The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

Do you remember a movie in the 1980s called The Money Pit?  If you do and remember what it was about, just think garden instead of house (or both, in some cases), and you have the gist of this book.  For horticultural enthusiasts whose dreams are greener than their thumbs, the author humorously describes the pitfalls of creating the kitchen garden he and his wife had always planned on having after they move into their dream (read: nightmare) house in upstate New York.

I myself have put in a vegetable garden every year since 1996, but my endeavors have been relatively modest – the biggest plot I have had is the one currently taking up 12′ X 20′ in the backyard.  64 But the memories of digging it up, rough as it was, pale in comparison to the author’s grandiose efforts in this light-hearted homage to the gardening life and the joys of growing your own.  If you’ve encountered adversaries in weed, weather, or bug form, you’ll be nodding your head in empathy as you laugh along with the author.  His approach to writing reminds me of the humor of Bill Bryson, combined with the horticultural ambitions of Joan Gussow (read This Organic Life, by the way – she’s more serious than Alexander, but has some quirkily good stories of her own; trust me).

For those who want a couple of tomato plants this year – don’t let this book dissuade you.  And for those with bigger aspirations – just remember that the elements have way more in store for you than just your pipe dreams.  I say this from experience.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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