Harmony in the Garden Blog

The Heirloom Life Gardener – Book Review

A few weeks ago the folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company asked if I’d like to review a copy of their new book The Heirloom Life Gardener, by Jere and Emilee Gettle (227 pages, Hyperion, 2011.  List Price $29.99)

I was excited to read this book because even though I’m a passionate gardener and garden designer, I’ve never really been all that into growing edibles from seeds.  That’s just not my thing – I much prefer to buy my produce from my local farmer’s market!

However, I’ve been receiving their gorgeous Baker Creek Heirloom catalog for awhile now and have always drooled over their photos and descriptions, and after finding out they’re the same folks behind the even more gorgeous Comstock, Ferre & Co seed catalog I knew I had to read this book.

Just who is this guy and what’s with those pink plaid pants, anyway?

I should’ve known I was in for a treat when I read the praise on the front cover (by the New York Times, no less) saying “Gettle is the Indiana Jones of Seeds.”

That, my friends, is an understatement.

The first few chapters paint an amazing picture of Jere’s past; his life growing up in the Ozarks, descending from a long, long line of gardeners.  He was homesteading before anyone knew what homesteading was.  Think ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and that was his life.  Only instead of rebelling against such a lifestyle, he embraced it with open arms and planted his first garden by the time he was 3.  At thirteen he became alarmed when he noticed each year his beloved heirloom seed catalogues were selling fewer and fewer of his favorite heirloom seeds (thanks to Monsanto, Dupont and other corporations – more on that in the book…). It was then that he decided to start collecting his favorite seeds before they were wiped off the face of the earth.

In 1998, at only 17 years old, Jere starts his own company Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, on the farm he grew up on, using his family’s home and barn as headquarters.  Flash forward to 2011 and Baker Creek is thriving, selling over 2 million seed packets a year.

A few years ago he and his wife, Emilee bought the Petaluma Seed Bank, here in Northern California, and shortly after purchased Comstock, Ferre and Company located in Connecticut.

His goal in all of this?  “The more people we get growing and saving seeds, the sooner we can get the food supply back to its wholesome roots.”This book is a must have for anyone who loves growing their own vegetables.  The how-to information, both in content and easy-to-understand tip boxes answer just about any question a new gardener could have.

There are no magic formulas in this book, no instant cures for diseases and infestations – only practical advice from those who have gardened for hundreds of years before us.

When gardening, his goal is to “…enhance the environment, not harm it, using simple old fashioned methods to cultivate safe, delicious crops right in your backyard.”The next chapter is Seed Saving Tips, and covers everything you need to know about saving your seeds for years to come.

This is followed by City Farmer, encouraging those who live in the city with little to no land (a balcony will do!) to plant an edible garden.  He even includes his favorite ‘Top 10 Container Plants’ to help you choose and grow the best dwarf varieties.

Then you hit the mother-load.  The A-Z Growing Guide of his favorite fifty vegetables, each selection written with detailed information about growing tips, pests & diseases, seed saving and how to prepare them in the kitchen.

All in all, this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year.  And I’m definitely giving seeds another try – this time with heirloom varieties!


CONTEST ClOSED:  It’s time for another giveaway!!  Just leave a comment below, letting me know your favorite tip or what type of edibles you like to grow and I’ll randomly choose a winner on December 25th.   What a great way to end the year!

A few more details:  The winner will be randomly chosen by  midnight , December 25, 2011, and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by January 1, 2012, the prize will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded. Please provide your name and email to enter this contest, so I can immediately contact you if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her firstname to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway.

The number of eligible entries will determine the odds of winning. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO WIN. This sweepstakes is VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  By entering this giveaway, you are agreeing to these conditions.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, and product was provided. All expressed opinions, however, are absolutely and without a doubt, my own.  Good luck everyone!

 UPDATE:  Congratulations Alison at BonneyLassie.blogspot – you won!  Just send me your address via email and I’ll send your copy of the book to you this week.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.    🙂

And thanks for your comments, everyone.  I never respond when running a contest as I don’t want to skew the random number generator, but I appreciate them very much!  Have a happy, happy New Year!!



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  • I am new to Sonoma County this year and new to veggie growing. We grew tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, parley, radishes, eggplant, zucchini and beets in our new raised beds and it was a wonderful learning experience. I look forward to checking out that Petaluma Seed Bank now that I know the great background.

  • I moved to Montana from Alaska 3 yrs ago and now I’m trying to grow corn (which didn’t grow well at all in AK!). It’s not as easy as I thought it would be!

  • Hi Rebecca! There is nothing like home grown tomatoes. I help my 88 year old father with his tomato garden every year. I look forward to just slicing into a just picked tomato, a little salt and pepper and yummo!

  • Right now I’m only growing fava beans, that is, broad beans. After Christmas, I’ll start eleven kinds of tomatoes to share with friends followed by lettuce, chard, parsley and peppers.

    I just got my first Baker Creek catalog, and I do lick my lips as I read it.


  • My favorite food item to grow has always been tomatoes. I love the heirloom varieties, but here in the PNW I have to concentrate on early blooming, cold-tolerant types. I help them along by giving them an early start under a hoophouse.

  • Hi Rebecca. This sounds like such an inspiration to get in the garden and plant something new and interesting. Next year I hope to grow a couple different varieties of heirloom potatoes and some new leafy greens.

  • Oooh! I’d love to win. I like to grow cauliflower, chard, and kale. All easy and I eat them all regularly! I grew a purple cauliflower recently and was so thrilled with how it looked I almost picked it too late.

  • I can never make up my mind what my favorite thing to grow is. It changes every year. I think this year I’m going to try beans and peas.

  • I cannot wait to get the book!! Your reviews have led me to make purchases based on them! Thanks again!

  • Tomatoes and peppers are my favorite edible to grow at our home in Indiana! Please count me in for the drawing! Thanks!

  • I love his catalog, his selection is amazing. I saw Jere at the first heirloom symposium in Santa Rosa, he was being filmed, what a great life he has.

    I am a total sucker for heirloom varieties, and always try to grow from seeds so this book would be great to have. I love squash so I would love to grow some heirloom squash like the marina di chioggia, my favorite squash, so hard to find, and so good. I grew up eating it as I am from Venice and in the fall we consumed big quantities of squash gnocchi, YUM!


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