Home Random Musings Heirloom Life Gardener: A Book Review

Heirloom Life Gardener: A Book Review

by Dawn
heirloom life gardener book

Review of “The Heirloom Life Gardener” (and a giveaway)

Today’s post is going to be a little different than usual. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds was kind enough to send me a copy of their book “The Heirloom Life Gardener” to review, so I’ll be doing that here. Plus, I have a giveaway for you (also from Baker Creek! YAYYYY!!!) and a freebie for everyone who enters the giveaway (that way you won’t feel so bad if you’re not the winner, amiright??)(NOTE: Giveaway ended 03/20/19)

Although I was not compensated monetarily for this review, I was given a free copy of the book and product to give away. However, all opinions are mine and were not influenced in any way. 

If you really don’t want to read my book review (but you do, I did a fabulous job, LOL), you can just skip to the end to enter the giveaway (Giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Renee G, our winner!)

So, first, for the important stuff.

Title: The Heirloom Life Gardener Authors: Jere & Emilee Gettle with Meghan Sutherland Published by: Hachette Books (New York/Boston), April 2015 ISBN: 978-1-4013-2439-1

And if you’re moved to buy the book after my wonderful review, you can do that here.

heirloom life seed giveaway

I’m going to tell you right off the bat that this book rocks! Beautiful pictures: Check. Engaging story: Check. Useful information: Check. Yup. Everything you’re looking for (or should be).

I actually considered giving away my copy of the book to a second winner, but nope, I’m gonna be selfish and keep it. However, I may at some point in the future do another giveaway for the book…..hmmm….maybe just for email subscribers…..we’ll see!


First off, Jere clears up the confusion about the term “heirloom”. It isn’t a set-in-stone term, but usually means that a plant is open-pollinated, has some type of history, and typically tastes much better than its hybridized counterparts.

Open-pollinated, by the way, just means that a plant isn’t a hybrid. If you plant seeds from an open-pollinated plant, the next generation will look just like the parents. Not true of a hybrid plant.

As for history, heirlooms are usually at least 50 years old and have accumulated wonderful stories over the years. For instance, the author talks about the Mortgage Lifter tomato. Why such an unusual name for a tomato? Turns out the man who developed it in the 1940’s sold the plants for $1 each and was able to pay off his $6000 (!) mortgage in 4 years.

As for taste? If you’ve never had an heirloom tomato or zucchini, you just aren’t gonna get this one. They’re a completely different animal than their grocery store counterparts. Remember, grocery store vegetables are grown and selected for uniform shape, size and color, not taste (hence why most grocery store tomatoes taste like the plastic packaging they come in).

Grow the heirlooms. Eat the heirlooms. Make your tastebuds happy.

Early Life/Birth of Baker Creek

In the next few chapters, Jere talks about his early life. “Little House on the Prairie” anyone? Seriously, if you’ve ever wanted a simpler, homestead-type life, this chapter is going to get your little heart going pitty-pat. Trust me, I wanted to run right out and find myself a nice little country homestead.

Amazingly, Jere founded Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at the age of 17 – in his parents’ house. His mom must have been quite the long-suffering individual. He quickly outgrew that venue though, much to his mom’s relief, I imagine, and built his first store right down the road.

Things have expanded a bit since then, and they now have a place in Petaluma, CA as well called the Seed Bank, and (much to my surprise!), they own Comstock Ferre Co., right down the road from me in Wethersfield, CT! I haven’t been to Comstock Ferre in years, but now that I know who owns it, you know I’ll be paying them a visit very soon! Any excuse to buy more seeds!

If you’ve never been to Comstock Ferre and you live in the area, here’s their website. Pay them a visit, I’m going to!

Traveling the World

Wouldn’t you love to travel to Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand, all over the place just to discover different ancient cultures and their plant varieties? I would! Well, Jere did it! He brought home multitudes of different seed varieties from all those places.

Of course, this was pre-9/11, so it’s possible you (or I) would get arrested if we tried to do it now. <<sigh>> Well, it was a nice thought, but I’m too cute for jail.

