Author: Gayla Trail
Publishing info: Clarkson Potter/Random House
In a nutshell: Informational - 5 out of 5 shovels
I thought about following up on pink slime this week, but frankly, I’m tired of looking at pictures of raw meat.
Thankfully, I have the perfect antidote for this problem. Gayla Trail’s new book, Easy Growing, is easy on the eyes. But it’s more than just food porn – much more, especially for those of us who don’t have 40 acres, tractors, or oodles of time to spare. Gayla has substantial street cred as an urban farmer – she launched You Grow Girl in 2000 because she was a young, urban gardener, exactly who the traditional ‘Carrots love Tomatoes’ books don’t want as an audience. Since then, she’s authored three books, and stayed at the forefront of the urban gardening explosion that’s happened in North America in the last decade. Her gardening haunts over the last decade have included her Toronto rooftop garden, a guerrilla garden on city-owned land, and various examples of community gardening (both traditional and yardshare).
I have to admit that I wondered a little if I would find Easy Growing relevant – while her first book (You Grow Girl) spoke to the closeted hipster in me during my twenties, and Grow Great Grub is a ready resource as I take on too many veggies in my yard this year – the tagline of “Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces” made me wonder. Am I really interested in herbs and edible flowers enough to actually use a book about it?
But the garlic scapes on the cover sucked me in and I haven’t looked back. Gorgeous pictures of things I might actually grow in situations where I could see myself growing them? Check. Crisp graphic design layout that’s easy on the eyes (and doesn’t annoy me)? Check. Real, substantive advice on how to grow herbs inexpensively, what to consider growing where (including considering the shadows and sun reflection from high-rises, or my next-door neighbor’s house)? Check. A thorough list of herbs and their uses that I can see myself using as a handy reference tool? Check. Seedling starts in takeaway containers? Check. Growing your own ginger? Check. And that only takes me halfway through the book.
What I love most about Gayla’s writing is that it feels like she’s right there next to you, talking calmly (at least, how I envision that would be, since I’ve never met her). It’s conversational and practical, with info that every fledgling gardener needs to know, without the condescension standard in so many old-style gardening books. It’s also things that intermediate gardeners (like me) haven’t necessarily thought of before, from growing ginger and lemongrass to explaining step-by-step how to harvest coriander seeds. I think that everyone, with the possible exception of professional horticulturalists, will learn something from this book – for example, I now know what an umbellifer is (who knew that carrots had so many relatives?).
Now that I’ve read this book, I find myself eyeing every available inch of space in my yard to see what I could stick where, and how I can use it in my cooking this summer and beyond. I guess I did need a book on herbs – I just didn’t know it.