Top critical review
Be sure this is the book you want!
December 30, 2013
I thought this book would be focused solely on companion planting and based on the title, assumed it would be primarily for vegetable gardening. For reference, the section on vegetables is 23 pages, the section on herbs is 21 pages. Later in the book there is a section on garden techniques (12 pages) which provides some additional information on companion planting for vegetables, and there is a nice 3-page summary of companion plants (and competitor plants) at the back. The remaining ~140 pages cover wild plants, grasses, grains and field crops, home fruit growing, nuts, ornamental trees & shrubs, soil improvement, pest control, poisonous plants, and garden plans.
My overall comment is that the vegetable and herb sections are short, and in a few cases doesn't deliver the information I'm interested in. For example, the section on peppers lists all the different varieties of peppers, but fails to mention which companion plants peppers prefer. The section on peppers also describes the history of Chiles and some useful "tips" such as "Chiles serve as a natural meat preservative by retarding the oxidation of fats" which seem irrelevant to the subject matter (more interesting tidbits are scattered throughout the book). Another example is squash, which focuses on tips for planting, insect treatment and when to harvest. There is no information on companion planting (the three sisters of native american agriculture - maize/squash/beans would be the obvious one!). Also, when a section does discuss companion plants, text is often restricted to comments such as "cauliflower does not like tomatoes or strawberries". It would be nice to know why - e.g., do the plants compete for the same nutrients, do they attract certain pests, or ??? In general, for many of the other species, there is interesting information on companion planting and dealing with insects, and some general gardening tips, but I supposed I was looking for something a little more focused.
Now, all of that said - it's an ok book if you are interested in all sorts of miscellaneous facts and trivia woven throughout the subject matter, and are interested in a scope beyond vegetables and herbs. Did you know that wheat is suppressed by the roots of cherry trees, but potatoes grown in the vicinity are less resistant to blight? Rabbits can be repelled from young trees by painting animal fat on them? Tansy is thought to be poisonous to cattle? This book seems to me an accounting of the author's years of accumulated wisdom, loosely under the umbrella of companion planting, but with all sorts of additional information interspersed ad-hoc within its pages. You can get what you need (and learn some things you probably wouldn't otherwise know), but you need to be interested in the style of the book and willing to dig to find the information you want.
I'll keep the book because it seems like an interesting read, but it certainly wasn't what I was hoping for based on the title.