A few weeks ago a box arrived at our soon-to-be-new-house (insh’Allaah) by mail. In it was a variety of lovely things, including two books. One was a wonderful cookbook (to be reviewed in the future, insh’Allaah) and the other was a book on gardening. Now, I love well-written books, and I love gardening, so I was excited to dive in and see if this particular book would manage to bring those two loves together.
A few weeks and 576 pages later, I can say without a doubt that it did. I expected to read the book in a dip in and read a bit fashion, skipping from subject to subject; instead I found myself literally reading it from cover to cover. The authors are bright, interesting, and experienced, and all of these things show through in their writing. The book? The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal.
This is not the only book I have on this subject, but it is, so far, the best. The book is divided into three sections. The first, designing your urban farm, is filled with practical advice on finding, evaluating and planning how best to use your own urban farm site. The second section discusses growing vegetables from the ground up- literally. Choosing vegetables, soil fertility, creating garden beds, plantings seeds and saving them are just some of the topics covered in this section. Raising city animals is covered in the third section, where Carpenter and Rosenthal discuss bees, poultry, rabbit and ducks. Then come the appendices. I never thought I would get excited over such a thing as an appendix, but I these are wonderful. I have already referred to them numerous times, and I have only had the book a month or so. Topics covered include (but are not limited to) soil testing, calculating how much to grow, succession planting, organic fixes for diseases and pests, and starting an urban farming business. Yes, I actually read the appendices as well! They are well organized, and the information in them is presented in a clear and easy to use manner.
So, could you buy a farm, plant a garden, raise a bunch of animals and become a successful urban farming businessperson just with this book? Well, no- but that would be too much to ask. The Essential Urban Farmer does, however, lay a very strong foundation for doing each of those things. It discusses not only ideas and possibilities, but also the nitty gritty lowdown on what different projects and ventures entail and precise how-to and how-not-to advice and directions. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is thinking of rolling up their sleeves and working to make their little patch of urban land into a beautiful, productive farm- on whatever scale they are able.
(NOTE: As with all of our reviews concerning books that are not directly related to religious issues, please remember that we do not wholly endorse all and everything that is in the book, and that, since these books are written by non-Muslims with a different world-view from our own, you will find content in them that may not be sound within our own Islamic ‘Aqeedah. We review them keeping this in mind, and hope that you will understand them in the same light, insh’Allaah. If you find any statements of scholars that discuss or give more detail about a practice discussed, we advise you to take it from that reliable source.)