"Resilient" gardeners adapt to challenging health, dietary, weather, or financial situations to produce food that can sustain a family through adverse times. In this guide to becoming such a gardener, plant breeder Deppe (Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties) details her methods for safe and reliable food production—and covers more than strictly gardening—no matter your state of health or what climate you are in. She focuses on five crops with calorie, nutrient, and storage values: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and, yes, duck eggs. In each chapter, Deppe describes her experiences with specific varieties of crops (with particular reference to her own climate in coastal Oregon), specific techniques for success, and unusual recipes suited to the varieties she grows (all are designed for those with gluten intolerance).
VERDICT: Deppe's idiosyncratic personality shines through her writing—this is as much a series of personal anecdotes by a lifelong expert gardener as a gardening book that will appeal to readers of a similar bent. Ideal for dedicated, independent gardeners who want to focus on food production despite dietary challenges, poor health, or other issues.
—Library Journal, Margaret Heller, Dominican Univ. Lib.
In The Resilient Gardener, scientist and author Carol Deppe offers readers an inspiring approach to gardening. For many, gardening is a hobby—a source of solace and an experiment in self-sufficiency. Gardens are designed to offer up good things during good times—handfuls of bulbous tomatoes after weeks of careful watering, weeding, and monitoring for invading insects, for example. But what happens when gardeners—along with the rest of society—face uncertain times?
Uncertain times, caused by an unstable economy, changing weather patterns, or personal injury, result in an expanse of time when the “garden suffers because people have other priorities.” With this premise in mind, Deppe introduces the concept of resilient gardening. In Deppe's world, gardening transcends the world of leisurely pursuit and transforms into an act of empowerment.
In twelve intensely detailed chapters, The Resilient Gardener empowers readers with the knowledge they need to design, build, and maintain gardens that can withstand intense hardship and thrive despite periods of complete neglect. The first half of the book marries the practice of gardening with emerging global issues, such as climate change, increasing attention to weight control, and the rise of food allergies. Readers must first achieve a firm grasp of how these issues intersect with the process of gardening in order to fully benefit from the hands-on guidelines provided later in the book. Deppe's analysis is thorough; her research delves deep. By discussing the interaction between gardening and prevalent world issues, she establishes gardeners as hubs of sustainability and survival, their individual efforts producing movements of resilience that can benefit society as a whole.
One of the major strengths of this book—and what sets it apart from the deluge of gardening books currently on bookstore shelves—is the union of Deppe's scientific knowledge with her personal gardening experience. The second half of the book details the five essential crops of self-reliance—potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs—and how to grow them. Though these sections are largely “dip and skip” depending on the reader's level of knowledge, they are expressed in crisp, detailed, and incredibly fluid prose. Deppe is able to transmit the nitty-gritty of gardening through invaluable parcels of personal anecdotes that make the material relatable and a pleasure to read.
Deppe's unique approach to her topic makes The Resilient Gardener an appealing selection for both experienced and beginner gardeners, as well as readers interested in issues of sustainability and global reform.
“I have been looking for a book like this one for several years, so the publication of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times gives me cause for rejoicing. Carol Deppe (whose earlier book, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, should be on every gardener's must-read list) brings us practical, common-sense garden wisdom and comprehensive, detailed advice for producing our own food staples. She's funny, too, and her wry humor goes a long way toward lightening her serious subject.
Carol Deppe is a long-time gardener and plant breeder (in Corvallis, Oregon) who specializes in developing open-pollinated, public-domain food plants for organic gardens. The Resilient Gardener encourages us to redesign our gardens for hard times. Its first focus, Deppe says, is on achieving greater control over our food supply, rather than relying on fossil-fueled industrial agriculture to supply our staple foods. Its second focus: on surviving the natural and personal disasters (droughts, family emergencies) that can wreak havoc in the garden. Its third: on gardening not just in the good times, or even in the hard times, but "gardening in mega-hard times." And not just gardening for ourselves, either, but for others: "A gardener who knows how to garden in both good times and bad can be a reservoir of knowledge and a source of resilience for the entire community." The bottom line, for Deppe, is the awareness that a time may come when our gardening pastime turns into a basic survival skill. Natural disasters, widespread resource depletions (fossil fuel, water, soil), or a catastrophic economic downturn may require us to grow our food, she says, so it's a very good idea to learn how to do this before we have no other alternative. To which I say "amen."
