Thursday, January 10, 2008

Review: Food Not Lawns

Food Not LawnsThey say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. You shouldn't judge it by its title, either. I spent the first half of Heather Flores' Food Not Lawns feeling rather frustrated at the lack of direct advice about turning your lawn over to food production. Instead the book is a rambling diatribe expounding the author's position on a variety of environmental, social, and spiritual topics. By the time I got to the end of it, I felt it had some interesting ideas in it but it really needed a different title. If you want to turn your lawn into a veg plot this isn't the book for you. At least, it's not the only book you'll need.

The mismatch between the title and the content of the book is continued in the chapters. Chapter one is titled "Free Your Lawn". Sounds like it's about freeing your lawn, perhaps to grow food, doesn't it? Instead it mainly contains the author's biography. The titles of chapters and sections don't necessarily give you much clue what the section is about. The chapter titled "Ecological Design" is mainly about a sort of mandala she calls a "spiral design wheel" which has "look deep" at the centre, and opens out through layers with names such as "let autonomy reign" and ends up with "COSMOS - SOCIETY - WILDERNESS - SELF - CHAOS" etc. It was all too hippy-dippy even for me, and I have a high hippy-dippy tolerance cut-off. I laughed out loud when she described her admiration for John Jeavons' "How to Grow More Vegetables", another book I couldn't get away with because it was too rambling, vague and hippy-dippy.

I'm glad I read Food Not Lawns because it does contain some interesting ideas. My favourite bits of the book were nothing to do with veg growing, but were about getting involved in your local community through activities such as seed swaps. The section about remembering to include children was also great. I wish I'd read the book with a highlighter pen so I could have marked the bits I liked. If I ever want to find them again, it'd be like wading through treacle.

If you like mandalas, yoga and community theatre this might be the book for you. If you think digging a deep hole, standing in it, then getting a friend to bury your feet and legs and then water you whilst you;
...raise your arms to the sky and imagine your leaves and branches unfolding, expanding towards the heavens. Close your eyes and imagine blooming, setting seeds, wilting, and returning to the earth.

will help you become more attuned to the mystic cosmic wossname, then you might like this book. I didn't like it so much. I prefer The Vegetable and Herb Expert by Dr D.G.Hessayon

14 comments:

Skipweasel said...

Shall we write a better one?

FactoBrunt said...

Remember to include the children? You mean "Pack of pumpkin seeds - comes with one free child"?

Sounds a pretty useless book - definitely not my thing. I'm happy for trees to be trees.

e4 said...

I'm with you on both counts. Jeavons may be a fabulous gardener and a great researcher, but he's not a very good writer. I didn't even get through a chapter of Food Not Lawns before sending it back to whence it came (the library)...

Cue-Ball said...

I also read this book over the holidays and had about the same conclusion you did. There's a lot of talk about how bad lawns are and how much better gardens would be, but little practical advise. I'm hoping to replace a portion of my back yard with a garden and thought this book would be useful. It wasn't. However, I would highly recommend "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. I checked out a copy from the library and liked it so much that I bought my own. I'll be putting Mel's recommendations to use and will basically pretend I never read Food Not Lawns.

Yellow said...

I was sitting in the room whilst you read it, and all I could hear was you alternately grinding your teeth, then yawning.
I'm glad to hear you're not allergic to writing in books: so I'm not the only one who crosses out whole pages, or highlights lines then?

Skipweasel said...

"I'm happy for trees to be trees."

My daughter wants to be a slug.

Alice said...

That sounds extremely frustrating! Dr Hessayon is indeed much better, although there's no mention of organics in my copy - has it ever been updated? I do seem to have a very old copy (1985).

The Biscuit Queen said...

I was the same way about Not Buying It by Judith Levine, about not buying anything unnecessary for a year. Too much on politics, much of which I didn't agree with, and too little on the how too.

I almost bought the Food Not Lawns at an organic conference last year, glad I didn't. There are so many good gardening books, the concept of making lawns into gardens is not so complicated it takes its own book.

Melanie Rimmer said...

You're right, Biscuit Queen. I didn't review Not Buying It because I couldn't finish it.

inmygardengrows said...

Well if I did buy this book it would not be for gardening tips from the sounds of it. I got a chuckle out of your critique thanks for sharing it. :)

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