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Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community

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Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution--it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt. Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution--it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt. Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders and city dwellers alike build fertile soil, promote biodiversity, and increase natural habitat in their own "paradise gardens." But Food Not Lawns doesn't begin and end in the seed bed. This joyful permaculture lifestyle manual inspires readers to apply the principles of the paradise garden--simplicity, resourcefulness, creativity, mindfulness, and community--to all aspects of life. Plant "guerilla gardens" in barren intersections and medians; organize community meals; start a street theater troupe or host a local art swap; free your kitchen from refrigeration and enjoy truly fresh, nourishing foods from your own plot of land; work with children to create garden play spaces. Flores cares passionately about the damaged state of our environment and the ills of our throwaway society. In Food Not Lawns, she shows us how to reclaim the earth one garden at a time.


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Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution--it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt. Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution--it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt. Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders and city dwellers alike build fertile soil, promote biodiversity, and increase natural habitat in their own "paradise gardens." But Food Not Lawns doesn't begin and end in the seed bed. This joyful permaculture lifestyle manual inspires readers to apply the principles of the paradise garden--simplicity, resourcefulness, creativity, mindfulness, and community--to all aspects of life. Plant "guerilla gardens" in barren intersections and medians; organize community meals; start a street theater troupe or host a local art swap; free your kitchen from refrigeration and enjoy truly fresh, nourishing foods from your own plot of land; work with children to create garden play spaces. Flores cares passionately about the damaged state of our environment and the ills of our throwaway society. In Food Not Lawns, she shows us how to reclaim the earth one garden at a time.

