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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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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.
"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
"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 Garden.org
"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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'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. Some color photos - and more personal photos - would have been a great addition. This is really a very glaring lack. (Shame on you, Chelsea Green Publishers!)
Second major disappointment: no index. I would have expected an index in anything published by Chelsea Green, a quality publisher.
Major plus: The book is referenced, with endnotes. There is a list of resources as well.
I would definitely have given this book my unalloyed praise if it only had better photos and an index. I have no other criticisms. Ruppenthal writes well, too, by the way.
I am a master gardener, so most of what's in here is not new, but there are some great ideas. For example, just seeing how the Europeans do fruit trellises on backstreets was inspiring. Learning how to make your own self-watering container is smart.
The book covers vegetable gardening, berries and fruits, sprouting, yogurt/kefir making, bees, chickens, compost and worms, mushroom growing, container gardening, cold frames and building arbors/trellises to use more vertical space. It is written clearly and points you to other books to read after you've gotten started. And that's all great. Could you have found all that on the internet for free?.... yes. But its still a nice book.
I think what I choked on while reading it is how much time is involved to keep up all these little projects. I would have also loved a "shopping list", with costs, for each project (like the self-watering container, for example, or how much it costs to build a trellis). If you've ever actually done any of these things, and I have, the sobering take away is how much work and time and money goes into getting the results, whether they are a couple of berries in your hand, or a small green salad with lettuce, sprouts and tomatoes you grew yourself. The book does not talk about this factor. It's significant. Most vegetable gardeners will get a merry twinkle in their eye if you ask them about $6 tomatoes, or even $2 zucchinis. Growing food is time intensive and labor intensive.
The other thing (and I like this, but I may not be in the majority) is the last chapter talks about resource depletion, and a time when peak oil or other factors may knock the stuffing out of our food production system. This may not sit well with some people, and this "prep because the world is at end" sensibility is very lightly woven through the book, especially at the beginning and the end. It is where the author is coming from. Again, I personally was reassured by this, because it meant the author and I were on the same page about why we should be learning about this stuff in the first place. But, my mother (for example), would be really thrown off by any "prep for the end is near" talk and might just put the entire book aside for even bringing up something as crazy as peak oil. If your mother is like that, too, you might want to get a different book for her.
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!