Before the term “garden blog” was even coined there was Gayla Trail’s You Grow Girl. A few years back when I discovered the internet was good for things besides playing online games I stumbled upon You Grow Girl. While the site and blog seemed to be populated mostly by hip, urban and crafty young women, the subtitle for the blog, “Gardening for the People,” resonated with me so I stuck around to read the blog and eventually participate in the forums and became a fanboy. Around this time it was still pretty novel for a blogger to go from blogging to being a published author or pop culture personality, so the fact that Gayla Trail went from being a “blogger” to an author fascinated me. The You Grow Girl book was soon added to my personal gardening book library.
Of Gayla’s first book, the Publishers Weekly’s Editorial Review on Amazon says: “…there isn’t much “groundbreaking” advice here-the book itself is a competent guide to getting a little dirt under your fingernails.” What was groundbreaking about the book (and blog it was spun from) was the populist gardening tone and appeal to younger gardeners. For the first time younger gardeners had an author they could relate to, that explained gardening wasn’t hard-it was easy, fun and an outlet for creative types. Gayla’s second book, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces will be available February 2, 2010. After spending the afternoon pouring over the beautifully photographed and illustrated 205 pages of my review copy of the book, I think it should’ve been subtitled “Edible Gardening for the People.”
Like Bob Flowerdew’s Grow Your Own Eat Your Own, Grow Great Grub presents edible gardening in a way that is accessible to all; particularly people with limited space and finances. Within the pages of Grow Great Grub you won’t find fruits and vegetables growing in fancy containers, you will find them growing in items you may have around your house like: buckets, pails, wooden boxes and tin cans.
The conversational tone of the text demystifies mulching, composting and fertilizers without talking down to the reader. The section on garden pests and plant diseases will help vegetable gardeners identify common problems without resorting to harsh chemicals. DIYers will appreciate projects like the no-till raised-bed, self-irrigation container (homemade version of the Grow Box & EarthBox) and trashcan potatoes. Cooks and foodies will appreciate recipes like roasted zucchini dip, root vegetable fries and the cold cucumber, mint and yogurt soup that is making my mouth water while typing this. There is even a section on canning and preserving and extending your garden harvest (printable canning labels available in back of book). Newbie gardeners will appreciate the advice on choosing containers, companion plantings, seed starting and planting chart, a chart for predicting when your crops will be ready to harvest and the planting advice.
What kinds of vegetables are covered in the book? The usual suspects (beans, greens, peas, cucubrits, alliums, peppers, brassicas and more) that you’d want to grow in your edible garden. There are also suggestions for more unusual edibles and root vegetables, which in my opinion don’t get enough attention in the vegetable garden.Then there are the fruits like blueberries, citrus containers, currants and gooseberries, melons along with herbs and edible flowers.
Just like You Grow Girl came along at a time when younger gardeners needed a writer that spoke to them, Grow Great Grub is being published at the perfect time. The surge vegetable gardening has recently experienced, for better or worse, is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Younger, “casual gardeners” will appreciate having so much information condensed into one book. The information is presented in a fun and casual manner that doesn’t talk down to the reader, making the information easy to understand and retain. It is like getting gardening advice from your friend who has been gardening for a years and is happy you’re finally jumping on the bandwagon. While the book is targeted at people with limited space like patios, rooftops and balconies; the information is sound and can be applied to those with larger back or front yards who want to grow fresh food. Lastly, I want to mention the book’s design because good gardening books are common, but well-designed gardening books are rare. The book’s design is wonderful, probably the most beautiful book on vegetable gardening I’ve ever seen.
Grow Great Grub is published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group and will retail for $19.99 in the U.S. when it becomes available in February 2010. You can visit You Grow Girl or follow the author on Twitter. Visit the Grow Great Grub website to preview the book and preorder.