Q&A with Lee Reich, author of The Ever Curious Gardener

By Shelley Pierce | April 14, 2019
by Shelley Pierce
April 14, 2019

Lee Reich PhD, dove into gardening decades ago, initially with one foot in academia as an agricultural scientist with the USDA and then Cornell University, and one foot in the field, the organic field. He eventually expanded his field to a “farmden” (more than a garden, less than a farm) and left academia to lecture, consult, and write. He is author of many books including Weedless GardeningThe Pruning Book, and Landscaping with Fruitas well as a syndicated column for Associated Press. In his latest book “The Ever Curious Gardener” Reich helps gardeners who seek to understand the science behind all things gardening. Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies from New Society Publishing!

Tell us about your experience in the gardening world and how those experiences contributed to this book.

I came from suburbia without any gardening or agricultural background. But in my early 20s I dove into gardening, entering graduate school in soil science and horticulture and gardening like a mad man. I went on with one foot in academia, working as an agricultural scientist with the USDA and Cornell University, and one foot in the field, the organic field. Eventually, my garden was expanded to a farmden (more than a garden, less than a farm) and I left academia to lecture (garden clubs, master gardener conferences, flower and garden shows, botanical garden symposia, and USDA conferences), consult, and write. My academic underpinnings, and an appreciation for natural systems, continues to underpin what I do with the soil and my plants.

How does this book make for a better gardener and a more resilient gardener?

Knowing what’s going on “behind the scenes” in the soil and your plants lets you know just what to do under changing conditions, whether the change is the environment of your garden or you re-locate to a new garden. Even how to adjust for, say, a wetter summer or a colder winter.

Given that you are an ever curious gardener, what new surprising things have you learned since the writing of this book?

I began thinking about this book and jotting down words many years ago. I learned many things as I researched and wrote but it was over the course of such a long time period, it’s hard to remember what I didn’t know before writing.

What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration for this book came to me one day as I was piling scythed meadow hay and horse manure, along with old vegetable plants and sprinklings of soil and dolomitic limestone, into one of my compost bins. I realized that what I was adding to the pile and how much of each ingredient, even how I fluffed them up or patted them down with my pitchfork, and then watered, all reflected what I had learned over the past 40-plus years of gardening. My classrooms have included actual classrooms; gleanings from magazines, books, and scientific journals; conversations with other gardeners and agricultural scientists; and (most importantly) the garden itself.

When you receive feedback about your book, what do your readers say are some of the biggest mind blowing factoids they uncovered as they read your book?

The way cold can stimulate seeds to grow. The way merely bending the branch of a fruit tree can influence the growth and fruitfulness of that branch.

Sometimes, books based on the science of anything can run the risk of being boring. How do you keep things light and fun and keep your readers engaged?

With some humor and, I hope, my particular writing style. Sub-headings in each chapter lend the sections a humorous twist, something I borrowed from Henry Fielding’s “Tom Jones.” Not a source of borrowing for most gardening books!

I’m sure there is more science to be revealed in the world of gardening. Are any book sequels in the works?

I’m still in recovery.

Enter to win one of two copies of The Ever Curious Gardener!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight (EST) on Sunday, April 21, 2019 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

When it comes to gardening, what are you most curious about?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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