A Sustainable Gardening Book without the “Green Wash”–Perennial Bookworm

The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic.  Sarah Hayden Reichard, 2011. University of California Press, 264 pages, 9.25” x 9.65”, $27.50 (hardcover).

“Green washing” is a term that describes how media and marketers have taken the terms that used to describe true sustainable options and apply them to products and practices that are not really environmentally friendly.  Some of the words whose meanings are left to interpretation are: green, eco, sustainable, natural, and so on.

With so much green washing going on in the press, it’s nice to see that University of Washington’s Reichard covers sustainable gardening without the tendency to over simplify and green wash.  Her book addresses gardening more in tune with nature, but doesn’t ignore the grey area.

Take her discussion of native plants, for instance, where she notes the limited niches that some natives fill and how some species may be unsuitable for challenging urban settings.  In other words, she encourages the use of native plants, but doesn’t claim them to be a panacea.  She discusses the promise of compost teas for disease control, but doesn’t recommend them for a variety of science-based reasons.

This book is even keeled, well-researched and has a positive vibe.  I especially like the Conscientious Choices in the epilogue: a list of ways we can each live more lightly on the land.  Some examples: “I know what kind of soil I have and add nutrients only as needed”; “I have planted trees to shade the sunny sides of my house to reduce energy use”; “I use hand tools when possible and electric when needed, and I minimize the use of two stroke engines.” Each action is small; the total impact of making all the Choices is great.

Food for thought and simple steps for action–a great combination in The Conscientious Gardener. 

To read a chapter, visit the University of California Press website:


© Colleen Miko, 2012

About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is freelance garden writer and speaker.
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