New book looks at gardening through the year

By: Gloria Young,
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"The Seasoned Gardener"


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Grass Valley author and columnist Carolyn Singer is the go-to source for deer resistant gardening, with two books on the  topic. Her latest book, “The Seasoned Gardener – Five Decades of Sustainable and Practical Garden Wisdom” showcases her encyclopedic knowledge of gardening garnered through years of testing and cataloging plants.
The idea for the book came about as an opportunity to expand on many of the themes in her newspaper columns.
“I wanted to be able to put in sidebars and I wanted to be able to add activities for a particular month — not a calendar of things people had to do, but more of activities — things that are happening in the month,” she said.
The book takes the reader on a month-by-month, season-by season, tour of gardening. There are plant descriptions, problem solving, practical suggestions, anecdotes — and even a little family history along the way. There are also two plant indices and an appendix.
“I went back six or seven years,” Singer said. “I rewrote a lot of columns, not just expanding them, but writing more.”
As she began planning she also “outlined columns that I had not yet written that I wanted to see in the book,” she said.
The book is based on the foothills climate — Zone 7 — but the advice is applicable to gardening nationwide — except for possibly tropical areas.
“(Readers) can expect to find details about gardening — details based on my personal experience and the experience of other gardeners I’ve spoken with,” she said. “There’s a personal touch to the book. I’m quick to point out things I’ve tried that didn’t work. The book is real. It is based on real experience over many years and it deals with specific information.”
For example, the chapter on garlic “is everything you need to know to grow garlic successfully,” she said.
A recurring theme  is sustainability and habitat preservation.
“I had learned through UC Davis that UC Davis and UC Berkeley are examining native bees and how habitat destruction has had an impact,” Singer said. “That occurs in many ways — development and even agriculture — because we want a big field of whatever and we don’t think that part of the habitat might need a pollinator.
“While working on the book, I did more research on pollination from native bees. I’ve always been an advocate of having healthy gardens, so you don’t disrupt bees. There are 1,200 species of native bees in California. That’s a huge number. That’s a great diversity of species. ... If all of them are pollinating crops, for home gardeners and on a larger scale, it is critically important that we keep things healthy for them.”
Another sustainability topic in the book — and one that is close to Singer’s heart — is using fall leaves to replenish the soil rather than burning them.
“We still have too many people who pile up the leaves the burn them,” she said.
And she encourages the use of straw bales (hay or oat, not rice) this time of year for eco-friendly gardening.
“Let (the straw) stay in the bales and the seeds sprout,” she explained, “It produces excellent mulching material for the spring garden.”
The book is written for everyone who gardens — beginners to experts.
“(My goal is) that the beginning gardeners would open the book and feel comfortable with my writing because when they come to trust the information, they’ll try a few things and go from there,” she said. “I also feel that the experienced gardener can go to it and find information they may not have known.”
As with her previous books, this one is also self-published through her Garden Wisdom Press.
“The book has been a joy to work on,” she said. “It has been a huge project but it is so satisfying. ... I have a huge amount of support and it is so wonderful.”
Fellow gardener and wildflower enthusiast Julie Carville highly recommends Singer’s latest endeavor.
“I’m thrilled by ‘The Seasoned Gardener,’ she said in an email. “The beauty of Carolyn’s design, the richness of her photographs, the depth of her knowledge and the playfulness of her writing have all combined to create a ‘gardening journey through the seasons’ to treasure for a lifetime.”    
Now that the book is written and published,  Singer is looking ahead to more writing projects.
“One would be volume three of deer-resistant gardening,” she said. “I may expand a little (on the topic) or have it be a broader gardening book. It would still be an encyclopedia of plants and trees, but I may not call it volume three. .. (Work on that) won’t be this year.”
A second writing project takes her away from gardening.
“I’m working on a book about my grandmother who published a book in 1904 called ‘Stigma,’” Singer said. “It was about the treatment of African Americans after the Civil War. She lived in the South and came to California and wrote this book. I’ve been researching her life for about 20 years and I have enough material to write about what her life was like.”
Singer grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Grass Valley area for 35 years. When she’s not researching, writing or gardening, she does a lot of public speaking, gives classes and is a garden design consultant.
The book is available at local garden centers including Eisley Nursery in Auburn or online at
Reach Gloria Young at