

4 Stars

I recently bought my first house and it just so happens to have raised garden boxes already. So when I saw this book pop up on NetGalley, I thought, “What timing!” and requested the ARC.

In reading this book, I learned a lot about gardening – soil, plants, bugs, additives, tools, etc. I did end up spending a lot of time looking up new terms. “What is a cucurbit?” From a technical writing background and a beginner’s standpoint, I wanted the author to define terms to me in the text or as sidebars. She did occasionally define a term, and often when she did she’d repeat the definition more than once.

Definitions aside, this was a great book with a lot of useful information. I wouldn’t recommend it for casual reading, but if you’re planning to have a garden for the first time, it’s a great place to start and keep as a reference. I really loved the monthly “garden checklists” the author included at the end. It’s helpful to have a monthly guide. As soon as I’m done tearing back the overgrowth, I’ll be using them to help me plan my garden.

If I could ask for one other thing, it would have been sample garden plans. For example, if you have just one box, here’s what to grow together; if you have two boxes, grow these; and so forth. She describes in the book what kinds of plants grow together, but it’s still overwhelming to try to pull all that information out of the book and build an actual garden plan for the first time. 

A version of this review first appeared on Goodreads on April 5, 2017.