30 review for Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    To my horror, I found that science is not only under attack by the conservative right, but by the liberal hippie left. ::shudder:: This book had the potential to be useful and informative but when the author states, "...urine is totally sterile. In the garden fresh urine can be diluted 1:10 with water and poured on the soil or compost pile" she is just plain wrong. Sure, urine is totally sterile if you remove it from yourself using a catheter. As soon as urine passes through the urethral area it To my horror, I found that science is not only under attack by the conservative right, but by the liberal hippie left. ::shudder:: This book had the potential to be useful and informative but when the author states, "...urine is totally sterile. In the garden fresh urine can be diluted 1:10 with water and poured on the soil or compost pile" she is just plain wrong. Sure, urine is totally sterile if you remove it from yourself using a catheter. As soon as urine passes through the urethral area it picks up tons of bacteria. Delivering misinformation to your readers is dangerous and plain wrong. My other favorite gem from this book is included in the "Jail Support and Solidarity" section. "Use your time in jail to talk with other prisoners about organic food, sharing resources, and ecological community. But watch out for informants and undercover agents." I think this certifies the author as being a complete nutso.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    --wrote this for www.greenprophet.com-- I finished reading Food Not Lawns on my roof, just after I checked my new vermi-compost bin. The roof compost represents my attempted adaptation to life in the modern world whereby I try and lead a more sustainable lifestyle within my means and ability in our modern world. I was hoping to read Flores’ book and gain tips on how to build and maintain an edible yard in my future home, and possibly how to manage to grow edibles in the most unlikely of places li --wrote this for www.greenprophet.com-- I finished reading Food Not Lawns on my roof, just after I checked my new vermi-compost bin. The roof compost represents my attempted adaptation to life in the modern world whereby I try and lead a more sustainable lifestyle within my means and ability in our modern world. I was hoping to read Flores’ book and gain tips on how to build and maintain an edible yard in my future home, and possibly how to manage to grow edibles in the most unlikely of places like a concrete wasteland in Tel Aviv. As it turns out, I was in for a bit of a surprise. Flores sets out to write two books: the first on how to convert one’s lawn into a garden and thereby live a more ecological life (replete with sweet anecdotes and exercises like planting one’s self in their own garden) and the second on how to reject modernity and reclaim our land, government and culture from post-industrial life. I’ll begin with her first book. Flores is clearly an accomplished landscape designer and permaculturist, though her writing is a bit dry. She starts each chapter with a brief, somewhat vague meditation on the state of our modern world. “In this modern age of fast-paced electronic consumerism and global violence…many people have lost touch with their natural instincts,” she writes in a typical lament of society. “The average person in the United States knows over a thousand corporate logos but only ten species of plants.” The book really shines once it revels in the details of how to build a thoughtful and effective garden. The tips that stick out in my mind are how to build effective gray-water systems which reuse sink and shower water in the garden. “Slime monsters” can be built to purify your reused water by building a mini ecosystem in a reused plastic half-barrel replete with woodchips, soil and plants. Thus, water can flow from your sink to the slime monster to the irrigation channels that will water your garden. Flores also explains composting and principles of biodynamic farming, and perhaps most fascinating, how to brew compost tea to use instead of buying expensive fertilizers (really just put compost in a sock and stick in a barrel of water like you would a tea bag and use a pump to agitate the brew for 24 hours). The book also includes important lists on which plants to consider planting and how to choose one’s own gardening goals and how to select for plant-life to match those goals. Armed with information and useful tips from her chapters on the water cycle, soil, plants and polycultures, seed stewardship and ecological design, I felt ready and eager to begin laying my own garden plans. “If you want to garden you have to get dirty,” Flores reminds the readers, and I was ready. Replacing our wasteful and preposterous lawn culture, for which Americans devote a significant amount of their water supply, I felt, is a wonderful way of adapting and improving our interaction with modern life. Plus, gardening is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, a point Flores stresses over and over again. She reminds readers to “love your hammock as you do your pitchfork….” Flores write nicely about the importance of polyculture and diversity in one’s garden and articulately criticizes monocultures in America. She warns, “…don’t base your food security on just one, two or even fifty species,” and proceeds to offer ideas for how to save your own seeds and exchange seeds with other gardeners. Surprisingly Flores hardly devotes any time to the fascinating history of lawn (mono)culture in America that has been written about both by Michael Pollan in Second Nature and more recently by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker. It was a disappointing omission, and just proclaiming that it’s time to reclaim our lawn didn’t quite cut it in my opinion. In fact, Flores’ book quickly veers from an ecological how-to into a treatise on ecological activism. Flores comes out of an anarchist tradition, and as a former Greenpeace activist and founder of the non-profit organization Food Not Bombs, her activism is well known in various environmental circles. In her book she suggests that ripping up concrete and asphalt to make room for edible gardens is in itself a form of activism, a protest against the modern system, which on its own is a nice thought. Although she isn’t interested in reaching millions of people by convincing them to take the source of so much waste and pollution—our lawns—and alternatively converting them into abundant sources of food for our families and community; rather, Flores goes one step further and proscribes how to live the most ecologically sensitive existence, suggesting quitting jobs, getting rid of clocks, mirrors, alarms and engaging in radical community action. I actually agree with her on certain ideological levels, but for a host of practical reasons I think she misses the mark. For starters, without jobs most people can’t afford homes or lawns in the first place. Secondly, I believe that striving to adapt the modern world to our environmental needs is more realistic and beneficial to a majority of the world than foolishly hoping that millions of Americans will suddenly throw out their watches and begin living a fully subsistent agrarian lifestyle. I was left with the thought that Flores has existed too far outside of the mainstream to be a relevant voice on just how to make modern life more sustainable. I think Flores officially loses me by chapter 9, “Into the Community,” in which she provides advice on protests and demonstrations. “Sometimes even a small demonstration can quickly become violent, usually (in my experience) as a result of police overreaction to civil unrest,” she writes. “In just a few minutes things can get really crazy and a lot of people can get arrested, beaten tear-gassed, and sometimes killed by police.” Aren’t we talking about gardening? She continues to offer advice on activist training camps to learn how best to prepare for civil disobedience. The book then continues on for three more chapters on community organizing and how to run an effective meeting and how to teach gardening to children. Her book strays considerably from what I presumed it to be about. Somehow she also finds room to offer advice on scrapbook making and how to throw a party. Yet, in the section on composting Flores writes that there’s not enough room to explain vermi-composting in detail and that the reader should read other books to attain such information. At the end of the book it became clear to me that I had just read a cultural manifesto, a how-to guide on radical activism and living in the fray, in which reclaiming land to grow food is just one way to defy the mainstream. When I have a house with land I will certainly use Food Not Lawns to plan my garden and gray-water system, and the book will be a vital resource for me. I would recommend this book to those who see their sustainable living as radical activism (which sometimes includes me), but for those aspiring gardeners, I’d peruse the gardening section at your local book store for something a bit more, well, useful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Inder

    I just pulled this out recently for inspiration, and I gotta say, it's really inspiring! Sure, okay, it's a bit hippy-dippy, but doesn't our world need a few more guerilla gardeners? This book inspires me to make good use of my land, to be more adventurous with my gardening, and to see gardens as potential community builders. Let me tell you, my neighborhood needs more of that! I'm seriously considering sneaking a few veggies into the abandoned lot across the street. What can I lose? But be awar I just pulled this out recently for inspiration, and I gotta say, it's really inspiring! Sure, okay, it's a bit hippy-dippy, but doesn't our world need a few more guerilla gardeners? This book inspires me to make good use of my land, to be more adventurous with my gardening, and to see gardens as potential community builders. Let me tell you, my neighborhood needs more of that! I'm seriously considering sneaking a few veggies into the abandoned lot across the street. What can I lose? But be aware, this is WAY more than a book about gardening vegetables. This is a manifesto for simple-living (in the truest, sparest sense), green-living, and activism. Such topics as dumpster diving and local protests are covered in detail. At first, this was definitely a turn-off for me (I'm sensitive to the slightest bit of self-righteous tone), but I do actually agree with much of what the author has to say, and there are some tips here I can incorporate into my life without entirely losing my fashion sense, or my pampered lifestyle. _______________________________________ I've been dabbling in this book for some time, and it's full of helpful tips. Especially, I'm excited to try some of the mulching techniques when we finally get around to removing the slab of concrete that is our front yard. The tone is hippy-dippy at times - many chapters are best skimmed - but there are some great ideas here if you're willing to hunt around for them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    If I ever get out of cover crop phase of my backyard garden plans, God Help any of you who don't like vegetables. If I ever get out of cover crop phase of my backyard garden plans, God Help any of you who don't like vegetables.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carryl Lee

