I have been gardening for several years now and can't seem to get any better at it. Seems that every year brings new, unforeseen challenges: if it's not the bad soil, it's the drought, or the rain, or the Mexican bean beetles, or the groundhogs, or the shrivelly disease, or the voles. I keep returning to gardening books for answers, but there are none. Instead they show me beautiful pictures, like this one:
Okay, that's really from the internet, but you get the idea. This is what MY bean plants look like this year, after the heat wave and the Great Slug Massacre of June 5th:
I should have made sure the shot included the beer bottles I left lying around as slug traps -- that would give you a better feel for it.
Most of the gardening books at my store were originally published in England, where the soil is black, moist, and crumbly, and there are no deer. In a dry season, digging my clay soil is like chopping through a city sidewalk. The compost I try to work into it just dries up and blows away. And we have voles: I was watering a zucchini plant the other day and it just sank into the ground and disappeared into some rodent's living room.
All I'm asking for is less fantasy and a little more realism in these gardening books. Maybe it's impossible -- who would garden at all if they knew they'd be going through what I did with my corn crop: waiting and waiting for the weather to warm up, finally planting 250 seeds in the rain, followed by a heart-stopping late frost, daily checking for sprouts, the purchase and installation of two nets to keep the crows from stealing the seeds, and... nothing. Maybe five seedlings came up. Knee high by the Fourth of July my granny's behind!! It was even worse than the last time I tried planting corn in 2004, when crows stole all the seeds and I had to replant, and then the resulting five or six corn cobs tasted terrible, anyway. After all that!
Or more to the point, who would buy a book with pictures of ugly, slug-infested, vole-chewed plants? I would. It would make me feel better.
EDIT: OK, this is John posting here...I just thought I'd add a little something to Rhian's post--a mockup I made of our forthcoming gardening book. What do you think--would you buy it? Click for a larger image--you don't want to miss a single shitty detail.