Book Review: Soil Mates

Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden
by Sara Alway

128 pages
Quirk Books, December 2010
List price: $16.95

If I were to see Soil Mates on a bookstore shelf, it would be the kind of book I’d pick up immediately to leaf through. It’s got a hardcover binding, covered with paper that looks like burlap, with a folk art cover. The size is comfortable (5½ by 7 inches), and inside it has a rainbow of colored pages and more folk art graphics. This book is visually appealing all the way around.

As I began to read it, I first thought that the writing style was clever – the anthropomorphism of vegetables – and it is. But I began to tire of the cuteness of it all as I worked my way through the book. There were times, due to the author trying to be consistent in language style, that I wasn’t sure which vegetables truly were or were not compatible. I guess “Love Triangles” can be confusing, even in the plant world.

Nevertheless, the book is well-organized, presenting 20 pairs of commonly-grown vegetables for companion planting, with tips for growing them. With each pair, there is a recipe using both vegetables, demonstrating that not only do they grow well together in the garden, they go well together in the kitchen, too. At the back of the book, the section titled “Garden Preparation, Planning and Care” is probably the most concise general gardening guide I’ve seen.

Novice and experienced gardeners alike will gain insight into a better way to grow vegetables and will likely be entertained by Alway’s lighthearted approach to a subject that could be mundane. I had to giggle myself when I saw seeds and seedlings listed as “Foreplay.”

Sara Alway is a professor of graphic design who believes in sustainable agriculture. She lives in Ohio, where she tends her own garden of happy soil mates.

Read more garden book reviews

Read Kylee Baumle’s blog, Our Little Acre

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