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Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting Paperback – November 5, 2008

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Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting + Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces + Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre
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Editorial Reviews


"Fresh Food from Small Spaces is a helpful guide to the range of food production strategies for urban spaces. A great resource for urban dwellers, enabling even those in basement apartments to produce copious food through sprouting and mushroom production. I particularly appreciated Ruppenthal's first-hand experience in building low-cost self-watering planters."--Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens

Library Journal-
Many gardening books describe ample land and space as being a prerequisite for growing flowers, plants, and food. And the ever popular container gardening books, generally written for those with little land or space in which to garden, do not always cover the question of raising fresh food that way. Ruppenthal, a business professor and lifelong trial-and-error gardener, here fills a gap in gardening literature and helps readers discover techniques for sustainable food production--even on a small scale--by using every square inch of space that is available to them. His book walks gardeners through assessing their available space and its lighting, deciding what to grow in the spaces they have, and buying (or building) vegetable garden containers. Using his techniques, gardeners will learn to grow herbs, vegetables, fruit, grains, and mushrooms, as well as raise chickens and honeybees and produce fermented foods such as yogurt. It may be nearly impossible to live completely off the grid in an urban environment, but through practice, patience, and creativity, it is possible to establish such a productive urban garden that you can eat some homegrown, fresh food every day of the year. Highly recommended for public libraries, special and academic libraries with strong agricultural collections, and all those who are serious about producing food and creating a more sustainable lifestyle.

"This is one of the most important gardening books in years. Ruppenthal is ahead of the curve, promoting sustainability and even self-sufficiency in the burgeoning urban environment. His holistic approach to nutrition, conservation, recycling/repurposing, and composting will help redefine urban gardening. Fresh Food From Small Spaces is loaded with great ideas for urban gardeners. Ruppenthal gives great tips and background info to get beginners started. Yet, the diagrams, charts, and plant lists make it a satisfactory and intriguing reference even for experienced gardeners."Besides being a timely, progressive, intelligent reference, Fresh Food From Small Spaces is a great story and comfortable read. I enjoyed following Ruppenthal's personal struggles and ordeals. This is a fun, informative book."Ruppenthal has seen the future of city gardening and I like it! Fresh herbs on every windowsill. Pole beans on every balcony. Beehives with honey on every rooftop. And tasty shitakes in every garage."--William Moss, "Moss in the City" columnist at the National Gardening Association's

"Every generation there is a move back to growing food close to home for various reasons: victory gardens, back-to-the-land gardens and community gardens come to mind. Now, as oil prices permanently increase, we have 'post-petroleum gardens' and Fresh Food From Small Spaces is a timely guide for a highly productive home food system, full of new and proven sustainable ways to grow and process your favorite foods in the smallest of space."--Will Raap, Founder, Gardener's Supply Company

"While the information in this book will benefit all those seeking to grow and prepare their own food at home, it is especially informative for people with only limited space. Ruppenthal covers every food I ever heard of and a whole bunch I never heard of, like water kimchi (!) that can be grown indoors or outdoors where there is not enough room for a regular garden. This is the perfect answer to the question many people are asking me: How can I take charge of my own life now that food prices are soaring when I hardly have space for a container-grown tomato or two? Reading Ruppenthal, I get a distinct feeling that one can grow enough food to survive on down in the cellar and out on the porch.."--Gene Logsdon, author of The Contrary Farmer and Living at Nature's Pace: Farming and the American Dream

"Fresh Food From Small Spaces is a passionate manifesto as well as a practical primer for urban food production. It presents clear information, innovative strategies, and enthusiastic encouragement that will motivate, inspire, and empower city dwellers seeking to grow food and build greater sustainability into their lives."--Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

"Unfortunately, many urban-dwellers avoid gardening due to a perceived lack of space. Ruppenthal explodes these barriers by showing us in cogent hands-on detail how to cultivate meaningful quantities of healthful food from the air, sun, water, and earth available to us in our own spaces, no matter how small."--Stephen & Rebekah Hren, authors of The Carbon-Free Home

About the Author

A licensed attorney and college professor, R. J. Ruppenthal has never given up on his gardening passion, even when his day jobs led him to a more urban life. He currently teaches at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, California, and lives and gardens in the San Francisco Bay area.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; First Printing edition (November 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160358028X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603580281
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is by far the most interesting book about mini gardening.
This book was a fantastic purchase for an apartment dweller like myself and offers many different ideas about how to grow your own food in small urban settings.
L. Macafee
I checked this book out from the library and just had to have my own copy.
Rosemary Palermo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 109 people found the following review helpful By P. Meadows on October 25, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
[Update: I read the book again; and I wish I had given it five stars rather than four. I cannot seem to edit the number of stars. But just pretend that I gave it five stars, OK? Thanks!]

