I picked up this book because the title intrigued me. I flipped through a few pages, and found a dead-on summary of the silly cycle most of us have experienced with buying vegetable transplants at the garden centers (buy, plant, kill, buy, plant, kill...) I've also snickered at the corn, okra and squash transplants for sale--at least I *did* know how to start those from seed!
Having tried a blend of Jeavon's and Bartholomew's intensive planting ideas for almost a decade, last year we went with bigger beds and more room between plants (yes, they're still bordered, because I like a "pretty" and orderly garden, as well as one that produces well.)
The clincher for me to buy the book was the nice reference to Dave's Garden and the Garden Watchdog. I've read the book, and re-read some chapters (and undoubtedly will read it at least once more before spring.)
Solomon's gloomy, doomsday outlook is a little discouraging to start out (I prefer to think our ingenuity and adaptability will help us overcome the energy problems we face), but his advice is incredibly practical and pragmatic, and I'm eager to try his organic fertilizer recipe next spring, along with getting my tools sharpened properly this winter. (And he's absolutely correct--like most folks, I've brought home new hoes and shovels, and never thought to sharpen them before use!)
This excellent book is about vegetable growing in times of decreasing oil availability and increasing financial hardship. It is jam packed with good information about all areas of vegetable gardening: selection and care of tools, soil preparation, fertiliser, planting, growing, irrigation, pests and diseases, seed saving, composting, etc. It is amazing how much sensible information is crammed into such a small space. Of particular interest to me were the author's comments about how to select good seed, the reviews of various heirloom seed companies, the descriptions of nutritional and space requirements of different species and the notes about seed saving.
There were a couple of small things which irked me, though. The primary irritant was the author's focus on using imported soil amendments, many of which are shipped from a great distance, eg. Korean kelp meal or Peruvian bat guano. To me this seems contrary to the whole theme of 'post-oil' vegetable growing. The author makes it up somewhat by devoting a chapter to compost making. I also had a problem with the author's haughty tone when referring to contrary opinions. The repeat references to 'Everybody Else' grew tiresome by the end. I would have preferred less arrogance, but I suppose that is a personal thing.
Its very refreshing to read a book which offers an alternative to the intensive raised bed methods which are experiencing such popularity right now. I appreciated Solomon's critique as someone who apparently has extensive experience with both and rejects intensive methods for being wasteful and inefficient.
On the whole, I think that this is an essential book to have for anyone aiming for independence or even just low-cost gardening.
The book presents very specific information such as how to sharpen and use a hoe, shovel, etc., how to put together a Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF) of readily available materials (like seedmeals, limes, gypsum, rock phosphate), how to water under several different watering regimes - intensive, moderate, low. Fascinating chapter on seeds: on the possibilities of unethical selling by seed producers and retailers, how gather your own seeds, some of the complexities of producing seeds, how to store seeds.
I just put together my COF and I'll see how it works. He also has a long chapter on how to grow a variety of crops.
Solomon has been gardening for 30 or so years, has written several books, has run a seed company and a book company. He seems to have extensive experience to back up his information. His point of view - that we will be running out of cheap energy and expoitable water (from aquifers) - leads him to make recommendations, for example, on the spacing of plants, quite different from what you will find in most gardening books.
But the current crop of books are premised on cheap, abundant energy and water. If those conditions end over the next 25-50 years, then what???
I don't know where to begin. This book is intended for people who desire to live in independent poverty and have the space to do. The author focuses on conservation and sustainable agricultural practices.
I was amazed at the wealth of information that is packed into each paragraph. This is a book I will be reading more than once and devoting to serious study and note taking.
This is a book about gardening to survive, where failure is not an option! It is based on his own experiences.
I quote from the book's description:
"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. "