In the not-so-distant past, families in rural areas still cultivated their own vegetable gardens and produced much of their own food. This age-old practice extends beyond memory, yet today it seems more the exception than the rule.
For great swaths of human history, a garden gave families a margin of comfort and security, a varied diet, and better overall health. At times of crisis, a garden could mark the difference between a prosperous family and an impoverished one. And at some dark points in history, a garden could mean the difference between life or death.
Today, this most essential of all human endeavors—growing our own food—has been reduced to a hobby. Industrialization, modern agriculture, the pursuit of convenience, and other cultural forces have collided to break our bond with the land. What was once a life-affirming human activity has been reduced to a profit-at-any-cost business. Food is just another commercial product, processed for long shelf-life and available throughout the year.
Yes, food is cheap, but we pay a high price for that cheap food.
Enter The Organic Gardener’s Handbook by Frank Tozer. In his thought-provoking introduction, Tozer explains that our current food production practices aren’t sustainable. As such, we’re on a fast approach two very divergent paths. Will we take the path leading to an ever-deepening reliance on technology, machines, pesticides, and GMOs, all backed by multinational corporations who are beholden to their shareholders?
Or will we take the path leading to…our own backyard? That’s right. All it takes is a modest, average backyard to produce a significant proportion of the fruits and vegetables you need in your diet.
Tozer sketches out an optimistic vision for the future of human food production, imagining how we can return it to its rightful place in our lives. Not a hobby, not a big business—but a small-scale, self-sustaining, fundamental aspect of human life.
By some estimates, Tozer notes, there are thirty million acres of irrigated suburban lawns in this country. In other words, many Americans today live on vast tracts of prime farmland. If only a small fraction were used for home food production, the benefits would be immense. Same for big cities, some of which are experimenting with community garden plots with great success. No matter where you live, chances are you can find a way to grow at least some of your own food.
Sure, you say. But why organic? Shouldn’t I use every tool at my disposal, including pesticides and chemical fertilizers, to make my garden a success? The simplest answer is that nature knows best, so the smartest way to grow food is to work with nature, not against her. To be an organic gardener is to trust in the simple calculus that nature has already figured out the best way to grow food. She’s been at it for millennia. Also consider this: Just as we pay a high cost for cheap food, we pay a hidden cost for easy solutions.
Organic growing practices need not be intimidating. The Organic Gardeners Handbook covers pretty much everything home gardeners and experienced growers alike need to know about creating and cultivating a sustainable organic garden:
Climate – Site selection – Garden layout – How plants grow – Soil appraisal – Plant nutrients – Soil management – Fertilizers Using fertilizers – Growing beds – Row Gardening – Compost – Soil improving crops – Mulch – No-dig gardening – Seeds Crop planning – Vegetative propagation – Perennial vegetables – Watering – Direct sowing – Crop spacing – Growing transplants – Sowing mixes – Transplanting – Plant support – Tools – Feeding – Weeds – Garden pests – Disease – Harvesting
We believe the Organic Gardener’s Handbook will reconnect you with an age-old practice as essential to human life as breathing. So get your copy, and get growing.
About the Author
Frank Tozer has been fascinated by gardening for as long as he can remember. He grew up in England but moved to the United States as a young man. He travelled extensively before settling down to grow plants, first in Connecticut and then in California and Washington. For a time, Tozer was an apprentice at the UCSC Farm and Garden in Santa Cruz, where he learned to grow vegetables more methodically and abundantly. His journey closely parallels that of many earlier European settlers in America. He arrived with nothing, travelled overland across the country, settled in the Santa Cruz mountains, built a house almost singlehandedly, carved a productive garden from the surrounding woods, and raised a family. He’s worked as a gardener, carpenter, plumber, jeweler, solar installer, general contractor, farmer, and writer. Frank Tozer’s other books include The Uses of Wild Plants, The New Food Garden, and The New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
“Tozer is a plantsman of the old school, who can teach even highly experienced growers a thing or two.”