It seems that everyone is interested in saving money these days and with the economy the way it is, who can blame them? Family budgets, State and Local budgets, and the USA's government budgets have all taken a beating. Gardening funds have shrunk as well. So, what's a gardener to do? "The Small Budget Gardener" written by Maureen Gilmer (Cool Springs Press, 2009) has many answers to that question. It contains a plethora of tips, ideas and examples of how to have a great garden while still watching the bottom line.
A few weeks ago I was given the book to review by Cool Springs Press and I took it upon myself to not only review the book for the money it might save a gardener, but also how the choices made to save a buck could affect the bottom line of garden's ecosystem. For the most part, the tips and ideas Maureen writes about definitely fall into the eco-friendly category and I commend her on educating her readers on the values of composting ("Free Dirt"), watering wisely ("Never Thirsty"), reusing materials ("Don't Throw it Away: Recycle & Reuse Everything"), and taking care of the environment. Her detailed accounts of designing to save energy ("Nature's Climate Control"), and propagation ("Making Babies: How to Propagate Free Plants") are very well thought out and will certainly help gardeners of all experience levels create better gardens.
Through out the book Ms. Gilmore has two recurring themes called "Tightwad Gardening Tips" and "Green Choices". "Tightwad Gardening Tips" are great, simple ideas to refer to again and again and will definitely help the new or experienced gardener. However, after reading many of the "Green Choices" I got the feeling that being "green" and "organic" was something that was great to do if you could afford it but if you're strapped for cash it's okay to choose an alternative, not-so-friendly to the environment solution. That seems to me to be taking the easy way out. Shouldn't all of our choices be "green choices" when it comes to designing, building and maintaining our gardens? Using railroad ties seems to be all right if you can't afford something else, using lawn fertilizers with herbicides is ok if it costs less than hiring someone to weed your lawn, and buying the over-fertilized, GMO'd plants at the big box stores are fine because they are so much cheaper.
So, when is saving some "green" not really being "green"? I guess for me "The Small Budget Gardener" misses the big picture when saving gardening dollars for short term gains - in my "book" ecosystem sustainability is a long term investment.