    I hate to give such a low review since the author seems like a good person with good goals. However, I was looking for a book on how to convert my lawn into gardens and not enough of this book is about that. There are no photos and most of the book is slanted towards activism. That's great if that's what you're looking for but I really wanted to know how to grow a front yard garden and wanted to see examples of people who did it. I hate to give such a low review since the author seems like a good person with good goals. However, I was looking for a book on how to convert my lawn into gardens and not enough of this book is about that. There are no photos and most of the book is slanted towards activism. That's great if that's what you're looking for but I really wanted to know how to grow a front yard garden and wanted to see examples of people who did it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dioscita

    This book, for me, was ... enh. I skimmed a lot of this book because much of it was familiar, a repeat of what I've read in the rather copious SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) reading I've done in my day. There's a bit of hippy-dippy, self-righteous, holier-than-thou stuff from Flores that got a little old after a while; I was particularly irritated at her carbon footprint section because I thought, "Well, cool for you, Ms. Flores. And if *everybody* did the same things you do (no refr This book, for me, was ... enh. I skimmed a lot of this book because much of it was familiar, a repeat of what I've read in the rather copious SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) reading I've done in my day. There's a bit of hippy-dippy, self-righteous, holier-than-thou stuff from Flores that got a little old after a while; I was particularly irritated at her carbon footprint section because I thought, "Well, cool for you, Ms. Flores. And if *everybody* did the same things you do (no refrigerator, no car, etc.), then you're right, we'd be better off. The thing is, people DON'T do what you do so ya got any other ideas??" Like all books, this one had some good moments. But overall I found myself aching for some of the information I *really* wanted (i.e. there isn't a single word in there about garden varmints) and skipping past a lot of the stuff I didn't. If you still want to read this, I suggest getting a library copy, first.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    while this isn't the most in-depth or scholarly approach to permaculture, it is a radical treatise on getting out of the industrial food and water system, getting back in touch with the earth, setting up an ecologically sound garden and home water system, and finding ways to pass this wisdom on to your community. there are a lot of great ideas (and a fabulous resource section at the end of the book) in this basic introduction to permaculture. while the book is primarily geared toward urban envir while this isn't the most in-depth or scholarly approach to permaculture, it is a radical treatise on getting out of the industrial food and water system, getting back in touch with the earth, setting up an ecologically sound garden and home water system, and finding ways to pass this wisdom on to your community. there are a lot of great ideas (and a fabulous resource section at the end of the book) in this basic introduction to permaculture. while the book is primarily geared toward urban environments (people living in the country may find some sections of this book not as relevant or urgent to their permaculture needs, such as the chapter focused on getting off of city-provided water), there is much here of value for any current or would-be gardener who is interested in a more personal and sustainable way to provide food and water for your family, friends, and community.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dianna

