Picks and Pans Review: Yardening

UPDATED 04/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

There are 12 tapes in this well-produced series. How to Design a Flower Garden, for instance, is for tyros who think a razzle-dazzle garden in their backyard is just a matter of poking a finger in the earth and dropping in a few seeds. Boy, are they in for a surprise. First consider these factors: Point of view—will your garden look as beguiling from your neighbor's window as it does from yours? Climatic zone—what is your locale's minimum winter temperature? Soil content—have you determined how acidic your future flower bed is by taking a pH reading of the soil? Then there is the matter of mulch to combat dryness and weeds: chopped leaves or wood chips? Jeff Ball, author, expert and congenial Mr. Green Jeans type, plows through such complex considerations in this 48-minute guide for beginners who can distinguish between annuals and perennials. Before taking up a trowel, he advises, first timers should plot their dream design with pencil and paper. Start with a 200-square-foot patch. Plant from rear to front, mix short with tall, pay attention to color and texture, and choose flowers that blossom in different months. Ball deftly dispenses pointers on irrigating, composting and maintenance before concluding with a primer on seasonal care. In How to Grow Roses (48 minutes), the focus is on bush roses, though Ball's techniques can be applied to miniatures and climbers. Viewers learn about the crucial ground preparation, planting, feeding the soil high-nutrient snacks like seaweed or kelp extract and protecting from frost. Ball also offers creative suggestions for preserving your prizes once they are plucked. Plunge your bouquet into a homemade broth of 110°F water, Seven-Up (for citric acid) and half a teaspoon of bleach (to reduce bacteria), then cool in the refrigerator. Roses misted each morning and set away from drafts and direct sun can last three to five days. How to Grow Warm-Weather Vegetables (55 minutes) shows that Ball certainly knows his onions, not to mention his eggplants, peppers, corn, tomatoes and cukes. He tells how to nurture seedlings, how to rig a trellis system to grow veggies vertically, how to prune properly and how to control pests. How to Grow Healthy Houseplants (60 minutes) teaches in-house gardeners how to choose containers, mix potting soil, fertilize and water properly, how to repot, groom and prevent disease and finally where to place plants to keep them healthy. How to Grow and Cook Fresh Herbs (60 minutes) makes this sub-hobby look easy. Planting seedlings saves time, though Ball teaches how to grow your own if you insist. Pop them in the ground on an overcast day (to prevent losing moisture). Watch how you water (Ball is a champion of rain gauges and "drip" irrigation). Harvest herbs in the morning after the dew has dried, when their aroma is strongest. Ball proffers helpful hints for storing fresh herbs: Wash, pat dry and place in a jar, or blend them with butter or oil and freeze them for use in waking up drowsing soups and vegetables. In concocting herb-accented salad dressings, sauces, vinegar and pesto, Ball proves as nimble with a kitchen knife as he is with a rotary tiller. The tapes in Ball's series are time coded; minutes elapsed are flashed onscreen for easy reference. (Kartes; $19.95 each; 800-582-2000)

COMPACT GARDENS

HERBS AND ANNUALS

In these two tapes from the Joy of Gardening cable TV series, Mark Hebert skips the sermon on soil prepping, pest control and climatic differences and gets right to the planting. In Compact Gardens (30 minutes), he transforms a condominium's teeny yard into a medley of shrubs, flowers, veggies and herbs sprawled around a birdbath. And Hebert, a garden-product firm executive, shows how bushel baskets, tubs and window boxes can yield honorable crops of potatoes, peppers, pixie tomatoes, even cabbage. Hebert's Herbs and Annuals (35 minutes) offers a superficial introduction to planting and drying herbs, as well as decorating walkways and small garden patches with cheerful clusters of vivid flowers. Each tape comes with a companion booklet. (Magic, $14.95 each; 800-345-1441)

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