Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review: Fresh Food From Small Spaces by R. J. Ruppenthal

I know that many of you, like Dan and I, have the dream of owning your own land and growing much of your own food. Like me, you just aren't there yet and you want to take steps to get closer. This book was a huge jump for me.

When I saw the subtitle, "The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting" I got a little nervous. I've got a good handle on fermenting and sprouting. I wanted growing info. I was happy to see one chapter devoted to each sprouting and fermenting, the rest of the book was about urban gardening. The sprouting and fermenting chapters were packed with useful info as well, but I was most excited about all the gardening info.

The eleven chapters dealing mostly with urban and indoor gardening covered everything from beekeeping, to potatoes, from mushrooms to apple trees. This book outlines how to get started growing so many foods, many indoors and year-round. At the outset of the book, the author says you can be growing 10-20% of your food by implementing a few of his strategies. He then clarifies you can be growing much more if you include sprouting.

This book is revolutionizing my indoor garden, which is currently taking up only a few feet of window space. I am in the process of a major overhaul. Here is my strategy:

1) Reread the book and write down each idea I want to implement, writing down the page numbers with the most pertinent info. (I'm about halfway through with this.)

2) Categorize the ideas into those I want to start within the next month, those I want to start within the next six months, and those I want to start within the next year. (Hint: we won't be bee-keeping in the apartment.)

3) Reread each section as I implement various parts. I have an idea for a lettuce stairwell, sort of. Anyway, I'll be blogging about it all as I go!

Who is this book good for?

Everyone who wants to extent the gardening season, everyone who wants to get a jump start on homesteading, and everyone who wants fresh food and the satisfaction of growing it themselves.

My library didn't have Fresh Food from Small Spaces but I could have gotten it through the inter library loan system, so it is not totally uncommon. If you're interested in this kind of gardening, though, this is a resource you will want on your bookshelf. It is on the Amy Dacyczyn level of usefulness.

Here is an exceprt from the introduction:

"I know firsthand of the need for this book, because I had been searching for it for many years. Having lived in small urban apartments and condos, I did not have the luxury of space that most gardening books describe... By trying, failing, and sometimes succeeding, I have learned how to grow a sizable percentage of my family's own fresh food from a small urban living space. And I decided that others could use this information too, so I wrote the book I had been trying to find."
FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not paid to review this book, but I did recieve a free copy to review. All Amazon links are affiliate links, but if you want to check out this book without me getting credit, click here.

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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is amazing when you find out how little space is needed to grow food. I've been following the Urban Homestead blog (urbanhomestead dot org) for years--it is incredible the food that family produces in their tiny yard in Pasadena,CA.
Mrs B.

Kelly said...

Another great book is "McGees and Stuckey's Bountiful Container" My sister loaned me this book and it is great. I cannot plant a garden because I but could not wait until I bought a place to actually have a garden! So I am starting my seedlings this month.

Carla said...

Thanks, put it on hold. Hopefully it will help. We have no window ledges in our apartment and while I have some step space, I only ever got one tomato plant to grow, and it was the only one a friend prepared for me. It is challenging gardening in an apartment, but I want to try successfully (I've been trying unsuccessfully for years!)

Anonymous said...

My dad's parent's were farmers and pretty much grew what they needed. My grandmother said we never had much money in the Great Depression, but we ate like kings :)

When I was growing up my grandparents had an acre of land that contained a small orchard, and gardens to grow her veggies, two barns for her animals- she raised chickens, calves, goats, bunnies and even had a duck or two.

Basically they ate what they grew, sold the eggs for money, and had someoone butcher their calves for meat- that was some of the best steak I ever had.

They lived on the grid, but for the longest time they did not have electricity.

I often think their lives were more rewarding than mine, they took pride in the vegetables from the garden, made apple pies from the orchard trees........

I have alot of fun memories of that small farm, I hope your dream of owning land comes true, it was a magical place for me to visit and grow up with. Not to mention the air was alot fresher than where I live in the city :)

Mom in Canada

Jaime G said...

Just looked it up... my library has it, so I put in on reserve! Thanks for the post. I loved the book "Square Foot Gardening," but a book about square INCH (!) gardening sounds much more doable :o) Whoo-hoo!

Elizabeth said...

