This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Northern Gardener.
The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden by Karen Newcomb (Ten Speed Press 2015) is an up-to-date revision of her 1975 debut of postage stamp gardening. The author pulls together virtually everything one needs to know to begin growing organic vegetables in tiny to not-so-small gardens.
Newcomb packs a lot into 217 pages on growing ornamental edibles in keeping with her philosophy of packing a lot into small gardens. She includes options for planning, prepping and planting a garden, be it a container up to a 10-foot-by-10-foot bed, and offers 11 sample postage stamp garden layouts.
She explains what ingredients go into a high-yield soil mix and offers her recipe for making your own, as well as seven methods of composting. She describes how to know what plant to put where and when to plant it. And she has advice on watering effectively.
She also explains a rather daunting method of spading virgin soil into a garden plot. Despite her repeated assurances that one only has to do it once, all of the digging and mixing makes her other option (rototilling) sound a lot more attractive.
One third of the book is spent on her suggestions for heirloom vegetables and herbs that she says work the best in her methods. Each recommendation includes season, days to maturity, size, color and sources for seeds but, sadly, no illustrations.
Newcomb’s philosophy is: “Don’t leave bare ground unplanted.” She explains strategies—such as close planting, intercropping, catch cropping and succession planting—that will, she promises, enable a gardener to grow pounds of organic food.