Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Deep-rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners by Augustus Jenkins Farmer: A review

Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of GardenersDeep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners by Augustus Jenkins Farmer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Augustus Jenkins Farmer, known to his friends as "Jenks," gardens in South Carolina, using the traditional skills and techniques he learned from his parents as a child and later from a large cast of teachers and mentors who had, in their turn, learned from generations of gardeners. In a straightforward and engaging style, he writes about what he has learned from all of them and from his own experience.

He espouses a model of gardening that is quite different from the corporate-driven one that we see in many slick gardening magazines and in television commercials for weed killers, insecticides, and manufactured fertilizers. It is a kinder and gentler way of gardening, one that is in harmony with Nature.

He writes about the basics of his kind of gardening, which starts with building a fertile soil to encourage a healthy web of life. He goes on to discuss harnessing the natural power of worms and fungi to help the soil and he expounds on the pleasures of watering by hand as a way of not only keeping the plants hydrated but keeping the gardener informed about their condition.

Jenks has chapters on saving seeds, on scavenging for plants, and on the use of pass-along plants. He shows how gardening need not be an expensive proposition. He also has an informative chapter on the use of tools, especially hand tools, some of which modern gardeners may not even be familiar with.

I found particularly interesting his discussion of handling garden pests. He takes a holistic approach to the management of insects and weeds. Since this is the method which I utilize in my own garden, I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read.

In a fascinating final chapter, the author writes about telling stories through one's garden. The truth is each garden does tell a story - whether we want it to or not. Gardening is a creative process and the garden one creates says much about its creator. It speaks of the culture which produced the gardener and of the biology of the land on which it exists. In effect, it reveals the essential spirit of the gardener and the place.

I've been reading a lot of garden literature this spring and each book has offered the wisdom of gardeners whose trowels I am not fit to handle but all have been accessible and generous in the sharing of their knowledge. None more so than Jenks Farmer in this book which could very well be sub-titled "The Joy of Gardening" because it is presented with an infectious joyousness which is difficult to resist. But why would you even try?

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest review of it. No other compensation was provided. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)


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