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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Great reads the Long Island gardener can dig into

"Backyard Foraging," by Ellen Zachos (Storey Publishing/$16.95)

Want to take the garden with you on vacation -- or to the beach? Here's a stack of books that would make great summer reads for anyone who enjoys toiling in the dirt.

"Backyard Foraging," by Ellen Zachos (Storey Publishing, $16.95)

Did you know the acorns, daylilies and Kousa dogwood in your garden are edible? You can really live off the fat of the land without ever planting a fruit or vegetable, according to this tome, which details 65 familiar plants you probably didn't know you could eat. Each profile includes details about which parts of the plant can be eaten, instructions for harvesting and how to cook or prepare them. Fun for anyone who likes the idea of snacking their way through their yard -- or around the neighborhood.

"Five-Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden With Just Five Plants," by Nancy J. Ondra (Storey Publishing, $18.95)

Sometimes less is more, and that's certainly the case in garden design. Planting a one-of-each garden results in a jumble, but finding just a few plants to repeat throughout your space without being boring can pose a bit of a challenge.

To the rescue is a detailed guide from the author of "The Perennial Care Manual." Organized by sunlight requirements and color schemes, the 52 planting maps are detailed with color illustrations to provide an easy-to-follow formula: "5 plants + Planting plan = Gorgeous garden." Each plan includes photos of the five plants, season-by-season highlights, a shopping list, tips for customizing the plan for different sites, climates or themes, and details about what to expect as each plant matures.

"Plant This Instead," by Troy B. Marden (Cool Springs Press, $24.99)

Whether you're seeking a replacement for invasive plants, unstable trees, afflicted impatiens or shrubs, vines or ground covers, you'll find an array of choices (and convincing arguments for planting them) in this helpful guide.

There are profiles of 75 native, noninvasive plant and fuss-free plant combinations that will thrive while avoiding problems like disease, lankiness, poor blooming, aggressiveness and frailty.

Beautiful color photos by the author provide valuable side-by-side comparisons and eye candy to help one visualize how suggested plants would fit into existing garden schemes.

"Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener: How to Create Unique Vegetables and Flowers," by Joseph Tychonievich (Timber Press, $19.95)

Have you ever dreamed of a more fragrant rose, a pepper with just the right amount of heat, or a one-of-a-kind tomato? Embrace your inner science geek, and you just might be able to make your dreams come true -- by creating plants of your own. Tychonievich, an expert in plant breeding, genetics and horticulture, opens up a whole new world for advanced gardners by revealing the ancient art of plant genetics. He provides tips for selecting ideal "parents," cross-pollinating and harvesting and storing seeds, all in layman's terms.

"Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden," by Niki Jabbour (Storey Publishing, $19.95)

The author of "The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener" consulted with gardening superstars Amy Stewart, Amanda Thomsen, Barbara Pleasant and others and compiled their tips to devise specially themed crop-plot plans. Among the offerings are a garden in which to grow cocktail ingredients, a Chicago Hot Dog Garden to provide the makings of a summer barbecue, another that will allow you to harvest salad greens year-round, and dozens more.

Each plan includes a list of plants (including descriptions of each) and a mapped-out color diagram for easy planting.

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