Review: One Magic Square: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square.
This review is about: One Magic Square: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square by Lolo Houbein.
My garden happens to be based entirely on multiple 3′×3′ beds, so I was THRILLED to find a book whose entire premise is supposed to be gardening on 3′×3′ units.
The book is authored by a lady who has survived a childhood in WWII Europe, and who advocates growing your own food. While I really liked the upbeat, sweet vibe of the text that reminded me of my childhood in my grandmother’s garden, I found the book to be very unrealistic in it’s claims.
I have been veg gardening for 20 years, using the biointensive method (which means: plants spaced as closely as possible, grown in raised beds, with very deeply worked, excellent quality soil), and I find that the book’s bed layouts are completely useless and misleading. The author suggests such crowding of plants that it is preposterous to expect any harvest at all!
For example, in her pizza/pasta plot, the author crams not only 3 eggplants and 6 peppers into one 3′×3′ square (which would already be very crowded), but also 3 tomatoes (!), 1 arugula, several red onions, one basil. In addition, all this is grown around a center filled with more onions, while chives are sprinkled around 3 of the peppers!
As I have mentioned, I have gardened for 20 years, and for at least part of this time, I have been using the 3′×3′ layout. I have raised tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and all the other plants mentioned above, and believe me, they can’t even begin to fit into one square, all at the same time. Typically, if the weather cooperates, and you have great soil, you can just barely fit 2 tomatoes into one of those beds, and if all the stars align, then maybe 1 pepper and 1 basil in addition. And that would be pushing it! If you go ahead and plant all of those plants in one bed, you will guarantee that you will get next to no harvest, and that your plants will be so stressed by the intense competition with the others, that they will be a prime target for every pest and disease within a 10 mile radius.
In another example, the author has you place 3 flowering broccolis, 6 cabbages, and 5 mini cauliflowers just in the very corners of one bed, while the center is occupied with many, many more plants.
If there is one veggie that I am an expert on, it is cabbage, and I can tell you right now that even if you use miniature cabbages, you can barely fit 9 within one square, but if we follow the spacing in this book, I should be able to grow all 9 plus 5 more in just the corners, leaving the center open for many more plants.
The reason why for me the spacings in this book are such a deal breaker, is that if you are an inexperienced gardener and/or rely on your garden to feed your family (and in this economy, many do), a season of growing veggies in this way can be dissapointing to the point of turning a new gardener off of gardening forever, or in a worse case scenario, it can spell a disaster to a family in need.
On the whole, despite it’s happy vibe, I can not recommend this book, because of it’s sheer impracticality.3 thumbs up!Posted over 2 years ago
I bought this book a while back but haven’t had a chance to put it to use. It’s disappointing to hear that the spacing won’t work although I suspect I’d figure that out before I planted having grown things in a s.f. garden before. Thanks for the review.
0 thumbs up!Posted over 2 years ago
I love Lolo’s work, and honestly, this is the best of the gardening books I read before starting my own garden. I found it really inspirational and loved her personal experience, having lived through a famine situation.
Having said that, I’m not good at following instructions, and I don’t even do square metre gardening. But it inspired me, and that’s the main thing.
0 thumbs up!Posted about 2 years ago
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