I read Amy Stewart's fine book, From the Ground Up, last week on a very long plane ride home to California from Indianapolis, Indiana. I'd been to Indianapolis to speak to the Indiana Arborists' Association convention, as I am a garden writer myself (Allergy-free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden, etc.). My flight was delayed due to a snowstorm in Detroit but the extra long trip was made more than okay because I had this delightful book to read. I'd received From the Ground Up as a present from my Mom. It is the story of one lady's first attempt at gardening, and as one who taught horticulture for 20 years, and who has gardened for almost 50 years, it was remarkable fun for me to see all the little mistakes she made, the discoveries she uncovered, the personal disasters and achievements that accompanied her quest to create a wonderful garden. Really great gardens don't just happen, not at all. They are created with huge effort, smarts, learning, help and advice from other gardeners, with tips from garden books, and most of all by the vision of the gardener in charge. There exists within the wide range of garden writing a host of some rather fabulously good writing. These are the books that combine solid garden advice with a large dose of very personal observance and experience. Although From the Ground Up is a first book, it reads as though written by someone who had been writing for many years, someone who had honed and polished her writing so that every line sparkled. I would expect that this book would appeal most to those who love to garden, but because the level of writing is so unusually excellent, I'd guess almost anyone who appreciates literate writing would enjoy it. If you're one who is new to gardening you'll find a wealth of useful tips here, interspersed with some darn good recipes too for making gourmet meals of all that extra fresh produce you'll eventually have. I really can't say enough about this marvelous book. Reading it was pure pleasure.
Amy Stewart tells the story of how she got to Santa Cruz & took over a patch of seaside earth in which a couple of fruit trees, a handful of shrubs & a host of weeds fought for life. Each chapter includes helpful tips on neighborly propagation, composting, worm juice, rose pruning techniques, how to make a bug love you & concocting a gardener's bath. They are not what you think - some of this novice's results are hilarious while others are downright commonsensical. One of the first tips she gives us is on Making a Sun Map - do give it a go - I haven't looked at my garden the same since I discovered this clue. Alongside the story of this young woman's determination to create a garden in which the plants will live up to her vision, she remembers family moments from her childhood while facing down obstinate natives more wily than her. Talk about turf wars! A fine companion for anyone contemplating becoming addicted to gardening! Amy Stewart has since moved to northern California where she is hard at work on her second garden &, I hope, her second book.
I loved this book and felt as though I were reading about myself - the excitement of discovering the world of gardening, battling weeds, loving both birds and cats but realizing that the two don't mix and thinking about gardening while at work sitting in a boring business meeting! No matter what type of garden we have or where it is located, the author's experiences are universal. She writes about establishing her first garden in Santa Cruz with passion and humor and leaves you wanting more. I hope that she will write about her new garden in Eureka!
In this collection of short friendly essays, Amy Stewart combines her experiences stumbling head-long into the world of gardening with recipes and tid-bits of advice, introducing the reader to her cats, her dirt, her composting worms and her first harvest. She even declares a holiday, August 8, as "National Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Night". My copy of From the Ground Up, a gift from my wife during a dreary Toronto January, came into my life while I was dreaming of my own first garden. Already loaded up with instructional guides on herbs, vegetables and flowers, I found myself quickly charmed by Amy Stewart's approach. She wasn't an expert. She made lots of mistakes along the way, the kind of mistakes I was apt to make as well, and she overcame them with determination and good humour. It doesn't matter that Amy Stewart's coastal garden supports a much different array of plant (and insect) life than my zone 6 garden does. Her book remains less about how to grow stuff than about how to find a good way to live through gardening. She shares a compelling personal adventure with the ultimate message that the adventure you create in your own garden is just as important, just as valuable as hers. The best time to read this book is when the weather doesn't allow you time in the garden. Curl up in your most comfortable chair, with some hot tea and your cat if you have one, and enjoy.
This lovely book is a definate "must-read" for anyone starting out on the daunting task of a first garden or if you find yourself needing a reminder as to why you dug up all that ground in the first place! Tips and helpful info at the end of each chapter will give even the most experienced gardener a bit of a hand, and the writing style is at once elegant and funny.
For those who enjoy digging in the dirt or simply admiring gardens, Amy Stewart's From the Ground Up is a charming read. The book offers many practical tips but its appeal is more than a "how to" manual. The reader shares Ms. Stewart's excitement in planting her first flowers and veggies in the ocean climate of Santa Cruz, CA, discovering the hard way what really works. The author shops for soil amendments and ladybugs the way some women revel in a Saks Fifth Avenue sale. Recipes using garden bounty pepper the narrative. The mood is like a cozy chat between friends. All this unfolds against a backdrop of a roller coaster next door, tourists stealing plants and cats gamboling in the greenery. Curl up in a comfy chair in a pleasant spot and enjoy the gardening expoeriences of Ms. Stewart from dreamer to doer.
As I read From the Ground Up I felt torn between the desire to rush out and start gardening and the equally compelling desire to stay in my chair and continue reading. Amy Stewart makes gardening come alive and she makes reading about gardening fun, both for real gardeners, and non-gardners, like me. I was reminded of Calvin Trillen's, Alice Lets Eat. Trillen made me yearn to join him in the search for the perfect fish boil. Stewart makes you want to be down in the dirt with her digging, laughing and learning. I would highly recommned the book to anyone who enjoys clever and skilled writing. The fact that the book is crammed with gardening information becomes the icing on the cake. The cake is the writing and the world it lets you enter.
This book is fun to read even if you are a tycoon of gardening and a great place to find the best organic growing tips - using worm castings, simplest errors of not adding enough organic material to your soil (I am also a gardener who wants quick results, investing money in plants instead of soil, will change that now...)... It is definetly one of the best gardening books I've read.
Amy Stewart captures the essence of gardening and living in Santa Cruz, CA. This is a gentle and graceful book that will make you want to run to your local garden center and buy everything, then go home and spend the whole weekend getting dirty. You will greatly enjoy this book regardless of the size or state of your garden or yard. A wonderful read, very well written, almost poetic at times...you will love it.
Amy Stewart has written a wonderful book about gardening that is funny, interesting and full of lessons about the beginnings and endings of things. Her story about moving from an urban woman yearning for the feel of a garden's dirt on her hands into a full-fledged gardener, compost pile and earthworm manure and all... is also the story of how to change a life and move towards what we love. I loved reading it and highly recommend it for gardeners and non-gardener's alike.