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Book Reviews

No Green Thumb Required – But You Will Need a Pencil

Kimberly Paulk

I’m a “let’s toss that seed in the ground and see if it grows” type of gardener. While I love the abundance of a full, green summer garden, I rarely take the time to make sure I’m doing it right. So I started Don Rosenberg’s new book, No Green Thumb Required: Organic Family Gardening Made Easy, (Catawba Publishing) thinking I would flip through it in an hour, find the “good stuff” and check that off the to-do list. It didn’t quite work out that way.

First of all, I’m still a gardening neophyte. I’ve had a garden for several years, but for some reason every year still seems like my first venture into the back yard with a hoe. To make matters worse, Rosenberg has packed a lot into 150 pages.

The first part of the book covers general info, as if Rosenberg is trying to bring everyone up to speed on the basics. Terms like “intensive planting” are introduced, but much of the information is broad, with references to things like the benefits of organic food and gardening in limited space.

Chapter 7 discusses kids in the garden, with some tips for kid-friendly projects. But the real meat of the book begins right around Chapter 9, when Rosenberg starts addressing the best way to plan your garden. He lists the types of vegetables that he recommends for small spaces, and the variety included might surprise you. Kohlrabi and pak choy are listed, alongside the more pedestrian stuff that I’m used to, like carrots, spinach and squash.

After recommending varieties, the book goes into planning the garden, complete with a grid that you can use to gauge how much space you’ll need for each of your favorite veggies. That’s when I realized there was no way I’d be able to get out of this without getting out a pencil. Articles in the appendix address common questions and tips for growing tomatoes and other popular items. Like one of my favorites – squash. You might find yourself taken back by Rosenberg’s advice about stabbing a vine borer to death with a needle to save your squash plant. But if you do, I’d suggest that perhaps you’ve never lost your first ever zucchini plant to the little suckers. I’m generally very mild mannered, but that experience was enough to push me over the edge, and my son found me in the backyard hacking them to tiny bits with a shovel as soon as I discovered what they were. And so now, since I have my pencil in hand, I write a note to myself: “get needles“.

Here’s what I discovered about No Green Thumb Required. It’s a reference book. Not an article. Oh. No wonder I couldn’t get through it in one sitting. I now realize I’m supposed to keep it around, fill out the charts and actually use it. I’m not sure whether I’ll follow through on all of that – but I do have my short list of stuff I’d like in my garden already written out. Right next to the note about needles. So that’s a start, right?

Kimberly Paulk is a professional business writer. She can be reached at , or visit her blog at

Click here for a review by Deborah Moore Clark.

“No Green Thumb Required! Organic Family Gardening Made Easy”