20-Minute Vegetable Gardener: Gourmet Gardening for the Rest of Us


Everyone loves garden-fresh vegetables, but who has the time or energy to grow their own? You do—if you adopt Tom and Marty's tried-and-true schemes and tricks for 20-minute vegetable gardening.

They'll help you create from scratch a ready-to-plant garden in less than two hours, and then help you choose the easiest, most rewarding plants for your region and your tastes. You'll learn tips for winning the neighborhood tomato contest and how to ...
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1999 Hardcover New 0679448152. New. No remainder marks. No dust jacket. Professional service from a Main Street bookstore.; 9.30 X 5.70 X 1.10 inches; 284 pages.

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Everyone loves garden-fresh vegetables, but who has the time or energy to grow their own? You do—if you adopt Tom and Marty's tried-and-true schemes and tricks for 20-minute vegetable gardening.

They'll help you create from scratch a ready-to-plant garden in less than two hours, and then help you choose the easiest, most rewarding plants for your region and your tastes. You'll learn tips for winning the neighborhood tomato contest and how to turn a stack of old tires into an heirloom potato patch. Discover the perennial vegetables you plant once and harvest for years, and claim as your own the recipes for Brighton Beach borscht, Japanese radish pickle, and sweet- potato pie. Encouraging, practical, and always unexpected, The 20-Minute Vegetable Gardener means liberation for home growers everywhere.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A humorous book about vegetable gardening would seem to be an oxymoron, but the zany wit in this book will appeal to both doers and dreamers in the gardening world. Continuing the friendly rivalry and practical philosophy of The 20-Minute Gardener, Christopher and Asher (dubbed the "Click and Clack" of gardening) embark on a path of easy vegetable production. They intersperse a wealth of practical advice with a friendly narrative peppered with comments about neighbors, family and each other's foibles. A 10-point advice guide sets the tone of the book: for example, the authors wisely put forth that any vegetable grown by a 20-minute-a-day gardener is only valuable if it offers a significant improvement over the store-bought alternative, and they point out that they don't weed: "only the hyperactive and the truly stupid try to outwit nature." Suggestions for high-impact vegetables and how to plant and cultivate them are followed by tips for soil maintenance, harvesting and even favorite recipes for both common and unusual vegetables. Sources for heirloom plants and seeds complete this book that reads as easily as a novel but offers as much information as any valuable reference book. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Horticulturist Christopher and Vintage Books editor-in-chief Asher, authors of The 20-Minute Gardener (LJ 1/97), tell how to grow vegetables by gardening an average of 20 minutes per day. Packed with humor and easy-to-understand advice, their book covers chemical-free vegetable gardening basics and provides complete cultural information for vegetables and herbs worth growing by time-pressed gardeners. Instructions for 20 20-minute projects range from how to grow sprouts indoors to an easy way to grow potatoes using discarded car tires. To help guarantee success, the authors list recommended vegetable varieties for various climates, including sources for seeds and plants. While gardening purists may prefer Jacqueline Heriteau's Ortho's Complete Guide to Vegetables (LJ 7/97), this book, which includes recipes, is a pleasure to read and would be a good choice for both beginners and experienced gardeners who want to save time. Recommended for public libraries.--Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679448150
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/9/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Christopher and Marty Asher are the authors of Compost This Book! and The 20-Minute Gardener. Their "20-Minute Gardener" column appears monthly in House & Garden.
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Read an Excerpt

"Pass the cucumbers," said Tom.
Marty obligingly slid the dish across the red-checked tablecloth.
Tom peered at the slices inside and grunted. "That's interesting."
Marty lifted a slice of whole-grain to inspect his bean sprout-avocado sandwich.
"I said, that's interesting."
"Yeah, I think the sprouts are a little wilted," Marty replied.

"No--I mean the cucumbers. Did you know that Tofu to Go serves 'Fordhook White Spine' cucumbers? You hardly ever see them anymore. They're a real antique."
"I told you this is a good place." The two differently abled gardeners were celebrating the completion of their last book, The 20-Minute Gardener, with a luncheon at Marty's favorite bistro. The manuscript was edited, the galleys were corrected, and there had been no violence (well, there was that incident with the copy editor, but Marty had warned her what would happen if she politically corrected Tom's prose). Marty picked up his sandwich, sniffed it, and bit off a corner.