The first four chapters expand Deppe's definition of resilience and self-sufficiency in the context of climate change, possible food shortages, and personal dietary needs. The next three focus on gardening essentials: labor and tools, water, and soil fertility. There's lots of important basic information here, and I found myself frequently underlining and taking notes. Her chapter on the laying flock (although it feels a bit interruptive to me, coming as it does between potatoes and squash) fits neatly into her DIY food philosophy. Home-grown protein-rich eggs are an important addition to our diets, and even urban gardeners are finding ways to raise backyard poultry these days. I learned from her discussion of ducks and, while I'm a chicken person, I have to admit that it made me nostalgic for the ducks I've raised in the past. I had to smile, too, at the love and humor evident in the song she sings when she tucks her ducks in for the night: "It's Great to be a Ducky in the Rain."
But the really good stuff in this book happens in Deppe's chapters on potatoes, squash, beans, and corn—staple foods that do not receive enough attention in our arugula-centered gardens. Because Deppe is a plant breeder, she knows these plants from seed to harvest and beyond, and offers an extraordinary amount of valuable planting, culture, harvest, and storage information. Although some readers may not feel they need all the technical advice on plant breeding, Deppe's guidance on the selection of varieties, on garden layout and planning, and on pollination is basic, helpful, and encouraging. As well, she is an enthusiastic cook and relies on each of these four staple crops in her own diet, so she includes some excellent recipes and cookery information, as well. There's more to corn than roasting ears, and more to squash than zucchini!
It has been very good to see the recent swing away from ornamental to vegetable gardening. Some garden writers are beginning to pay serious attention to the practical business of raising our own groceries and are encouraging us to become less dependent on the supermarket as our sole food supplier. But Carol Deppe's book stands out among the current crop of vegetable gardening guides in the same way that a 10-foot stalk of Aztec Red Mexican corn stands out in my garden. If you're looking for help in growing staple crops at home, put The Resilient Gardener at the top of your list."
—Story Circle Review's
"The Resilient Gardener is so essential, timely and important, and I will recommend it to everyone I know. It doesn't matter if you garden or if you don't—this is practical wisdom good for humans to know, passed on by a careful student who has deeply studied her life. Carol Deppe's lens is the garden—which is great for gardeners, but really, she speaks clearly to all of us. If you try to think like Deppe, you will find you have a new view of your life no matter who you are. This is a wise and intelligent book. Hats off to Carol Deppe!"
—Deborah Madison, Author of Local Flavors and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
"The Resilient Gardener is the most comprehensive and detailed book about gardening that I have read to date, and I could not find one sentence that I would quibble with. Not only does Deppe discuss all the immediate, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of information about producing and using homegrown food, but also all the surrounding environmental and cultural aspects of gardening that are so vital to success. A must read for beginning gardeners, and full of details even the most experienced will find invaluable."
—Gene Logsdon, Author of Small-Scale Grain Raising and Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind
"In the years since Carol Deppe wrote the classic Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, she has continued to grow in deep wisdom and experience. The Resilient Gardener is brilliantly timely, and shows us how to create gardens that can survive our increasingly erratic weather, while supplying key nutrition lacking in most vegetable gardens. This book fills a critical niche, and I recommend it unreservedly."
—Toby Hemenway, Author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
"Carol Deppe's celiac-friendly approach to gardening and nutrition provides a wealth of information on how to overcome food intolerances many are confronted with each day. If you struggle with food allergies or sensitivities—or want to use natural resources to create a healthy world for you and your family—this book is for you."
—Peter H.R. Green, MD, Director, Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University
"Growing food is among the most positive changes anyone can make in the face of uncertainty about the future. The Resilient Gardener is an information-packed resource for people starting or expanding a garden practice. This book empowers readers with skills and understanding, as did Deppe's previous book, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. "
—Sandor Ellix Katz, Author, Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved
"The Resilient Gardener gives concrete examples of how to deal with diet, climate, and economic changes before the need arises. Deppe challenges us to experiment with and practice all aspects of gardening, seed saving and food storage, and advises on the growing need to meet special food and climate requirements in the face of our food system's fragility. This book is an invaluable tool for gardeners and farmers as we experience more and more volatility in our food systems. "
—Suzanne Ashworth, Author of Seed to Seed
"Carol Deppe is informative, funny, and intriguing as she guides us through every phase of gardening—dispelling myths while also orienting us to the technical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of growing food. The Resilient Gardener is the quintessential guide to gardening from an authority who also knows how to enjoy herself."
—Didi Emmons, Author of Vegetarian Planet