Biz & Books review: ‘The Grumpy Gardener’ is not all fun and geraniums | nnbusinessview.com

Biz & Books review: ‘The Grumpy Gardener’ is not all fun and geraniums

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Special to NNBW

Normally, you'd never allow it.

Holes in your yard? No way! Trenches near your garage? Nuh-uh, except in the spring, when you start thinking about hostas in those holes, tomatoes in the trenches, daisies in the divots. Oh, how you love a garden, and with "The Grumpy Gardener" by Steve Bender, you'll get a shovelful of ideas.

Larry, Mary, Geri, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? If you're frowning now, remember that even the most dedicated, experienced gardener has a dud now and then but there are ways to minimize that. Steve Bender has ideas.

The first thing you'll want to know is your zone, which is not at all new-agey. Growing zones are delineated areas that indicate average low winter temperatures; you'll need to know your zone to know where a plant might thrive or die.

On that last note, you'll find the "Grumpy" in "Grumpy Gardener." There are many garden and landscape plants that Bender wishes would just die. Here, find a list of the Five Most Awful Plants; reasons why you don't want a river birch, cottonwood, or weeping willow in your yard; and why you should never move next door to someone who adores bamboo.

If you hate critters in your garden, learn what bulbs they won't eat, what they like, and how to get rid of pests altogether. Read how to use a chainsaw the Grumpy way, and how to get your plants ready for winter. Find a way to love dandelions and know what not to plant if you have pets. Teach your teens to grow kale, then send them to college with plants that thrive on neglect. Scratch the surface on poison ivy mythology; see why sycamore trees are good if you're a kid; and learn why kudzu could become more than just a weed someday. Get useful lawn ideas, tips on fertilizer use, mulches to avoid, and organic methods to embrace.

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And finally, relax: says Bender, a dying plant is God's way of telling you to try again…

Will silver bells or cockle shells grace your yard this year — or do you struggle to keep the lawn green? Either way, you can't help but laugh about it when you put "The Grumpy Gardener" between those greenish-brown thumbs.

And yet — don't be thinking this is all fun and geraniums. There's humor inside this book, but author Steve Bender is serious about gardening, planting, and caring for greenery. The advice you'll get is sound and useful, including sidebars in a Q-and-A format and chapters on things that may seem only barely garden-related until you need to know them. Also helpful is when Bender recommends alternatives — what to grow, for instance, if your Minnesota rhubarb hates Texas climate — and better ideas to make your garden glow.

Though much of this book is set in Zone 8 (the South), there's still plenty of advice and a few challenges for Northern, Central, and Western gardeners. If that's you and you're itching to plant, get "The Grumpy Gardener." You'll really dig it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind "The Bookworm Sez," a self-syndicated book review column published in more than 260 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. She can be reached for feedback, ideas and links to reviews of books on a broad range topics at http://www.bookwormsez.com.