"I'll bet you didn't know that's a 'Bacon' avocado," Tom added helpfully.
Marty gagged and spat out the offending mouthful. "This is supposed to be a vegetarian restaurant," he yelped. "What the hell are they doing, counterfeiting avocados from nitrited pork?"

"It's okay, it's okay--it's not a bacon avocado, it's a 'Bacon' avocado." Tom shooed away an anxious waitress, who kept chirping that Hi, her name was Cindi, and she was their server for today and could she help them? "See, 'Bacon' is the name of the type of avocado--it's a standard variety among commercial growers in California. Personally, I prefer the nutty flavor of 'Mexicola."

Marty glowered at Tom. Maybe it wasn'ttoo late for a little mayhem after all. "Tom, did you ever consider eating a vegetable without discussing its pedigree? I mean, cucumbers are just cucumbers, and who wants to be on a first-name basis with their sandwich?"

"But, Marty, it's really interesting. Besides, vegetables are not all the same. You should try growing them, that's the best way to get to know them. Maybe you can't grow your own avocados in Connecticut, but you could sprout your own beans. Those are mung-bean sprouts you're eating--pretty bland. You should try radish-seed sprouts; they would give your sandwich a really interesting, spicy flavor. Or mustard sprouts--they're more peppery. And when it comes to cucumbers, well, these off-the shelf slices can't possibly compete with the yard-long Armenian cucumbers I grew last summer."

"Tom," said Marty, pointing with his fork. "Look, we got through the compost book together. And we figured out how to fill the yard with flowers in twenty minutes a day. Actually, I figured that out, but you really were a help. Really. But there's no way you are going to persuade me to grow my own fruits and vegetables. That's a lot of work: digging, planting, hoeing, chasing deer and woodchucks and the neighbor's kids, swatting bugs, spreading manure. Why bother with all of that when I can drive down to the local Stop & Shop and get a head of lettuce for a buck?"

"Money's not the point," Tom insisted, pointing his own fork and punching up the volume. "It's the different colors, aromas, and tastes, all the fascinating ways that Nature has seen fit to give us such an abundant world. Do you want to spend the rest of your life eating hydroponic iceberg and romaine--textured water--when there are dozens of better alternatives? There are gourmet French lettuces, antique Italian types, sweet-leaved mint lettuces, crispheads, deer tongues, and oak leafs. Life can be so much more interesting. Besides, you'll never taste any of these lettuces at their best until you have them fresh from your own garden.

"And what about arugula? The arugula you buy, it's always been picked too late; the leaves are big and tough and bitter. Grow arugula yourself, pick the leaves while they are still small and sweet and tender, and you won't believe how good it is. You'll realize it really isn't just some yuppie scam. Then, of course, there are homegrown tomatoes, sweet corn, real Irish potatoes, fresh-picked peas, even beans--I'm planting three different kinds of beans this spring that you will never see in the store."

"Right, right, but it's all so complicated. My agenda already needs an air-traffic controller. No, the only way I'd go near fruits and vegetables, at least before they are picked and shrink-wrapped, is if someone figured out an easy way to grow them. You know, like we did for flowers in The 20-Minute Gardener. But that's impossible. No one would be stupid enough to try and grow fruits and vegetables in twenty minutes a day."

Marty saw a crazed smile spreading over Tom's face.
"No," Marty said. "Absolutely not. No way."
The woman at the next table shushed her server ("Hi, I'm Bob"). "I'll have whatever they're not having," she said.

Marty's Manifesto

Marty doesn't care for blind commitment. After Tom agreed to pick up the check for lunch, Marty agreed to help Tom reinvent vegetable gardening. But before he started, he insisted on a contract. Marty had worked with Tom long enough to know that Tom often mistakes hard labor for fun. Besides, Marty knew that Tom's horticultural enthusiasm is likely to run away with him. Grabbing a pen from a passing waiter, Marty started scribbling terms onto his napkin.

