Book Review: Gardening By Cuisine

book coverGardening by Cuisine: An Organic-Food Lover’s Guide to Sustainable Living is the latest book by Patti Moreno, proprietress of one of the top urban gardening websites, Urban Sustainable Living and a former host of PBS’s Growing a Greener World. While the subtitle oversells the book a bit, this is a great introduction to growing food in a small space, an ideal choice for beginning vegetable gardeners.

Moreno is an advocate of using raised beds and containers for vegetable gardening, and the first one-fourth of the book is a simple, but complete, discussion of sun, soil, water, seed and the basics of growing your own food. Beyond that, the book includes diagrams and directions for creating vegetable garden structures, such as raised beds, simple hoop houses and trellises for vining vegetables.

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Photo from http://www.urbansustainableliving.com

With the basics out of the way, Moreno walks readers through what and how to plant in order to create gardens for specific cuisines, from a simple herb plot to an Asian stir fry garden, a tomato sauce garden or a Native American three-sisters garden. Moreno uses a variation on the square-foot gardening methods, so readers will know exactly how many of each plant to plant. The book includes designs for each of the gardens using 4-by-4-foot or 4-by-8-foot raised beds.

Moreno also recommends varieties that are appropriate for smaller spaces, such as shorter types of corn, and suggests ways to add flowers to provide habitat for beneficial insects and beauty to your beds. The book includes a few basic recipes for using your harvest.

Experienced vegetable gardeners won’t find a lot that is new in this book — though, I plan to try one of her hoop house designs that I have not seen before. But for a novice vegetable gardener, this is a perfect book. It’s accessible, friendly, well-illustrated and presents lots of options for smaller or larger gardening efforts. If you are a beginning vegetable gardener or you know one, consider getting a copy of Gardening by Cuisine.

Moreno has been on TV a few times, and I’ve long enjoyed her youtube videos. Some of her best are on making a raised bed and doing vertical gardening. This book seems to also be a proposed television show, and you can watch the pilot episode on youtube.

—Mary Lahr Schier