    This book has some good ideas and how-tos for transforming your yard into a garden. However, 75% of the book is activist propaganda. While I think that a lot of what she has to say is fine (yes, I do think grass is a waste of space), she is so unreasonable about it all. While I do intend to attempt to grow more food on my own land, you won't catch me practicing "guerrilla gardening" or planting and watering my friend in my garden or starting my own local chapter of Food Not Bombs. Nor am I going This book has some good ideas and how-tos for transforming your yard into a garden. However, 75% of the book is activist propaganda. While I think that a lot of what she has to say is fine (yes, I do think grass is a waste of space), she is so unreasonable about it all. While I do intend to attempt to grow more food on my own land, you won't catch me practicing "guerrilla gardening" or planting and watering my friend in my garden or starting my own local chapter of Food Not Bombs. Nor am I going to get rid of my refrigerator. I ended up skipping over quite a bit of this book because its extremism was not helpful to me. If Ms. Flores adopted a more reasonable, moderate approach I would have more respect for this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Now I am pretty crunchy/granola according to my friends. I compost, garden, eat little meat, raise chickens for eggs, cook from scratch, recycle, conseve energy, drive carefully, care about where my food is coming from... blah, blah, blah. This book is all about those things and more and how to do them, but it's all phrased in a preachy holier than thou, hippie propaganda manner. Some funny lines, but overall it was too touchy feely, group-think for my tastes. Now I am pretty crunchy/granola according to my friends. I compost, garden, eat little meat, raise chickens for eggs, cook from scratch, recycle, conseve energy, drive carefully, care about where my food is coming from... blah, blah, blah. This book is all about those things and more and how to do them, but it's all phrased in a preachy holier than thou, hippie propaganda manner. Some funny lines, but overall it was too touchy feely, group-think for my tastes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I can get into hippy-dippy crap, but this chick is WACKED! I own the book, much to my dismay, and there are about four useful suggestions, a lot of extreme lifestyle suggestions, and, I shit you not, magic suggestions. It reads like the rantings of a manic psych patient, and yes, I can state that from experience.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    Here's a book review I wrote for www.matterdaily.org: Food Not Lawns How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community By H.C. Flores Reviewed by Charlie Malone Wednesday, 15 September 2010 Food Not Lawns H.C. Flores writes, “the Natural world is in deep decline due to the grossly unsustainable habits of humankind. This is no secret.” If you’ve a propensity for subversion, if you’ve time and passion to organize your community, Food Not Lawns offers factual, pragmatic, and ideo Here's a book review I wrote for www.matterdaily.org: Food Not Lawns How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community By H.C. Flores Reviewed by Charlie Malone Wednesday, 15 September 2010 Food Not Lawns H.C. Flores writes, “the Natural world is in deep decline due to the grossly unsustainable habits of humankind. This is no secret.” If you’ve a propensity for subversion, if you’ve time and passion to organize your community, Food Not Lawns offers factual, pragmatic, and ideological support. If you just want to grow food organically you’ll also find a whole-systems approach to gardening including great suggestions for water, soil, and seed conservation. Food Not Lawns is more than a “how to”. Flores’s radical, holistic thinking suggests everything from graywater systems and dumpster diving to a daily stretch routine. Some practices might make you uncomfortable. Modern introverts will shy away from the responsibility to community that Flores argues goes hand in hand with working in yards or window-boxes. Still, there’s a supply of practical tips for healthy, harmonious living. If you’re not committed to her cause, you’ll find it impossible to forget that Flores’ vision of urban gardening is equal parts yard-work and social activity. Not carrying the practice and produce to your neighbors leaves the cycle incomplete. Flores tries to convince us that failure to change will result in our extinction. Whether you accept the gravity of this assertion or not, Food Not Lawns contains a wealth of information. Her purpose, met with clear language and simple instruction, is to help anyone choosing an organic lifestyle “to apply these ethics to our diets, our gardens, our homes, and our communities.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alec

    I liked this book a lot. Other readers' criticisms here are valid - the author's politics are on the page, lots of ideas and projects are mentioned without an exhaustive how-to, and there's quite a bit in here that is not just about turning your own lawn into a garden. That's all okay with me. I would recommend looking for this book at the library (mine has at least 6 copies) or getting it used, starting with a topic that interests you, and skipping around as you like. If you get bored or think I liked this book a lot. Other readers' criticisms here are valid - the author's politics are on the page, lots of ideas and projects are mentioned without an exhaustive how-to, and there's quite a bit in here that is not just about turning your own lawn into a garden. That's all okay with me. I would recommend looking for this book at the library (mine has at least 6 copies) or getting it used, starting with a topic that interests you, and skipping around as you like. If you get bored or think a passage sounds too hippie-ish, skip around. There are lots and lots of ideas in this book. Write down what interests you. Regardless of food-growing experience, you will probably at least learn something or get ideas of your own after such a perusal. This book will probably appeal most to people who aren't looking for a narrow how-to. There are details for a number of projects, but the reader is often instead asked to try it or look it up themselves (perhaps in the 19-page "Resources" section in the back). This book is also a good read for folks who are looking beyond a strictly individualistic and propertied approach to growing food. Many of the ideas here are written for folks who want to grow food without buying lots of stuff to do so, or folks who aren't in a position to just buy healthy food. The author herself claims to earn about $6000 yearly, and couldn't garden in the yard of the apartment she rented in one example. This book will most benefit people who need and want to get creative about growing food in cities, and who are okay with figuring out for themselves the details of the many, many ideas and projects the author writes about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book was a really great start and introduction. It's not for someone looking for specifics on what to plant, where, what to plant it next to, and so forth. However, it's a great resource for someone looking for more information on sustainability in general, and specifically how it relates to creating your own garden - wherever you live. There are even some great tidbits for city dwellers. Part of the book focuses on creating a "paradise garden," information on how to conserve water and r This book was a really great start and introduction. It's not for someone looking for specifics on what to plant, where, what to plant it next to, and so forth. However, it's a great resource for someone looking for more information on sustainability in general, and specifically how it relates to creating your own garden - wherever you live. There are even some great tidbits for city dwellers. Part of the book focuses on creating a "paradise garden," information on how to conserve water and reuse gray water, information on soil health, what to consider when planning a garden. Part of the book is also lifestyle oriented, how to take this information into the community. Nothing gets too specific (time and space don't allow), but it's enough to be a valuable resource I'm fairly certain I'll refer to again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    The title is a bit misleading - the book focuses far more on the value of gardening and other aspects of green living than on instructions on how to do so. I also find it difficult to envision doing many of the projects she suggests with the scant directions she provides. However, it did give me a lot of ideas I want to try and implement, albeit I want to search for more thorough information elsewhere. The resources appendix she gives, though, should easily help remedy the brevity of instruction The title is a bit misleading - the book focuses far more on the value of gardening and other aspects of green living than on instructions on how to do so. I also find it difficult to envision doing many of the projects she suggests with the scant directions she provides. However, it did give me a lot of ideas I want to try and implement, albeit I want to search for more thorough information elsewhere. The resources appendix she gives, though, should easily help remedy the brevity of instruction the book provides. I do wish, though, that more had been focused on things renters could do - much of the work detailed in this book requires generous space, a long-term commitment to living in one space, and an ability to do to that space pretty much what you see fit (which I found odd since she talks about being someone who is "time rich" and "money poor"). Still, worth the read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beegobug

