Summer Garden Reading

By Linda Wiggen Kraft,
Green & Growing Editor

Now that the gardens are planted, there might be some time for reading about other gardens. Two very different books are on my reading list this summer. The first, A Way to Garden, is a coffee table book primer on organic gardening for human and wildlife habitat in your own backyard. The second, Farming While Black, has a much broader reach. It is about empowerment and connection to Mother Earth by urban and rural farmers of color. It shares practical, inspirational and spiritual guidance from Soul Fire Farm, which is dedicated to ending racism and injustice in the food system.

A Way to Garden is a rewrite of a twenty five year old book by Margaret Roach. My favorite gardening podcast is the weekly A Way to Garden with Margaret Roach from the smallest NPR station in the nation. Her book, like the podcast, is a how-to of wise gardening practices, native and non-native plant info and wildlife exploration.

A Way to Garden book was rewritten from its twenty-five years ago origin. As it turns out a lot has changed since the first writing of how we should garden. The book is up to date in the most ecological garden practices. Margaret’s garden, located on 2.3 acres a couple of hours north of New York City, is featured in the many color photos. She looks at gardening as a life cycle from conception, to birth, youth, adulthood, senescence, death and afterlife. These life phases are matched to the months of the year. There are guides to starting seeds indoors and out. There is information about growing specific ornamentals and edibles. She shares garden design tips. And there are the beautiful photos of a large garden with wooden chairs inviting us all to come and sit down.

Farming While Black, Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is denser reading about much more than setting up and establishing a farm to grow food. It is a call to people of color to reclaim the land physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The author is Leah Penniman, who along with her husband and children established Soul Fire Farm outside of Albany, New York. The farm and its programs were established to “train and empower aspiring Black, Latinx and Indigenous growers so as to reverse the dangerously low percentage of farms owned and operated by people of color…” In the first chapter titled “Black Land Matters”, Leah shares the history of land being taken from Native Americans and Black farmers and that many of the greatest plant scientists and agricultural geniuses were Black, including Dr. George Washington Carver and Dr. Booker T. Whatley who helped establish CSAs (community supported agriculture). Soul Fire Farm’s programs include bringing food to food deserts, or as Leah calls this food inequity, food apartheid. There are also practices honoring of the earth with various sacred traditions including singing, drumming and herbal baths.

Hopefully your summer reading will include these garden books. Perhaps there is a chair, or bench, or hammock already in your garden inviting you to spend some time reading in your garden.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and creativity workshop leader. Her blog and website are: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Her phone number is (314) 504-4266.