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"The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times"

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The Bottom Line

For those of us striving to produce more of our own food, not just as a hobby, but as a necessity, The Resilient Gardener is an invaluable resource.
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  • In-depth information about growing five essential crops to feed your family.
  • Useful, detailed instructions for preserving, using, and storing crops.
  • Focus on labor-saving, water-saving gardening methods.


  • If you're all about growing lettuce and tomatoes, this isn't the book for you.


  • According to Deppe, there are five crops that are essential to survival if one wants to feed themselves from their garden.
  • Those five crops are potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs. They provide a lot of calories and nutrition.
  • The book contains in-depth information about soil health and fertility, water-wise gardening, and labor-saving gardening.

Guide Review - "The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times"

What happens to our garden full of lettuces and tomatoes when we get sick, or when life takes a turn and we can't "baby" the garden for a while? Chances are good that when we finally manage to come back to it, all we'll find is a withered mess of what used to be a garden.

Carol Deppe envisions something different. She envisions a garden that works for us, rather than us working for it. She believes that most American gardens are grown during good times, when time and money are plentiful. But when times are hard -- when we're struggling, or sick, or otherwise busy -- that's when we may need our garden the most. In The Resilient Gardener, Deppe shows us how to plant and grow a garden that will sustain us, through good times and bad.

According to Deppe, there are five crops that we need to survive: corn, potatoes, squash, beans, and eggs. The first four, of course, you can grow in any garden. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that allows keeping poultry, Deppe makes a great case for why you should be keeping a few hens or ducks.

But for our purposes, let's look at the vegetable crops she mentions. Corn, beans, potatoes, and squash all have several things in common.

  • They are all high-calorie crops -- you can eat a potato or half of a squash and be satisfied, not the case with other common crops like lettuce.
  • They all offer high amounts of nutrients.
  • In general, they require less work from the gardener. Potatoes will almost grow themselves with nothing more than a bit of hilling up to keep them productive. Squash, once it gets going, requires only watering, occasional fertilizing, and vigilance against the dreaded squash vine borer. Corn and beans are almost ridiculously easy to grow. They'll keep growing, even if you have to step away for a day or two.
  • There is no constant, daily harvesting. In general, a big harvest that you are then able to store is what you'll get from these crops -- this is another labor-saver.

Carol Deppe also makes the very welcome point that the garden does NOT have to be perfect. Precisely straight rows and edges, a perfectly flat soil surface -- forget it. She recommends "selective sloppiness" -- "Only some things are worth doing well. Most things that are worth doing are only worth doing sloppily. Many things aren't worth doing at all. Anything not worth doing at all is certainly not worth doing well." Perfectionism in gardening is pointless (something I've been trying to convince people of all along. Now, maybe they'll listen!)

I highly recommend this book for any gardener who is interested in eating the most local diet of all -- the one they grow right outside their own back door, or in their own community garden plot. Aside from great gardening information, you'll learn plenty about storing and preserving the fruits of your labor.

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