    This is an excellent read for those who are craving a sense of community and also want to learn about gardening, saving seeds through seed swaps, etc. Lest you think this is a militant diatribe discussing the evils of the way we live, be assured it is not. Heather Flores is as accessible on the page as she is in person, and she doesn't try to convince everyone to get rid of their lawn and replace it with food. Rather, she gives the reader a way to start building community through gardening and e This is an excellent read for those who are craving a sense of community and also want to learn about gardening, saving seeds through seed swaps, etc. Lest you think this is a militant diatribe discussing the evils of the way we live, be assured it is not. Heather Flores is as accessible on the page as she is in person, and she doesn't try to convince everyone to get rid of their lawn and replace it with food. Rather, she gives the reader a way to start building community through gardening and eating locally grown food. Her belief: "Prolonged and thoughtful observation is better than protracted and thoughtless action. Looking deep is our best strategy for solving problems, from choosing what to grow to learning how best to contribute to the community." A quiet revolution for sure.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeannette

    This is definitely a hippy-dippy book, but there's great info on water conservation and using grey water to water your garden. And of course, I love the ideas on turning your neighbourhood into a community through setting up a community tool lending library or doing things like City Repair does in Portland. The author is a bit out there (she lives without a fridge) and uses the phrase "earthlings", but that's okay. This isn't a gardening book per se, but it's got some good information. Skim thro This is definitely a hippy-dippy book, but there's great info on water conservation and using grey water to water your garden. And of course, I love the ideas on turning your neighbourhood into a community through setting up a community tool lending library or doing things like City Repair does in Portland. The author is a bit out there (she lives without a fridge) and uses the phrase "earthlings", but that's okay. This isn't a gardening book per se, but it's got some good information. Skim through whatever doesn't interest you.

  17. 4 out of 5

    R. C.

    This is not about gardening. Anyone who wants to create a better neighborhood needs this, even if they would be content to get their food at the farmers market. I mean, of course, it contains a lot of useful information about growing your own food off the farm, but it's about a better way of city living. And when I say a lot, I mean, really, tons of useful information. It's a book that will be owned, highlighted, dog-eared and dragged back and forth from the office to the yard. This is not about gardening. Anyone who wants to create a better neighborhood needs this, even if they would be content to get their food at the farmers market. I mean, of course, it contains a lot of useful information about growing your own food off the farm, but it's about a better way of city living. And when I say a lot, I mean, really, tons of useful information. It's a book that will be owned, highlighted, dog-eared and dragged back and forth from the office to the yard.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali

    Wow, was this book repetitive. The author claims it's a "book of solutions", but exactly where are they? Occupy Wall Street protesters will appreciate this book for its copious proselytizing and preaching to the choir. However, actioneers seeking a manual on regardening and reforesting the earth will find far, far better resources in a 1-hour websearch. Removing all soliloquies, there's only 20 pages composite of actionable, useful material. Ugh. Wow, was this book repetitive. The author claims it's a "book of solutions", but exactly where are they? Occupy Wall Street protesters will appreciate this book for its copious proselytizing and preaching to the choir. However, actioneers seeking a manual on regardening and reforesting the earth will find far, far better resources in a 1-hour websearch. Removing all soliloquies, there's only 20 pages composite of actionable, useful material. Ugh.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Just a bunch of neo-hippie woo with not a lot of substance. Based on the title, I was expecting (and hoping for) practical advice on creating a more sustainable space in my yard. Instead, I got the author's stream of conciousness on everything from seed bombing to dumpster diving. This book is referred to (positively!!) often by other sources, and I'm not quite sure why. Just a bunch of neo-hippie woo with not a lot of substance. Based on the title, I was expecting (and hoping for) practical advice on creating a more sustainable space in my yard. Instead, I got the author's stream of conciousness on everything from seed bombing to dumpster diving. This book is referred to (positively!!) often by other sources, and I'm not quite sure why.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kami

