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Book Review: Felder Rushing's "Slow Gardening"

What is "Slow Gardening?"

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slow gardening by felder rushing
Courtesy of Chelsea Green Publishing
Slow gardening is stress-free gardening. It's about having fun, growing naturally, and growing a garden that pleases you rather than one that keeps up with the Joneses. As Rushing states in the first few pages: "Life has lots of pressures -- why include them in the garden?" In "Slow Gardening," garden writer and speaker Felder Rushing shows how you can grow a garden that is uniquely you, and how you can grow that garden using natural, organic practices.

About the Book

"Slow Gardening" is packed with useful information. Long-time gardeners will most likely be familiar with Rushing's advice for how to garden naturally, but the entire book is worth a read; even those sections in which we're not necessarily learning something new are full of wit and encouragement -- exactly what any gardener who is determined to grow the garden of their dreams, rather than a facsimile of their neighbors' gardens, needs.

"Slow Gardening" is not a long book, but it is packed with helpful information, especially for the beginning gardener. Here is a run-down of the table of contents:

  • An Introduction to Slow Gardening
  • Garden Psychology
  • Carving Out Your Space
  • Plants -- The Real Deal
  • Nuts and Bolts: Universal Garden Practices
  • Getting Slow in the Garden

The book also includes a forward by Roger Swain, former host of "The Victory Garden" on PBS.

This is a very well-designed book. It is full of colorful photos, block quotes, and sidebars, which makes for easy reading and provides plenty to keep the reader engaged.

The Basics: How to Garden

Rushing thoroughly explains the "how" to garden through a few chapters. The chapters on "Plants" and "Nuts and Bolts" are chock-full of good, solid gardening information. In the chapter on plants, for example, he covers the difference between an annual and a perennial, lawn care, groundcovers, vertical gardening, herbs and vegetables, and discusses invasive exotics. He also talks quite a bit about "passalong plants" -- plants one gardener receives from another, and then, eventually, passes along to other gardeners as well. I'm happy he spends time talking about this topic; some of my favorite plants in my garden are those that I received (as plants or seeds) from family and friends.

In the "Nuts and Bolts" chapter, Rushing explains weather, climate and hardiness zones, soil, compost, mulching, how to plant, fertilizing, tools, pruning, pests, weeds, plant propagation -- it's basically a crash course in how to garden. Very useful for new gardeners, probably less so for experienced ones, but it's worth a read either way. Sometimes, it's nice to be reminded how good we are at over-complicating things.

How to Grow a "Slow" Garden

In the final chapter, "Getting Slow in the Garden," Rushing states that "The Slow Gardening concept is very inclusive, with plenty of room for many different approaches that will work just fine for nearly anyone -- make that everyone -- regardless of personality or interests. Whatever your bliss, it is yours to discover and follow."

What he's saying throughout the book, and what I wish more gardeners and garden writers embraced, is the idea that you should grow a garden that pleases yourself first. You shouldn't grow a garden that your neighbors will approve of, or that looks like that design you saw in a magazine. You should grow a garden that makes you happy, that makes you feel good when you're in it. Working in a garden that you love isn't work -- it's a pleasure, and it's something you savor. And when you savor something, whether it's a good meal, a long bubble bath, or, yes, your own garden, you end up leading a happier, more fulfilling life. Isn't that what gardening is supposed to be about?

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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