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Fulcrum, Golden CO
1998 , 248 pp. Paperback
Price: $19.95, ISBN: 1-55591-401-2
Whitney Cranshaw has updated his excellent Pests of the West book, first published in 1992. The book is directed at gardeners in the High Plains, Rocky Mountain, and intermontane regions of the western United States. Although it does not cover a few pests that plague gardens in California, such as brown garden snail, soft scales, and peach leaf curl; or certain pests such as Japanese beetles common to the East Coast, much of the information is relevant for gardeners across the country. The focus is on arthropod, pathogen, weed and vertebrate pests of vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, and roses. Pests that affect only ornamental trees and shrubs and lawns are not covered.
The book begins with a chapter on soil. Some may regard this as an odd starting point for a pest book, but soil problems often cause plant symptoms that are misdiagnosed as pest damage. Organic gardeners, biodynamic farmers, and adherents to sustainable agriculture philosophies will appreciate the nod to the importance of soil in overall plant health. Gardeners in the Rocky Mountain and High Plains regions will be lucky to have this resource because Cranshaw focuses on diagnosing and solving problems, such as compacted or clay soils, alkaline soils and salt-affected soils, common to that area.
A chapter on natural and biological controls heads up the sections on pest management. Photos and text review about a dozen common groups of natural enemies. The book moves on to chapters on general principles of cultural and mechanical control. Chemical controls are discussed in the last chapter, reflecting Cranshaw’s general philosophy of using pesticides in the garden only when other options are not effective. These chapters provide a good overview of the principles of integrated pest management for the home gardener.
Cranshaw’s sense of humor is apparent throughout the book from the photo of the lobster in the cabbage patch to the listing of the five most "Common Mistakes Using Yard and Garden Pesticides." I especially like the photos of the Cranshaw family that creep into the illustrations from the baby squishing a hornworm to grandpa digging up the old asparagus fern. My favorite is son Bill (or is it Sam?) at about age one-and-a-half sitting in the garden path with a plastic alligator. Caption: "Secondary problems can develop from overwatering."
The book is punctuated by lively and informative sidebars such as "Life in a Rose Cane," "The Mystery of the Rocky Mountain Locust," and "It’s Alive! Slime Molds in the Mulch Bed!" Other sidebars dispel common garden myths such as companion planting. A concise discussion on the need for controls in experimental design is geared to explaining to gardeners why they should not believe every testimonial in the garden catalogs. These types of in-depth technical discussions separate this book from the common garden-variety, mass-produced garden pest books found in most nurseries and bookstores. With so much practical wisdom in a book that costs only $19.95, it is frustrating that publications like this by university experts typically end up in the hands of just a tiny minority of their potential audience.
This book is not as lavishly illustrated as some other garden pest books, although the addition of many new photographs is the greatest improvement in this second edition. There are no color pictures, although there is a black and white photo of most major pests. Many photographs are excellent and provide good details for identification; however, other pests, such as flea beetles or psyllids, might be hard for the novice gardener to identify based on the limited identifying features provided in the text and less than ideal photographs.
Descriptive lists of major ailments of common garden vegetables, fruit trees and flowers in Chapter 5 will help substantially in problem diagnosis. The coverage of pest management methods for each specific pest is just about right for gardeners. It is kept simple with sections describing natural and biological controls, cultural controls and chemical controls for each of about 90 arthropod pests, 40 plant pathogens and abiotic disorders, 11 weeds, and six types of vertebrates.
The book ends with seven very useful appendices containing information ranging from sources of biological control agents to butterfly gardening in the Rocky Mountain Region. "Appendix IV: Characteristics of Common Garden Insecticides" is one of the most useful and succinct coverages of this topic I have seen for the home gardener audience.
This is a book I often refer to as an Extension Entomologist answering garden pest questions in California. It would be even more useful to anyone in the mountainous West—especially its intended audience, the home vegetable and fruit gardener.
Mary Louise Flint
UC Statewide IPM Project
and Department of Entomology
University of California,
Davis, CA 95616-8620
Vol. 47, No.4, Winter 2001