    This book gave me a couple of new ideas but most of the book was "This topic is too deep to get into here so check the reference section for more info" Plus it was really heavy on pushing her social agenda. I much prefer "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway, for actual information about Permaculture. This book gave me a couple of new ideas but most of the book was "This topic is too deep to get into here so check the reference section for more info" Plus it was really heavy on pushing her social agenda. I much prefer "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway, for actual information about Permaculture.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I confess to skipping the chapters on activism and community building. Other than that, this is a great book to encourage and inform people how to get started planting. Whether you have a lot of land or a little postage stamp, you can grow food! Instead of wasting time, money, energy, and chemicals on the perfect lawn! Can't wait to make my own garden :) I confess to skipping the chapters on activism and community building. Other than that, this is a great book to encourage and inform people how to get started planting. Whether you have a lot of land or a little postage stamp, you can grow food! Instead of wasting time, money, energy, and chemicals on the perfect lawn! Can't wait to make my own garden :)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I'm only 20 pages in, but I'm feeling so inspired by this book. The anarchist in me is bubbling with joy at all the ways communities can come together and create meaningful connections and relationships, all while damning the man (peacefully!) Amazing. I'm only 20 pages in, but I'm feeling so inspired by this book. The anarchist in me is bubbling with joy at all the ways communities can come together and create meaningful connections and relationships, all while damning the man (peacefully!) Amazing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Eh, I was a little indifferent about this book. I was really excited to read it, but in the end I felt it was boring and mostly annoying. I expected a little bit more from it, and to be honest I stopped reading about 3/4 of the way through, something I don't often do. Eh, I was a little indifferent about this book. I was really excited to read it, but in the end I felt it was boring and mostly annoying. I expected a little bit more from it, and to be honest I stopped reading about 3/4 of the way through, something I don't often do.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I wanted to like this book a lot, but yeah, the tone is off-putting and very much speaking from within a particular movement that to me has always reeked of privilege. We'll see as I get further in. I wanted to like this book a lot, but yeah, the tone is off-putting and very much speaking from within a particular movement that to me has always reeked of privilege. We'll see as I get further in.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I'm in agreement with other reviews on here about how only part of the book is useful, but wanted to write my own review because I checked out two books on this topic and both were repulsive for the same reason. Why oh why must the person interested in exploring ways of producing food and reducing ecological impact be subjected to the anti-corporate radical pseudo-scientific leanings of the current organic farming community? On the one hand, books like Food Not Lawns are ostensibly about encourag I'm in agreement with other reviews on here about how only part of the book is useful, but wanted to write my own review because I checked out two books on this topic and both were repulsive for the same reason. Why oh why must the person interested in exploring ways of producing food and reducing ecological impact be subjected to the anti-corporate radical pseudo-scientific leanings of the current organic farming community? On the one hand, books like Food Not Lawns are ostensibly about encouraging participation in these endeavours. In fact, they are exclusionary because they try at each turn to subvert the reader's "sacred cow" beliefs about lifestyle (and rarely if ever seem to examine any negative impacts of their own lifestyles). Food Not Lawns is quite open about its agenda. The problem is that it means the book is only going to appeal to people who share those beliefs, and those people would probably find the book redundant. I found it a bit redundant in many places, and I don't even subscribe to the hippie-dippie stuff. These radical eco-activists see themselves as progressive when in fact they are reactionary. They seem to see a life devoted to tending one's own small plot of land as the zenith of human life potential (in the long run, that is--after all the protests are over). But I reject that. The goal, to my mind, ought not to be a return to the early days of agriculture where one is essentially a subsistence farmer (as the author seems to want us to do), but a way to fix the environment while improving the living standards we have. The author asks us to question whether we really need exotic vacations. No, I suppose not. But I would certainly try to protect exotic vacations, if I could! The problem is that these kinds of books alienate the readers who could do the movement the most good. Leaders of communities, industry, and churches tend to be conservative in their lifestyles and personal attitudes, but have the most influence on the greatest number of people. But the current movement seems to believe that appealing to 'the man' would somehow cheapen their victory. They seem to demand that each person come to the tree-hugging side voluntarily and enthusiastically, and God forbid any money enter into the transaction. Well, that's all a lot of nonsense. The best thing that could happen for their cause is that some businessman discovers how to make organic forest gardening highly profitable, because then it will spread like wildfire. After all, which is more likely? That a businessman with a plan to make money on responsible gardening expands a business, or that the majority of people independently come over the tree-hugging side? A 2012 Gallup poll estimated that 46% of Americans are still creationists, for crying out loud! The 'grassroots movement' thing is ridiculously inefficient, because people aren't likely to just change their attitudes without tangible incentives (like cash in their hand). Update: Almost forgot--this one other thing. I can't stand when people use the word 'exponentially' incorrectly, and this author did it twice in the first 40 pages. I want there to be a universal rule implemented--"Didn't pass calculus, don't get to use the word 'exponential'". The author said things like (not literally, I don't have the book with me) "The community will become exponentially involved." I understand that she's trying to say that there will be significant community involvement, but for there to be exponential involvement, the involvement has to be measured against something else. Like "The community engagement will increase exponentially with time."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is less of a review of the book and more a response to some of the negative reviews. Before I start, let me be clear that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think the Iliad, Brothers Karamazov, Hamlet, or Waiting for Godot are one star works then I won't waste my time or yours trying to convince you otherwise. Likewise, this review isn't meant to convince the one and two star raters that they're wrong. Instead, I'm writing this for people who may be on the fence about reading Foo This is less of a review of the book and more a response to some of the negative reviews. Before I start, let me be clear that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think the Iliad, Brothers Karamazov, Hamlet, or Waiting for Godot are one star works then I won't waste my time or yours trying to convince you otherwise. Likewise, this review isn't meant to convince the one and two star raters that they're wrong. Instead, I'm writing this for people who may be on the fence about reading Food not Lawns. The negative reviews fall into a few broad categories. The most prolific being something along the lines of, "This book didn't do what I wanted it to so I don't like it." Apparently people come to the book looking for specific advice about gardening. There is some of that in the book, but that's not the primary focus. A quick survey of the table contents should be enough to convince you of that. Of all the criticisms leveled against the book, this is certainly the silliest. Imagine picking up a copy of The Divine Comedy and giving it a one star review because it wasn't a book full of religion jokes. It's not Dante's fault you don't know "comedy" is being used in the literary sense. Unless the book doesn't fulfill some explicit promise it makes then the gripe that this book doesn't provide a detailed diagram of how to create a paradise garden is your problem, not the author's. Another common complaint seems to be the "hippie-dippy" aspects of the book. There's no doubt that some of Flores' suggestions aren't for everyone. I'm not going dumpster diving. I'm not getting rid of my refrigerator. I probably won't be recycling my greywater anytime soon. But I will be mulching under my front yard next spring. I'll be incorporating as many suggestions from chapter twelve as possible (kids and gardens). I will look for opportunities for guerilla gardening. I've already approached a couple organizations about starting community gardens. And even though no one would describe me as New Age or a hippie, Flores is right about getting in touch with your garden. Sit in your yard. Feel out the space. See how structures create shade and microclimates. All that just to say that what one person thinks is radical will be perfectly normal for someone else. Implement the ideas you like and set the rest aside. Finally, another criticism is related to the author's politics. Flores is definitely writing from left of center. But that becomes apparent from early on in the book. Traditional gardening books don't consider growing vegetables as a subversive act. But Flores does, and I think she's right. If you want a gardening book from a conservative that tells you exactly how to plan your garden then Martha Stewart probably has quite a few on the market (actually, I have no idea what Ms. Stewart's politics are). If you want a book that will inspire you to change the world then read Food not Lawns.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erika RS

