nonfiction

The Suburban Micro-Farm- Amy Stross

I’m not a country girl whatsoever. I admire the people who leave it all behind and go live on the farm of their dreams out in the middle of nowhere, but that’s not for me. I grew up in a smallish town and I start feeling claustrophobic when I’m anywhere with less civilization than that small town (which is still pretty small). I am, however, a huge fan of permaculture and making the best use of what growing space one has, and so on my spree of putting gardening and homesteading books on my TBR, I added The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross (Twisted Creek Press, 2018) and immediately requested it from the library. Amy Stross knows what she’s talking about; along with having worked as a landscape gardener and a CSA manager and being certified in permaculture, she runs a blog called Tenth Acre Farm about her own suburban homestead, handing out tips and ideas about permaculture gardening in the suburbs like candy at a parade.

The Suburban Micro-Farm is a gorgeous book, crammed full of beautiful photographs of flowers, vegetables, fruit, and landscape, right alongside information about what permaculture is and how we who live in the suburbs can turn our lawns and what we previously thought of as unusable areas, into productive gardening zones that cut our food bills, provide plants and shade for pollinators and other native creatures, and turn our boring lawns into beautiful, generative farmland. If you’re ready to move beyond the rain barrel, Ms. Stross has plans for rain gardens, if that’s something that suits your property, and she offers up ideas for everything from container gardening to raised beds to shady spaces to wide expanses of lawn. There’s literally something in here for everyone who’s looking to turn every inch of their property from something that consumes into something that produces.

This book really got me thinking about better usage of the land we live on, and we’ve already started with some work that will hopefully improve it and set us down the path to growing more of our own produce (and I have more work to do as soon as this heat wave passes! I’m not spending hours out there in 89 degree heat…). I love that she’s not afraid to admit that she’s made mistakes in the past and that sometimes it just takes trial and error to find what grows best on your own particular property. Her message of ‘try to figure out what went wrong; figure out what you need to solve the problem; sometimes you just have to try again next year’ really resonated with me; it helps my perfectionist tendencies to hear someone with far more experience and expertise to say that not only is it okay to screw up, it’s expected, and it’s not a big deal. We can always fix it next season.

If you dream of turning your home into a homestead and your lawn into a lush garden exploding with gorgeous produce, you need this book. It’s one I’m considering actually buying, because it’s that good of a reference. Ms. Moss introduced me to quite a few new concepts, including that of a tree guild, which intrigued me, as we have a baby apple and a baby plum tree that we planted last year, along with two tiny cherry trees that we sprouted from pits (this isn’t as simple as, say, sprouting a bean; it involved freezing the pit in sub-zero temperatures for a time!). I love those trees and want them to be as productive and healthy as possible, so this is something I’ll definitely put to use!

Grow food, not lawns. It’s a fabulous concept, and hopefully in a few years, I’ll be participating in it more!

Visit Amy Stross’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

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