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Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre Paperback – April 1, 2010
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“A helpful addition, alongside Bartholomew and Jeavons, for the serious DIY gardener.” (Margaret Heller - Library Journal)
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The book completely fails to deliver on the promise, in fact, there's almost no mention of how to grow intensively and virtually no pictures of the author or anyone else actually doing it. There are a few stock photos of vegetables and then maybe 20 or 30 copies of the same photo of long grass in the book. What's up with that? I eat grass - once converted to beef - but all those grass pictures could have been replaced with pictures of his own 1/4 acre intensive garden - assuming he actually has one. It's not clear at all from the book.
90% of the content of the book is standard articles easily available in any gardening book, magazine, website, or a dozen other places on how to create compost, how to plant, how to harvest, etc... nothing at all that is unique or special to an intensive garden. Look at urbanhomestead dot org for an example of great pictures of intensive gardening. You'll find nothing at all like that in this book.
I picked up this book to take my gardening to the next level and broaden my horizons a bit. And, in short, I'm very satisfied with the insights and guidance I've gleaned from this book. I'd go so far as to say that while you don't need a background in gardening to benefit from this book, I think this book is a perfect fit for people in my situation. Here's pros and cons from my perspective.
- The content of each chapter is very well organized, with concepts building onto one another very neatly.
- And for that matter, the broader subject matters of the chapters takes one through the process of planning, preparing, selecting, timing, managing, etc. most everything one would need to successfully grow a garden.
- This book strikes a good balance between giving you the key information you need for any one aspect of self sufficient gardening, but not inundating you with to much detail. In other words, this book threads the needle on delivering a lot of helpful information, while still feeling like an easy read.
- I've seen other reviews for this book that complain that the author pretty much rips off others ideas and re-packages them for profit. I read quite a bit, and have over the years seen serious examples of what these other reviewers are talking about. But, in the case of this book, while the author informs on alternative (and even competing models) for gardening, the author always informs the user on what in his experience has or has NOT worked from various models, how he has modified some of those ideas to work in his growing climate, and where he completely parts ways from others' techniques and espouses his own approach (including very clear instruction on how to use his modified or totally unique processes).
- Finally, where possible, the author provides the equivalent of 'modified workouts' for those less fit (my words, not his) in their gardening abilities. In other words, the author provides sufficient detail on what might be the most efficient and beneficial approach to say irrigation or composting, but then across those and other subjects covered in the book, he provides a less expensive/quicker/initially easier alternative for those lacking the time, resources, space, skills, etc. to fully implement the best possible approach for one aspect or another of gardening. For example, as I'll be looking to expand my garden this next spring, I fully intend to utilize some of the quicker soil prep techniques offered up in this book for use in a pinch while I build up my long-term composting and soil amendment routines.
- While some of the chapters really cover all the bases for the targeted subject matter (i.e. plant spacing, soil prep, etc.). Others give you just enough to run with, but definitely leave you wanting more. A good example of this would be Chapter 7 ("Time and Yield"). While the author definitely gives a good broad overview of timing techniques (i.e. succession planting, timed planting, interplanting etc.), for such an important subject matter, I was surprised (in a disappointed kind of way) by just how short this chapter was. I live in Michigan, with a relatively short growing season. I see this topic as critical for people in shorter growing zones like me, and apart from a quick overview of each of the techniques used to maximize productivity, and a handful of real-world examples of plant groups that work well for things like succession planting (taking into consideration their hardiness in colder climates), this chapter really leaves readers wanting.
- While this book is beautifully illustrated, there's no doubting that the abundance of pretty pictures of garden produce, chickens, tools, etc. just serves as fill to make the book feel a bit more substantial in size than it need be. I don't want to over play this point, as A LOT of the illustrations (pictures/graphics/tables) are pertinent to the content of the book (and in any event, some amount of artwork is always nice to have), I think you could still produce this book, with many beautiful illustrations, and reduce it from its current 227 pages (including the index and notes pages) down to maybe 175 pages.
Top international reviews
There is good science here, explained clearly, and with sufficient information and references to explore further. Although the writer's experience is in New England, the book makes it very simple to convert everything to a place with different climate.
I read the book through in a couple of days. It was something of a page turner! I am now using it as a reference for development of my own far-from-perfect plot.