    The premise of this book was interesting: gardening with a goal of improving the world often leads to a desire to improve the world more widely, so let's have a book about both gardening and community organization. Sadly, the book tried to do too much and so ended up doing nothing particularly well. The first half of the book is about gardening. The vast majority of things in that section are covered in more detail (but not much more space) in books like Gaia's Garden. The second half of the book The premise of this book was interesting: gardening with a goal of improving the world often leads to a desire to improve the world more widely, so let's have a book about both gardening and community organization. Sadly, the book tried to do too much and so ended up doing nothing particularly well. The first half of the book is about gardening. The vast majority of things in that section are covered in more detail (but not much more space) in books like Gaia's Garden. The second half of the book, on community organization, was not well connected to the first half and equally broad but shallow. That said, each section had one chapter I really enjoyed (seed saving in the first half, and integrating children into gardening and community development in the second half), but even those were fairly shallow -- they are just topics I have had less exposure to. I should point out that this book leans pretty far toward the radically progressive, and if you disagree with the politics of the author, the book will be frustrating (Flores said as much near the beginning). I am progressive on many issues, but I still found myself put off by the author's "my way is obviously the right way" tone at times. At times, Flores tends to be somewhat sloppy with her use of terminology. The best part of this book is the resources section. Because the book covers so many topics, the resources and references in the back are rich sources of pointers. The book may not be worth reading, but if you're interested in any of the many topics it covers, flipping through the back could be worth your time. P.S. The book is called Food Not Lawns after the organization of the same name. Neither the book nor the organization advocate that food is the only thing worth growing. Rather, they claim that it is under emphasized. But "food in addition to lawns, but more food than we have now" is not a very catchy name. =)

