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Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening

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Step into the garden with writer and rural historian Jerry Apps. In this treasure trove of tips, recollections, and recipes, Jerry combines his hard-earned advice for garden success with a discussion of how tending a garden leads to a deeper understanding of nature and the land. From planning and planting to fending off critters and weeds, he walks us through the gardening year, imbuing his story with humor and passion and once again reminding us that working even a small piece of land provides many rewards.

Gardening has always been a group endeavor for the Apps family. In Garden Wisdom, readers will learn gardening basics along with Jerry’s grandchildren as they become a new generation of gardeners. They’ll devour Ruth’s recipes for preparing and preserving fresh garden veggies—from refrigerator pickles to rutabaga pudding. And they’ll savor son Steve’s beautiful color photographs, capturing the bounty of the family garden throughout the growing season.


 “Jerry Apps has tapped into the wisdom of five generations of family—from his grandparents to his grandchildren—to create a richly personal and practical guide to growing, storing, and using foodstuffs in the Badger State. This is a wonderful book for all Wisconsin gardeners.” (Jerry Minnich, author of The Wisconsin Garden Guide and The Rodale Book of Composting)

“Jerry Apps sets the stage and draws readers in for a crop-by-crop, season-by-season saga as old as home vegetable gardening itself. He weaves the tale using the perfect balance of experience, folklore, and science. The UW Extension background of this husband and wife team lends added credibility to their gardening methods and recipes alike. In the end you feel more a part of the society of gardeners everywhere and a little bit a part of the Apps family.” (Sharon Morrissey, UW Extension Consumer Horticulture Agent and cohost of Milwaukee FOX6-TV’s Wake-up News gardening segments)

"Jerry Apps (emeritus, Coll. of Agricultural & Life Sciences, Univ.of Wisconsin-Madison; Every Farm Tells a Story) has gardened for 60 years, both in the country and in town. Here he intertwines his reminiscences of growing up on a Wisconsin farm with practical information on growing vegetables and some fruits. He covers starting a vegetable garden, dealing with pests, growing specific vegetables and fruits, harvesting the produce, and eating and preserving the harvest. The book includes basic, easy-to-follow garden and fruit recipes from his wife, Ruth, and their son Steve’s (chief photographer, Wisconsin State Journal) images. Whether sharing boyhood memories, the times he spent gardening with his children and grandchildren, or his knowledge of growing vegetables and fruits, Apps combines memoir, useful information, and gardening philosophy with warmth and humor. Verdict: This is an enjoyable book that will be savored by vegetable gardeners with their own memories. Beginning gardeners in need of the complete basics will be better served by a full guide such as Edward C. Smith’s tenth-anniversary edition of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible".—(Sue O’ Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL Library Journal) Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, December 16, 2011

"Rural historian Apps (Barns of Wisconsin) continues his chronicling of rural life with a folksy memoir of his six decades of vegetable gardening. The material is arranged to follow the growing season and includes some growing tips and advice on preserving and cooking the garden’s bounty, but it is not a methodical how-to guide for the novice. For him, the garden is a place of “mystery, awe, anticipation, patience, surprise, disappointment, and elation.” The terrain will be familiar to readers of gardening memoirs, but those who have also grown to love the slow rhythms and quiet satisfactions of growing one’s own food will enjoy the company of his recollections. The collection is filled with humorous anecdotes and quiet observations of the cycle of life in the humble vegetable patch—plus an unexpected recipe for sorghum cookies. The pleasures he discovers in the garden come through on each page. 65 color and b&w photos and illus".

"Want to know how to transplant tomatoes, hoe a row of rutabaga, or put up a peck of pickled peppers? There’s an Apps for that! Having spent a lifetime growing all manner of vegetables at various farms and homesteads across his native Wisconsin, Apps has accumulated a wealth of practical information based on personal experience that can benefit vegetable gardeners everywhere. Although it includes helpful chapters on planning, planting, and even preserving a hearty vegetable harvest, this is less of a traditional how-to gardening manual and more of a treasured garden memoir, as Apps fondly recalls halcyon days spent gardening beside self-taught grandparents and parents and extols the rewards of sharing this handed-down wisdom with his own children and grandchildren. Along with engaging tidbits of historical lore about everything from brussels sprouts to zucchini, Apps shares his wife Ruth’s recipes for delectable treats such as Rhubarb Cream Pie and Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake. As informative as it is entertaining, Apps’ heartfelt chronicle transforms the standard gardening guidebook into a deeply personal appreciation for nature’s bounty".— Carol Haggas

Jerry Apps grew up with gardening parents, has planted a garden nearly every year of his life, and his children have developed a love for the earthly experience as well. In "Garden Wisdom" he shares his plentiful knowledge of the craft. In the first section, "Gardening Roots," Apps reflects on his own early experiences, in "Planning and Planting" he offers advice on everything from where, when, and what to plant to harvesting and keeping out the critters, and in "Enjoying the Harvest" he provides unique recipes he has created from his own crop, such as rhubarb cream pie, orange zucchini cake, and tomoto-stuffed peppers. For anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of harvesting vegetables and fruit or for those looking to hone their green thumb, "Garden Wisdom" details the simple joys of home gardening.

My afternoons this winter were spent reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series with the kiddos. I have to admit that Farmer Boy is one of my favorites. It speaks of her husband Almonzo’s childhood on the farm and provides detailed descriptions on how they planted, harvested, and ate the good things they grew. Jerry Apps’ Garden Wisdom is the adult version of Farmer Boy and inspires its readers to “go for it!” and enjoy the work and rewards of vegetable gardening for themselves.

Garden Wisdom is written in three parts. The first section describes the author’s heritage and experience with farming and gardening. Jerry Apps is a third generation farmer as well as a professor of Agriculture in Wisconsin. Apps draws a great picture of growing up on his parents’ farm, which taught him more practical gardening wisdom (or the art of gardening, as he calls it) than any text in his college experience.

The second part of Garden Wisdom speaks of planning and planting your garden. Apps gives a very personal touch to the “how to’s” that show a welcoming and relaxed personality. He clearly shows, and passes along, his passion and enjoyment of the entire process.

The final section of Garden Wisdom, however, is probably my favorite. Apps breaks the chapters into sections of what to harvest when and how, a bit of history concerning the vegetable, and some of the nutritional value of each. It also includes many recipes to show you what to do with the wonderful foods you have planned, grown, harvested, and are ready to enjoy.

As reading Farmer Boy always seems to do for me, Garden Wisdom is a great inspiration to get outside and get moving on this year’s garden… especially now that I have a bit more garden wisdom! - Alyssa Katanic




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Last updated: 08/01/2017 09:18 PM CST