Books: Food Not Lawns

When I first checked out from the library the book Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community, it seemed like it would be a good instruction manual on how to build an edible landscape. I hoped for plans for beautiful, productive landscapes and ideas on how to build attractive vegetable gardens. In case you are under the same misconception, I'll give a quick rundown of the book. 

First, I should mention that there's hardly a gardening book out there that I don't like, but I'm not totally sure this book is really about gardening. Most of the practical information (about siting your garden, saving and reusing water, composting, permaculture design, pruning, propagation and seed saving, season extensions, garden design) is either very brief or rather vague. Some of the advice also seems more appropriate for people creating large "community garden" type projects, not necessarily for individuals' gardens. An exception is the topic of water reuse, in which she describes at length how to divert household graywater through the garden. 

A large part of the book, however, dwells on topics such as: how corporations are out to get you, how eating organic food can cure mental illnesses, why you don't need a television, car, or refrigerator, or even a job for that matter, and what to do when you get arrested during a protest. Oh, and in her zeal for using "free" objects to create your garden, she recommends stealing items being donated to charities, which I personally find quite objectionable. There are some gems to be found however, such as the recommendation to have a friend plant you up to your knees in your garden while you raise your arms to the sky and pretend to be a plant. When you're done, you and your friend can switch! Apparently this is a good way to "get reacquainted with nature", but it's definitely not my thing.

If you are interested in any of the topics in this book, however, the resource section at the back lists quite a few books and organizations from which I'm sure you could find the sort of real, practical information that is sadly lacking from this publication. In short, if you are in charge of a community garden or want general advice on how to change your life dramatically to use less resources, this book may be for you. If you want gardening information, don't look here.

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