'Fresh Food from Small Spaces' is an exciting book, an inspirational and informative book. Ruppenthal's main topics are container gardening, sprouting, fermenting, growing mushrooms, and small livestock (chickens and bees only), making compost and worm boxes. He lists and describes steps that anyone can take towards helping to build a more sustainable planet and living more lightly on the earth, as well as being more self-reliant.

I was very glad to see a short chapter on 'Survival During Resource Shortages' and one on 'Helping to Build a Sustainable Future'. The 'Introduction' also touches on these topics.

I was also glad to see that Ruppenthal recommends the use of Self-Watering Containers. I know from personal experience (and from being the listowner for a list devoted to Edible Container Gardening) that this is a very, very superior way to grow vegetables in containers.

What the book is *not*: it is definitely not a how-to book. It is *not* the only book you'll ever need about *any* of the topics that it covers. If you buy the book thinking that it is, you'll probably be disappointed. Instead, it gives an excellent general overview and introduction to some very disparate topics. It gives you ideas for things *you can actually do*. The author also points you towards more detailed sources of information on each topic. I doubt if anyone could have written a detailed instructional guide on all of these very different topics.

Major disappointment: the only illustrations are black-and-white stock photos.
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111 of 116 people found the following review helpful By J. Caldwell on November 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because it seemed well reviewed and the title is exactly what I have to deal with - square inches.

However, after getting it I have to say this was really a disappointment. To begin with, the book is not well-edited, and the same general observations on gardening are repeated in many different places throughout the book - it felt like the author had to fill space.

There were very broad chapters on how to keep chickens, bees, grow mushrooms, make your own kefir, etc. but without any sort of in-depth knowledge. Mostly, just a vague overview with references. There are good websites referenced throughout the book but overall, anyone with a little time and Google can probably do better to find the same information online, in far more detail.

I had been hoping for a true play-by-play breakdown of maximizing space and food production, but no luck. If you are looking for concise, informative, and practical tips, move on. If you have absolutely no idea how to garden, then maybe this would be a good starting point. But I'm still searching....
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By P. Callaway on December 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book - I have never read anything like it! I've had so many people ask me what to grow in apartments with low light, and I've always wondered what to say! Really, all I could think of was well, salad greens, maybe some herbs... I knew that lettuce loved the shade, but I never knew there were so many options for growing food in lower light levels and indoors!

This book is a nice introductory guide to a great number of topics - basic gardening, growing food in tight urban gardens, growing food indoors, growing mushrooms, fermenting to make kefir or yogurt, sprouting seeds for fresh sprouts, composting without much room, keeping chickens in a small yard, and even a chapter on keeping bees. All of it wonderful for the urban or apartment dweller.

This is really the first book of its kind that I have seen - it is so practical and talks specifically about how to make self-watering planters, and exactly which crops you can grow in what kind of light, and which plants you might be able to grow on a not-quite-so-sunny windowsill. Brilliant, really. It's obvious that Ruppenthal has been doing this for years and really knows his stuff.

What's so crazy is that several of my gardening friends who are now stuck in apartments have been wondering what would grow in their windows, or in containers on their window-access-only balcony. Now I know what to say! I've ordered some seeds to start experimenting myself, and this book is going to more than one person for Christmas!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
You can't get much more local than your patio, and urban gardening enthusiast Ruppenthal looks after your pennies like they were his own. This slim volume is jam-packed with space and money-saving organic ideas, from the eminently practical to the slightly over-the-top.

"A chicken coop or honeybee hive can fit on a sidewalk, a patch of lawn, or even a balcony...."

In no time he'll have you growing sprouts on top of the refrigerator, mushrooms under the sink and making yogurt on your countertop. And this is in addition to all those delicious tomatoes, fruit trees, berries, cukes and beans you'll be growing in containers, trellises, and terraced plantings in former flower beds.

Ruppenthal starts out with planning for your space, motivation, and light. He then delves deeply into soil mixes, making or adapting containers, seeds and transplants, fertilizer, timing, harvesting. Everything, in short, you need to get started. He doesn't hesitate to suggest other books he's found valuable and offers alternative ideas for gardeners of different skill levels, commitment and attitude.

His enthusiasm is infectious and often dryly amusing. The microwave, for instance, is a handy gardening tool. "If anyone else in your household might object to cooking sawdust in the kitchen, then you might want to try this step when no one else is at home." His sneaky, hidden compost pile is nothing short of ingenious.

Not just for the beginner, this quirky highly informative gardener's treat has ideas for every gardener, all of them direct from Ruppenthal's personal experience.
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