That sounds like a great book, I'll have to check it out or look for it at Half Price Books. Another book that you'll surely want to have on hand when you do have a garden of your own outside is "Square Foot Gardening". It shows how to grow tons of produce in small spaces!

Anonymous said...

LOL. Glad to hear you aren't beekeeping! LOL. I can just imagine the comments.

Jean

Susan said...

You go Emily! I am a Horticulturist and have been gardening most of my life. Because we have a large backyard I have not done much veggie container gardening, except for the kitchen window in winter.
My grandmother put a bakers rack up against a window and grew her own container garden in her apartment. I loved it when she grew potatoes in two bales of hay on her patio!
As spring nears you might want to check out my Home Gardening blog, Chic Daisy. I know I will be checking out this book for research.

Susan
http://susan-chicdaisy.blogspot.com/

AmandaLP said...

I live in an NYC apartment. I have no window ledges (we are required to have bars), and due to roommates, I have no outdoor space at all.

Would be book be useful for someone like me? Or does it assume that we have outdoor space for container gardens? Does it talk about growing food without sunlight?

Thanks!

Emily said...

Kelly, I'll have to look into that one.

Amanda, it talks about foods you can grow in partial light and food you can grow in full shade, with no light, like mushrooms. This may be the only gardening book that is useful for you.

Simple in France said...

Yay! I've been itching to grow something new and wondering where the heck to get ideas since I don't have any outdoor space here. I didn't just want to select a random book off Amazon either (I need to order since I'm out of the country). Very, very cool. I also like the idea that it covers sprouting and fermenting a bit because I've only just begun to dabble in these areas!

www.nelliebugs.com said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I wonder if my library has it.

Sadie@
nelliebugs-swaps.blogspot.com

Susan said...

Amanda,
You could buy some 'grow lights' at a garden center or over the net. I have used them to start seedlings in the house, until the cats pooped in the pan. Many greenhouses use them to get a faster start on plants. A former neighbor used them to grow veggies in her garage all winter one year.
Most vegetables need six hours of direct sun a day to produce their best. Grow lights (full spectrum floresents) can be set on a timer to give your plants the light they need. It wouldn't hurt to try them out.

Emily said...

Simple in France, I was thinking you would love this, since you're in an apartment and want to eat local. It doesn't get more local than this. (:

Susan, great tip!

crabcakes said...

Great timing for this post Emily! We just started our window herb garden today. 48 pots and tomatoes that will eventually go outside.

I just need to get some chives and I'll be done!

Anna said...

How very, very cool my garden is three acres, and thats just the vegetables and I live on a farm/ranch but for some reason urban homesteading has always fascinated me. Maybe because I think that everyone should strive to be as self sufficient as possible. I grow tomatoes indoors every year and am going to try strawberries this year in a homemade topsy turvy so I think I will be ordering this. I have always wanted to grow mushrooms too I am excited to read how to do it indoors. Happy gardening Emily!! Oh and Carla Mother Earth News has some pretty good directions on growing tomatoes indoors and starting them from an existing plant, and then taking starts from that plant to replant outside(you would just take starts to have more indoors) anyways their articles are all online I highly reccomend it.

S said...

Thank you! It is a great time of year to start thinking about this kind of thing as well! I am interested in combining indoor gardening with some container gardening. I am new to apartment living and so this will be really helpful! I am going to see if my library can get me this book!!!

Clisby said...

I love the Urban Homestead blog. They have the big advantage, though, of having a yard. (And living in California where, I would guess, you can garden pretty much year-round, like you can here in coastal SC).

One thing I've seen a lot of in Charleston is people using their small front yards (typically more sunny than back yards) for gardening.

One of my plans is to till the ground on either side of our concrete walkway to plant decorative food (herbs, carrots, chard, potatoes, onion/garlic etc.) I've seen that a lot around here, often with annuals like pansies or petunias interspersed.

Deconstructed Life - Fashion and Beauty on a Gritty City said...

I can't wait to see your results with this! I also live in an apartment but I do have a small balcony. I always wanted to grow some herbs and perhaps a few other things but I am afraid of the birds getting to it.

DawnM said...

Are there any community gardens in your area? That would also extend your space.

Emily said...

Dawn, I applied for a spot a while back, but haven't heard back from the people who run it.

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