Friday, April 07, 2006

Great Gardens in Just 20 Minutes a Day

Review of The 20-Minute Gardener
Tom Christopher, Marty Asher (Random House, 1997)

If you can spare 20 minutes per day, on average, you can have a great garden and have a lot of fun with it, too.

Why 20 minutes? Because that, minus commercials, is the average time for a half-hour television program. If you can give that much time to just one program each night, you can spare that time for your garden. Give up some of your T.V. time and get outside.

But can you really do it all in 20 minutes?

That depends on how you define "all." Create a stunning replica of Sissinghurst, complete with clipped yew hedges? Not likely. Create a garden that suits your wants and your lifestyle? You betcha.

Christopher and Asher have the secrets to gardening with just 20 minutes per day. Their master plan begins with making your priorities and changing some of your methods to make your garden task list as short and simple as possible. Their quest is not for the perfect garden, but for a manageable garden, with weeds and pests kept in check by simple, ecologically-sound means. This leaves time for having fun in the garden: trying new plants, experimenting with new vegetables, or trying one of the 20-minute projects that are scattered throughout the book: build a kitchen windowbox so you can impress your friends by reaching out the kitchen window to snip fresh herbs, root "graveyard roses" to cultivate cheap and sturdy low-care rose bushes, construct the world's cheapest compost bin, grow an Egyptian water garden, and more.

Not that the two authors agree on all points. Christopher has a background in horticulture and landscape design, and has a distinct tendency to go overboard on his projects. Asher, by contrast, is extremely laid back about his garden, and his idea of a garden "task" would be to lie back in a hammock with a tall beer and supervise the grass as it grows. Between the two of them, with Christopher pushing Asher along, and Asher putting the brakes on Christopher's more outrageous notions, they find a middle ground that's just right for most busy homeowners. Along the way they infuse the book with their characteristic good humor that makes this book a delightful read.


Genny said...

Hey there I just linked here from YGG and man, I love the 20-Minute Gardener! I read their other one too, forget what it's called. I recommend it. I am going to go back and start re-reading the 20-minute gardener tonight!

Reading Dirt said...

I've got it, too! It's the 20-Minute Vegetable Garden. I love the whole "20 Minute" philosophy!