Pam Peirce

Golden Gate Gardening: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California

For Vegetable Gardening in the Bay Area, Golden Gate Gardening is indispensable--if you buy one gardening book, this is the one.--Michael Pollan

Monterey County Herald, February 13, 2010, by Thomas Karwin
[Golden Gate Gardening] is really very good, not just because it addresses the particular gardening environment that includes the Monterey Bay Area, but because it is exceptionally thorough, authoritative, and readable. It is a rare combination of solid science, practical experience, and a conversational style.

HortIdeas, May-June 2010, 27(3)
We always appreciate all efforts to support gardening in particular regions, but the efforts embodied in this book go far beyond the norm. Most topics of substantive importance to either beginners or advanced growers are thoroughly covered, and an excellent index makes the information easily accessible.

To us, purchasing this book is a “no-brainer” for all serious gardeners (even if they already own an earlier edition!) living in the Bay Area or a fair distance north or south along the coast. And we think the book could serve as a very worthy model for comprehensive gardening guides in other regions. In short, this is definitely the all-around-best regional gardening guide we have seen to date. It “sets the standard”—very high!

San Jose Mercury News, March 5, 2010, by Holly Hayes
The third edition of [Pam] Peirce’s reference book has just hit stores and it finally embraces the inland world of Northern California, including detailed references to Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Contra Costa County.

Chapters on soil preparation and watering, in particular, are first rate. But the new edition also includes a trove of tips on enticing the good guys and deterring the bad guys of the insect world. Throughout, Peirce reflects the current emphasis on organic gardening methods.

And recipes! There are more recipes than ever, reflecting Peirce’s own embracing of what she calls a “garden-based cuisine.”

Excerpted from Golden Gate Gardening

Chapter 16 “A Garden-Based Cuisine,” page 403:
Depending on a Garden
When I garden, I connect to the lives of all humans who are living, or have lived, directly from the earth. I call it “emotional archaeology.” On a small scale, without the risk of starvation, I experience the demands and the generosity of the plants, the joys and frustrations of trying to harness them to my needs. I appreciate the concern that motivated the Navajo people to walk in their cornfields at specified times, from seeding to harvest, singing songs that coaxed the plants to produces a bountiful crop. I understand the frustration that led my grandfather to plant the watermelons in the middle of the cornfield, where they would be shielded from the eyes of would-be watermelon rustlers.

And when I eat from a garden, I experience the emotions that others before me have felt when trying to match what the plants provide with what I want to eat. When I thaw a container of last summer’s pesto on a stormy winter day, I can appreciate the pleasure my father must have felt when he first tasted home-canned green beans in a snowbound farm house. And when I pick a few wild and tame greens for a late winter salad, even though my garden is active all winter, I still can imagine the pleasure of the first spring greens gathered in late March after a winter of snow and ice—and after weeks of mostly potatoes, biscuits, and gravy.

To intensify these feelings and the understanding they generated, I tried, for several years, to avoid buying anything that I could grow. I found I could eat fairly well, if a little oddly at times, from a few hundred square feet of garden. I did still buy a little produce, including apples and oranges, fresh mushrooms, and supplementary potatoes, carrots, and onions.

I enjoyed late winter’s glut of artichokes—and I had enough of them that I also enjoyed the lull in production that followed. I loved the profusion of cucumbers, from midsummer to midfall. I liked the fresh cabbage, so sweet and crisp that I cut large wedges of it to eat raw. I also enjoyed my efforts to achieve year-round self-sufficiency in such crops as garlic and lettuce. Though of course I could never be self-sufficient overall, my limited successes gave me a feeling of satisfaction that was well worth the effort. They also gave me a stronger sense of connection with those who live from the land.

If you want to try self-sufficiency in some crops, or even a single crop, choose ones you can either produce year round or that you can store easily. Some good candidates are garlic, carrots, leeks, green onions, lettuce, or parsley. Don’t worry too much about perfection. If you grow too little of a crop, buy some; if too much, give some away.

Selected Works

Memoir
This essay appears in the book Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-1978, Edited by Chris Carlsson with Lisa Ruth Elliott, City Lights Books, 2011.
Books
For vegetable gardening in the Bay Area, Golden Gate Gardening is indispensable
—Michael Pollan
This book teaches successful ornamental gardening in Northern California through 50 easy heirloom California garden plants.
Newspaper Column and Articles
A gardening Q&A column that appeared in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and on SFGate.com from 2006-2014. (After June 29, 2014, the Chronicle cut all gardening columns. The archive of "Golden Gate Gardener" is still readable online. Pam's articles and book reviews will still appear in the Chronicle and on sfgate.com periodically.)

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