Because “Gardening Makes People Happy!” *

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My beloved plot at the Vermijo Community Garden in 2010. SO MUCH FUN!

This is going to be the short and sweet review of a great book I’ve had around for . . . <gulp!> a year.

Even though it’s taken a while to get to this review, it thrilled me to see that LaManda Joy had written Start a Community Food Garden: The Essential Handbook. Joy appeared on my radar some years ago (hee hee), when she was lecturing about World War II victory gardens, which were often a type of community garden. That subject fascinated me. For instance: Did you know that a lot of the people who started gardening then, in the big cities during the war, had zero gardening experience starting out? I sure didn’t. Captivated by the story of people getting together for the greater good, I thought my readers would love to know about victory gardening too, and so I asked Joy if she’d write something for Greenwoman. She did, and the result was an amazing historical story that actually fit in so well with exactly what many of us are trying to do today—growing food that is nutritious, organic, and so very delicious; making good use of our land in the city; exposing our children to meaningful, wholesome work; having fun interacting with and learning about nature; connecting with our community, etc. Back in the early ’40s these community gardens were created for the war effort, out of necessity. I’d argue that today they’re also being created out of necessity, to fill the many deficiencies in our modern, high-tech lives. But that’s another subject.

Joy’s curiosity about victory gardens, her love of gardening, and her desire to share her ample knowledge of food cultivation led her to creating a community garden in her neighborhood. Synchronicity is an amazing thing; while she was researching WWII victory garden community gardens, she learned that an empty plot of land near her home was the site of one. She dug in (literally & figuratively) and got a new community garden started there! The Peterson Garden Project has taught and fed hundreds of people since and has led to the creation of more gardens.

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Start a Community Food Garden is the most comprehensive and easy-to-read book on the subject that I’ve read. Joy takes you gently and logically, step-by-step: from figuring out what kind of garden to create, to mobilizing others to help, to organizing and presenting meetings, to the dozens of practical considerations—water, security, soil amending, tools, and so on. I promise you that this is the only book you’ll need if you want to get started on getting a community garden in your neighborhood.

I know this book covers all the bases because I was a member of a community garden myself for a few years. For years, I had longed to try this form of gardening and was excited when I finally got the chance. The experience was, of course, hard work, and not without a few ups and downs (we experienced several late summer vegetable thefts) but I loved it. I only left because of the waiting list. It was time to let someone else have a go at it and I had the space and means to build some vegetable beds in my own backyard. Last summer I met the woman who had taken over my plot, and she thanked me for the rich, amended soil and a beautiful lily I had (accidentally) left behind. She said it had grew over 5 feet tall and was the centerpiece of her garden. Oh, the little surprises and fun we can pass on, even after we’ve left a community garden!

If you haven’t tried it, now’s the time. And you’ll have a wonderful blueprint with this book!

I’ll leave you with a special treat; a video where you can see LaManda Joy and the Peterson Garden Project for yourself.

—Sandra Knauf

(Note: While Timber Press graciously sent me a free copy of this book, I was not paid to review it, nor are any of my reviews purchased.)

*Quote from LaManda Joy.

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