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Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series) Paperback – April 1, 2006
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The decline of cheap oil is inspiring increasing numbers of North Americans to achieve some measure of backyard food self-sufficiency. In hard times, the family can be greatly helped by growing a highly productive food garden, requiring little cash outlay or watering.
Currently popular intensive vegetable gardening methods are largely inappropriate to this new circumstance. Crowded raised beds require high inputs of water, fertility and organic matter, and demand large amounts of human time and effort. But, except for labor, these inputs depend on the price of oil. Prior to the 1970s, North American home food growing used more land with less labor, with wider plant spacing, with less or no irrigation, and all done with sharp hand tools. But these sustainable systems have been largely forgotten. Gardening When It Counts helps readers rediscover traditional low-input gardening methods to produce healthy food.
Designed for readers with no experience and applicable to most areas in the English-speaking world except the tropics and hot deserts, this book shows that any family with access to 3-5,000 sq. ft. of garden land can halve their food costs using a growing system requiring just the odd bucketful of household waste water, perhaps two hundred dollars worth of hand tools, and about the same amount spent on supplies-working an average of two hours a day during the growing season.
Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series(2005-11-16)
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Top customer reviews
I have nearly a thousand dead tree books at home, but if the house ever catches fire, this is one of the five books I am grabbing when I leave.
If you are learning gardening, though, there are two reasons you should buy this book:
1) The chapter on compost alone is worth the price of the book. He wrote a whole book on compost, but alas it is out of print and I can't find a copy.
2) Everyone is writing these ridiculous books about how you can grow 50 plants in a square millimeter with no labor! It's the latest gardening trend, but it's not true. Hobby gardeners can drive down to the big box store and buy another bag of Miracle Grow and ignore the cost, but if your garden is to actually feed you, and feed you long term, you must ignore 90% of the content of those books. This book provides a much needed counterweight -- your personal garden will need tips and tricks from many sources, and this should be one of them.
I don't agree with a lot of his advice, but this book still earns a permanent place on my bookshelf next to with Coleman's "Four Season Harvest," Ashworth's "Seed to Seed" and Jeavons' "How to Grow More Vegetables."
Point being: I read Solomon's book about promoting the old-fashioned ways of just simply hoeing the garden-go figure. This is something my elderly Dad has been telling me for years-that I didn't want to believe. I read Solomon's book and decided to try it this year...and I have to admit that Solomon and my Dad are right! I finally have a grass-free, beautiful garden, and I have spent a fraction of what I normally spend-no money on mulch! Thirty minutes every other day hoeing out grass with an old-fashioned hoe is the best thing that has happened to my garden in 15 years. The bermuda grass roots are already dying. By the end of the season-the garden will be free of bermuda grass (and roots) completely and next year will get easier!
I am becoming more of an old-fashioned gardner every day-thanks to Solomon...tried and true methods are tried and true for a reason.
I've given the whole raised bed, square foot gardening thing a heroic try, and found true exactly what Steve says as well - the soil is worn out rapidly because the plants are overcrowded. Artificial fertilizers become a near necessity.
If you're wanting to raise a veggie garden in your suburban back yard, this is probably not the book for you. You don't have enough space. But if you're on a decent sized patch of ground (a few acres) and want some techniques to manage all that space, this book cannot be beat. The drawings of the root space of each plant are worth the price of the book.
I bought the Kindle version and am going to be forced to buy a hard copy that I can take to the garden.
One other thing: Saving seed is not as easy as many reviewers seem to think. I've done it successfully with squash (with the occasional odd looking fruit because of cross contamination), tomatoes, pumpkins. But for many veggies, it's a very difficult two season process. That's the reason that Steve seems to downplay doing so. He realized how difficult it can be.
And I don't mean in any way to denigrate suburbanites who are trying to supplement their grocery lists with homegrown vegetables. That's a good thing to do, and I would encourage you to do so. Just don't think you're going to be able to feed your family of four on a suburban city lot. You simply are not.
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Like so many writers, Steve Solomon tends to present his way as The One True Way.Read more