This spring I checked out stacks of gardening books from the library. One Magic Square quickly became my favorite. After several “failed” gardens the past few years, Lolo Houbein’s spunky and encouraging style helped rekindle my dream of a successful garden.
Lolo doesn’t encourage her readers to aim for a garden that could be featured in Better Homes and Gardens. In fact, she encourages gardeners to expect some of their crops to be utter failures, especially if they choose the organic route.
If you look closely at pictures, you’ll see that some of the leaves in her garden have holes in them and she freely admits that she hasn’t been able to grow melons (though that doesn’t keep her from trying!)
That’s one of the things I love so much about her book.
She insists that a good gardener doesn’t give up after a few failed attempts. The good gardener keeps learning, keeps trying, and keeps hoping.
One Magic Square is organized in a gardener-friendly format. The first portion is full of helpful information about setting up a garden, keeping the pests at bay, weeding, watering, etc.
Since one of my main goals for gardening is to grow pesticide-free produce for my family to enjoy, her organic ideas and don’t-stress-about-a-few-bugs attitude were particularly useful.
In the second portion of One Magic Square, Lolo offers 30 plot designs. She starts with simple “salad plots” and moves on to more complicated plots like curry vegetables or root crops. Built into the plans is important crop rotation information and companion planting ideas.
The plots are designed for a square yard, but
we Joshua built beds that were 4×8 for me instead. (Not only because I wanted a bit more room, but it made much more sense from a lumber standpoint.) Even though my garden doesn’t mimic hers exactly, having beautiful, well-organized plans to work from was very useful.
The plans highlight her practice of intensive gardening, which basically means lots of vegetables packed into a small space. As my little garden beds have grown and matured, this intensive gardening (and the use of wood chip mulch, like recommended in the Back to Eden gardening video) have cut way down on the need to weed and water. Occasionally, the plans seemed a little too intense, but that’s the beauty of a gardening guide: you don’t have to follow it exactly.
The final major section is a planting guide for the dozens of vegetables, herbs, and fruits mentioned in the garden plans. It includes helpful planting, watering/fertilizing, and harvesting information. When questions arise out in the garden, it’s the first spot I look for an answer.
Eventually, I want my gardening “library” to include half a dozen highly helpful gardening books, but One Magic Square was my first pick. The publishers graciously sent me a review copy that I have already turned to multiple times. By the time I’m done with it, I’m sure the crisp pages will be well-loved and soil-stained.
If you want just one book to motivate and guide you to a successful garden, let me recommend One Magic Square.
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