How to Garden

An entire section here on how to get a garden going, soaker hoses, crop rotation, beneficial insects. He also gives a quick crop-by-crop harvesting guide, among other things. Really good information for beginning gardeners. Hmmm, nope, change that. Very good information for ANY gardeners! Maybe not quite as fascinating as his world travels, but more practical.

Vegetable by Vegetable Guide

And here is the real meat and potatoes of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the first half of the book, the stories and anecdotes were wonderful, interesting reading, but the second half? Every gardener everywhere should have this book!

From amaranth to watermelon (in case you’re wondering, zucchini is under summer squash!), you get info on the history of your crop, growing tips, pests & diseases, seed saving tips and cooking tips. 129 pages of awesomeness!

My favorite part of this section were the tips on saving the seeds of each individual veggie. I’ve saved a few seeds in the past, but not to any great extent.

The thing is, seed saving is an awesome idea. Yup, the money savings are great, but there’s more. If you save the seeds from a particularly well-performing plant this year and grow them next year, then save the seeds from a well-performing plant that year, etc., within a couple of generations, you’ve got plants uniquely suited to your little corner of the world.

At that point, you’ve successfully created a landrace (doesn’t that sound special and official?) It simply means a plant that has adapted, through time, to its particular growing environment, from climate to rainfall, even to pest resistance. Really, it becomes the ideal crop for you. What could be better?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of Jere & Emilee Gettle’s awesome book. I believe you’ll find it as valuable and fun to read as I did, so I hope you’ll give it a try.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Feel free to pin the below pic on Pinterest if you’d like.

Otherwise, smile and have a crazy organic day!

book review

Review of “The Heirloom Life Gardener”


You may also like


Jami 03/20/2019 - 12:06 pm

Ready to start my own seed saving! Hopefully I don’t annoy my husband with it as much this year as my failed attempts have in the past๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜‚
The book sounds lovely! Will be checking it out soon.

Dawn 03/20/2019 - 2:04 pm

The book is great! There are several others that are good too. If you need me to point you in the right direction, feel free to email me at and I can give you the names. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more seed saving this year as well.

Juanita Rutherford 02/27/2019 - 10:48 am

Book sounds great! I am looking for any kind of heirloom seeds. I’m tired of the hybrid types.

Dawn 02/27/2019 - 3:10 pm

Heirlooms are the best! The variety is so amazing and the taste is beyond compare! Good luck!!

Katie 02/22/2019 - 9:55 am

I think I need this book! I started saving seeds after going to an event in AZ, but itโ€™s all the simple ones like squash. Literally yesterday I had some cherry tomatoes from my yard that I had to deem beyond time to eat, but instead of composting them I squeezed out the seeds first! Itโ€™s now my first attempt at the tomato/water seed separation to save them!

Dawn 02/22/2019 - 11:49 am

Great! I haven’t tried the seed separation technique yet to save tomato seeds, but I’ll definitely be doing that this year. I have a whole book on seed saving, but I feel like this book was much more approachable and easier to understand.

Nikki L Gwin 02/22/2019 - 9:37 am

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the thorough review. And aren’t you a sweetie to give the losers a prize… LOL My nephew always said we were “instant Losers” in all those cases where we weren’t instant winners. You made me chuckle with this memory this morning.
๐Ÿ™‚ gwingal

Dawn 02/22/2019 - 11:48 am

Hahahahaha, that’s cute! See? This time you’re actually an instant winner, not an instant loser.

Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm 02/22/2019 - 9:32 am

Jere is an amazing young man; years ago I met him when we were both speaker’s at the same conference. I’ve also been to his Petaluma store which was incredible! His seed catalogue book has been given as gifts several times and I kept a copy for myself. I’m not familiar with this particular book, thanks for the review.

Dawn 02/22/2019 - 11:48 am

You’re welcome! I hope to visit out west one of these days, but I’ll have to settle for Comstock Ferre here in CT right now.

Jessie @ This Country Home 02/22/2019 - 8:46 am

I love Baker Creek Seeds, and I’ve heard about their book just never thought to purchase it, but your review makes it sound fascinating!

Dawn 02/22/2019 - 11:47 am

It was a really great read! I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More