Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The New American Landscape edited by Thomas Christopher: A review

The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening was published last summer. I reviewed it at that time for my other blog, Gardening with Nature, but it is a book that I have turned to time and again since first reading it for inspiration and for information about best gardening practices.  It is a book that is invaluable for any gardener seeking to achieve sustainability in his/her gardening practices.


This book features chapters written by a diverse group of knowledgeable horticulturists and gardeners on a variety of subjects such as the new American meadow garden, balancing natives and exotics in the garden, landscapes that welcome wildlife, the sustainable edible garden, gardening sustainably in a changing climate, and on and on. There are eleven chapters in all, edited and introduced by Thomas Christopher, who has been reporting on gardening and environmental issues for more than twenty-five years. The thing that ties all these various chapters together is that they feature a sustainable approach to gardening.

The subjects that are covered affect gardeners everywhere and the writers' commonsense step-by-step approach demonstrates how gardeners' sustainable practices positively shape our environment. Gardeners, after all, are on the front line of defense as we struggle to deal with problems like loss of habitat, water shortages, shrinking biodiversity, and, the biggie, global climate change, and how we garden in our own backyard can have an impact for good or ill on each of those important issues.

Some of the suggestions here for improving our sustainable gardening practices include the following:

1. Plant a tree. If you can only do one thing, this may be the very best thing you can do to help the environment. Trees take up CO2 and reduce emissions from air conditioning. Furthermore, they help to cool our yards and houses - another reason that we here in Texas need to do everything within our power to save trees during this drought.

2. Recycle and reduce use of disposable products. For example, do not use non-biodegradable mulches such as those made of plastic. Use natural, organic mulches.

3. Improve nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency. One of the writers suggests, for example, using clover/grass mixes for your lawn. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil.

4. Reduce fossil fuel usage. Use tools that do not require fossil fuels whenever possible and use the ones that do require fossil fuel as sparingly as possible.

5. Increase soil carbon sequestration. One way to do this is to employ a no-till, no-dig method of gardening known as lasagna gardening. It involves layering rather than tilling and has become increasingly popular among organic gardeners.

6. Use renewable energy sources whenever possible.

These suggestions and this book work for gardeners with a wide range of experience. Both the veteran gardener and the newbie can learn a lot here. This is an impressive and thought-provoking book, one that belongs on the shelf of every gardener who is concerned about the environment and the future of the planet. That, I think, is every gardener.



(An Advance Review Copy of this book was provided to me at no cost by the publisher, Timber Press, for the purposes of this review.)

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