Coastal and Tropical South
The Soil Food Web
Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels (Timber Press, 2006; $24.95), is the most important garden book written in decades. Believe me on this one, as I have read scores of them. In clear, concise, incredibly well-researched text, Jeff explains what works for growing healthy plants and why the soil food web is the gardener's best friend. While organic practitioners have always been able to demonstrate how beneficial it is to continually replenish the soil, the electron microscope has revealed exactly what's going on in the soil. Jeff is the longest-running garden newspaper columnist in the U.S., a Harvard lawyer who gardens in Alaska. His remarkable ability to communicate makes the dry material quite readable, and the rest a pure pleasure.
Favorite or New Plant
Oak Leaf Lettuce
If you never could understand why people want their lettuce to be different colors, or if you're tired of mesclun, try oak leaf lettuce. It is simply the easiest, 50-day (from transplanting) lettuce in the rack. Light green, velvety leaves, delicious taste, and enough integrity to put on a sandwich, oak leaf is reliably heat tolerant and no more prone to pests than other greens. It grows about 8 inches tall and forms a loose head. You'll recognize the youngest sprouts -- they're one of many lettuces included in mesclun mixes.