"Introduction" by the editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Calif. 94025; illustrated, 160 pages, $5.95 paperback, can be ordered direct).
If you are a beginner or if your garden does poorly for you, this book can be very helpful. It provides good information on how to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, house plants, shrubs, trees, annuals, biennials, perennials, bulb, lawn grasses and ground covers and how to use plants effectively.
"In some gardens," the authors write, "the soil is like glue when it's wet and like brick when it's dry. In others you can pour on water and still find some plants drying up.
"But if even that first spadeful of soil looks as if it wouldn't grow weeds, there's no reason to be discouraged. With a little time and effort, you can improve almost any soil.
"Heavy clay soil is hard to work with. When it's wet it sticks to your spade. Squeeze a handful together and you'll get a gummy plastic mass that doesn't break apart even if you tap it with your shovel. When heavy soil dries, it tends to crack, and often becomes hard enough to deflect a pick.
"There's little air in soil like this, and drainage is poor. Plant roots will refuse to grow because of the lack of air and often drown because of the lack of drainage.
"You can improve heavy soil by adding an organic amendment, such as compost, peat moss or leaf mold. Mixed in thoroughly, these materials create countless tiny air pockets between the flat plates of clay.
"As they continue to decay, a material called 'humus' forms, preventing the clay particles from packing down again.
"The advantage of heavy soil is that it tends to retain moisture and fertilizer.
"At its worst, sandy soil is the exact opposite of caly. No matter how often you wet it, the big rounded particles quickly dry up.
"Sandy soil can also be improved by the addition of organic amendments. The amendment particles fill the open spaces between sand particles and help to retain water nutrients. If after a few seasons you seem to be watering more than usual, give your soil another application of organic amendment.
"Even the best soil will benefit from reapplication of an amendment."
"North American Dye Plants' by Anne Bliss (Scribner's, illustrated, 288 pages, $5.95 paperbacks).
"This book, a revised and enlarged edition of Rocky Mountain Dye Plants, is for every person who enjoys plants, wants to know more about them, and who might like to brew up a pot of dye," the author writes.
"Some of the plants included are called wildflowers, and we enjoy them. Others are a bit more difficult to control and are called weeds; most people don't like them. Some weeds are a real nuisance in lawns, gardens and grain fields. If a weed is especially difficult to control, it may be labeled as 'noxious.' It is illegal to propagate and sell seeds of noxious weeds.
"Weeds are very successful plants; they grow easily and adapt to a variety of conditions. Weeds are geared for survival.
"I onced pressed a sample of some blooming weeds and, upon checking them a week later, found they had gone to seed as they dried. Although we may not like them, weeds are doing a fine job of being weeds, and many of them produce superb dyes.
"Usually the most intense dyes will result from use of freshly picked plants, and they are best gathered while in the pre-blooming or blooming stages. They may also be dried for future use by tying them in bundles and hanging them to dry out of reach of the sun, or by spreading them out flat in the shade or indoors and then storing them in pape boxes or bags after they are thoroughly dry. Be sure to label these plants by name and date gathered for future reference.
"Yellow flowering plants most often produce yellow-based dyes, as do most white-blossomed species; however, some white-flowering plants yield tans, golds and greens. Red berries generally produce yellows or golds; blue or black fruits tend to yield purples, pinks, browns or blue-greys. Grasses give yellows."