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

    What is community gardening? It would have to be not only that the garden is undertaken by and for people of a community, but also would also include the community engagement and governance necessary to start and maintain community gardening projects. This book takes on the question of community engagement as a part of gardening in a vigorous and unflinching way. This book takes a wide-ranging look at starting to take an aggressive move to home polyculture gardening, personal change, and social c What is community gardening? It would have to be not only that the garden is undertaken by and for people of a community, but also would also include the community engagement and governance necessary to start and maintain community gardening projects. This book takes on the question of community engagement as a part of gardening in a vigorous and unflinching way. This book takes a wide-ranging look at starting to take an aggressive move to home polyculture gardening, personal change, and social commitment, a comprehensiveness that includes everything from equipment lists, to rituals, to home water-system renovation, to activism. It veers from exceptionally practical (to recognize soil issues by the kinds of weeds that populates it) to the edges of spiritual practice (such as the 'preparation' formulas of biodynamics and other magic) to rather sharp editorials to solid interpersonal practices that span generations. It's a mixed bag but one that comes from a cohesive perspective of garden activism. There are so many good things explained simply that it would be hard not to rate it well; the charts and recipes are simple and effective, and there is a substantial section for further resources. The inclusion of the engagement of children was particularly notable (why children? Quite simply, because children are part of the community that gardens). My criticisms are that the rage of its critiques, though perhaps not unjustifiably, are occasionally a little unpalatable. I also find that the engagement with magical practices is limited to a kind of credulity rather than actively building the kind of ritual practice which encodes and transmits folk knowledge. I might also would have liked to have seen a section on engaging the elderly. Other than this, though, this book presents a good introductory and highly personal view into a urban/suburban permaculture engagement with soil, water, plants, seeds, personal practices, community engagement, and children.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. WHOA! This lady is CRAZY! (In a good way, mostly.) Okay, this book isn't really that entertaining, unless you are reading it with a friend to make fun of the author's extreme views. (I paraphrase, "Humans are the cancer destroying the earth...We must stop them and save the planet!") But, as for gardening, it is CHOCK full of AMAZING ideas! As far as thinking outside the box, this lady dumped the box out and burned it! There ain't nothing in the box here. Okay, so the first chapter is about how to s WHOA! This lady is CRAZY! (In a good way, mostly.) Okay, this book isn't really that entertaining, unless you are reading it with a friend to make fun of the author's extreme views. (I paraphrase, "Humans are the cancer destroying the earth...We must stop them and save the planet!") But, as for gardening, it is CHOCK full of AMAZING ideas! As far as thinking outside the box, this lady dumped the box out and burned it! There ain't nothing in the box here. Okay, so the first chapter is about how to start a community garden without using up any more of nature's depleted resources... So, it is like extreme tightwads do self-sufficient gardening. WHOA! COOL!!!!!! She is a dumpster diver! The Third chapter is about how to use the insane amount of water we already either use or drain off our roofs (rain) to supply our entire yard (which is now a garden, remember?) plus a storage pond in our yard. Whoa! I know I keep saying that, but this book keeps BLOWING MY MIND. I am really impressed. I've never been so stunned, so thrilled with possibilities I didn't know existed, so inspired when it comes to providing food for myself while transforming my property into a "Paradise Garden"... And all this for FREE. (Well, that's the ideal, anyway!)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Temoca

    Sadly, this was not exactly what I was expecting so I felt let down by the time I was able to trudge through. I wanted and needed more tips on the how tos instead of the a little too radical why fors. Sorry, I still like to shave my armpits. I have been planning to start a community garden at the middle school I teach at and want to help my students take their produce to the local farmer's market. Even thought Flores talks about planting a garden in any space we can, I'm not going to tell my stu Sadly, this was not exactly what I was expecting so I felt let down by the time I was able to trudge through. I wanted and needed more tips on the how tos instead of the a little too radical why fors. Sorry, I still like to shave my armpits. I have been planning to start a community garden at the middle school I teach at and want to help my students take their produce to the local farmer's market. Even thought Flores talks about planting a garden in any space we can, I'm not going to tell my students to start taking ovre their local park and start planting there. I will also stay away from teaching my students to use human waste on our school garden. If the kids research further and want to go that route, good for them, as long as it's outside of my community gardening relationship with them. I was pretty much done with the book when I got to the out in the community part. Some information helped, but not enough to help me through the starting stages of a community project. I'm back to hunting for a book that will help me and my students with a communiyt garden.

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