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Growing food is not weird

GrowTheGoodLife Most garden books are packed with pictures, so it’s brave of both author and publisher to put out Grow the Good Life by Michele Owens (Rodale), a gardening book with no pictures at all. I find myself both cheering and becoming slightly apprehensive. After all, good pictures often carry garden books by writers whose writing skills are, how shall we say, not so very finely tuned.

I have a pretty low tolerance, I have to say, for bad writing – in any kind of books. That doesn’t mean I restrict my reading to highbrow literary fiction, far from it. Though it was a relief to fall on the recent Alice Hoffman a couple of days after another book had hit the wall as I expressed my, errr… displeasure.

So I was delighted, after just a few lines, to realize that Michele Owens can write and we don’t need to worry about the lack of pictures. What’s more, she writes well in a style which can be a trap for the unwary: dealing with important issues in a relaxed and conversational manner. “There be dragons”, as the stormy corners of the old maps used to remind us; no dragons snapping bites out of this prose.

This is a book for people who like the idea of gardening, and who like a good read – but who haven’t actually turned much soil. Michele wonders why so few Americans grow food, or grow anything. And then devotes a whole chapter to my personal top reason: soil. Americans don’t like dirt. In a generation we’ve gone from kids eating worms to kids not being allowed even to touch the soil because it’s “dirty” and “full of germs”.

No. As seed sowing season and planting season approach, read this book and enjoy discovering the many many reasons why growing food is… well, not worthy, not important, not a noble achievement determined by some high philosophical ideal (though of course it’s all those things too). It’s just, well, normal. (As is, of course, growing flowers.) And the other thing that so many Americans hate, apart from dirt, is being thought weird. So get to it.

Oh, and don’t be put off by the cover price, which at $24.99 is pretty steep for 200 pages of text and no color pictures. But I reckon it’s priced high so that the price, $14.69 - a 41% discount! - looks such a bargain.



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Mike Grant

I think there's a similar aversion to soil in the UK, probably coupled to society's drift away from the land. And many of those who do get their hands dirty but then suffer a setback due to the occasional plant death will often blame their soil for some sort of deficiency. And this all leads to that bane of modern gardens - dozens of pots & containers (full of ailing plants) and nothing planted in the soil!

Pond Supplies

This is a book for humans who like the abstraction of gardening, and who like a acceptable apprehend but who haven't in fact angry abundant soil. Michele wonders why so few Americans abound food, or abound anything. And again devotes a accomplished affiliate to my claimed top reason: soil.

Yvonne @ Country Gardener

As my American friend points out (I'm Canadian), it's hard to buy the Americans hate dirt bit. Fast-paced lifestyles rarely breed dedicated gardeners. Gardens require care, and if you work long hours or travel a lot, who does the labor and handles the disasters? By the time retirement rolls around there is the time to garden, but no one to eat it all. If we all grow our own, who supports the Farmer’s Markets that everyone agrees are a good thing? There are just no easy answers.

Graham Rice

Well Yvonne, I've seen kids reaching out to touch plants in city planters being told not to touch by their parents. In the US too, of course, the climate (at both extremes) can be dispiriting to new gardeners.

Pond Supplies

Americans don't like dirt. In a bearing we have gone from kids bistro worms to kids not getting accustomed even to blow the clay because it's dirty and full of germs.

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Great book with the nice concept with the lovely writing of blog...! Some of my American friend points out me, it's little hard to buy all the Americans hate dirt little bit. Fast-paced lifestyles rarely breed dedicated gardeners.

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And this all leads to that bane of modern gardens - dozens of pots & containers (full of ailing plants) and nothing planted in the soil!

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