The basis for their new method of vegetable gardening, Marty said, had to be the same rule as the one he had invented for The 20-Minute Gardener: they would garden for just twenty minutes each day. Unless, Marty added, the weather was glorious and he didn't want to go inside and face the vacuuming; then he should be allowed to garden longer. Tom agreed to that, and added some fine print of his own: he might have to garden more than twenty minutes in one day to finish some essential task, like picking the apples for his hard cider, that could not be put off. In that case, he would receive a credit for the extra time, a credit that he could redeem in a vacation from gardening on succeeding days. And what about days when the weather was really foul, Marty added, or days on which his boss had left him with a worse than ordinary case of post-traumatic shock disorder? He should be allowed to take those days off. However, the essential point was, they both agreed, that the average daily gardening time should be twenty minutes.

In marked contrast to the kind of vegetable gardening that Tom had always practiced, this new method would allow you to have a life outside the garden. In fact, it would require that. What's more, those twenty minutes that he did spend in the garden, Marty insisted that they had to be fun. He wasn't going to waste his time perfecting another system of drudgery. There was plenty of that around already.

Ultimately, after much discussion, a few more napkins, and several double mochaccinos (at Tom's expense), the two horticultural pioneers perfected the following:

Marty's Ten-Point, 20-Minute Fruit and Vegetable

Pledge of Allegiance

        1. The 20-minute gardener makes every minute count by growing high-impact crops. One cayenne pepper can make a whole dinner exciting. And when the first spear of asparagus pushes its way up out of the soil in springtime, it's not a harvest, it's a pagan fertility rite.

        2. The 20-minute fruit and vegetable gardener gauges success not by the size of the crop but by the amount of pleasure it delivers. This pleasure comes not only at the dinner table but also in the garden: a 20-minute fruit or vegetable is fun to grow.

        3. A 20-minute fruit or vegetable must offer a significant improvement over the store-bought alternative. American farmers, for example, have never heard of Malabar spinach, but the 20-minute gardener knows that unlike traditional spinach, which needs cool weather, Malabar spinach loves heat and it delivers real spinach-flavored greens right through the summer, long after traditional spinach poops out. A 20-minute fruit or vegetable may also be some superior variety of a familiar crop, one that does not adapt to the marketing process. A tomato with flavor, for example.

        4. Twenty-minute gardeners don't fight Nature (they know who will win that battle). Their fruits and vegetables are chosen to suit their climate and their soil; that's why they are so easy to grow. The 20-minute gardener doesn't insist on snow peas in Arizona, or on heat-loving eggplants in Vermont. Fussing is fun in the kitchen, but it's counterproductive in the garden.

        5. Twenty-minute gardeners plant in rows only when planning to harvest by tractor. They know that arranging their plants in a linear fashion is boring and inefficient, the first step toward traditional agriculture and its stoop-labor slavery. Twenty-minute gardeners prefer to plant in blocks or swathes, or even decorative patterns (Tom is really compulsive about that). They may even, like Marty, mix seeds in a homemade shaker and scatter them like salt. Nonlinear planting is more fun and more efficient in its use of space. Twenty-minute gardeners harvest more vegetables per square foot and so get a bigger return for their investment of work and compost.

        6. Twenty-minute gardeners nurture their dirt. They can plant more densely than other gardeners because the soil in the 20-minute beds is superb. Twenty-minute gardeners don't coddle their plants. They don't have to, because they have coddled their soil.

        7. Twenty-minute gardeners don't weed. They have no need to weed, because they never let weeds into their gardens. They leave weeds no opportunities, and if a weed should find its way in, the 20-minute gardener develops a recipe and transforms the weed into a vegetable.

        8. The 20-minute gardener never applies anything to his garden that he would be afraid to get on his hands. (Tom's note: except for manure.) (Marty's note: especially manure.)

        9. The 20-minute gardener can do this because she rarely has to confront bugs. Instead, she ignores, avoids, or excludes them.

        10. The 20-minute gardener recognizes that the hose is his most important gardening tool, and so wields it with the care it deserves. How you water not only determines the health of your plants and their resistance to pests and diseases, it even dictates the size, quality, and flavor of the harvests.

And because Marty always has to have the last word, we spoil the symmetry of our manifesto and add the following:

        11. Mellow gardeners grow better-tasting vegetables. Stay cool. God created supermarkets for a reason.
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