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From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden

From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden

4.4 22
by Amy Stewart

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Amy Stewart had a simple dream. She yearned for a garden filled with colorful jumbles of vegetables and flowers. After she and her husband finished graduate school, they pulled up their Texas roots and headed west to Santa Cruz, California. With little money in their pockets, they rented a modest seaside bungalow with a small backyard. It wasn't much--a twelve-hundred


Amy Stewart had a simple dream. She yearned for a garden filled with colorful jumbles of vegetables and flowers. After she and her husband finished graduate school, they pulled up their Texas roots and headed west to Santa Cruz, California. With little money in their pockets, they rented a modest seaside bungalow with a small backyard. It wasn't much--a twelve-hundred-square-foot patch of land with a couple of fruit trees, and a lot of dirt. A good place to start.

From the Ground Up is Stewart's quirky, humorous chronicle of the blossoms and weeds in her first garden and the lessons she's learned the hard way. From planting seeds her great-grandmother sends to battling snails, gophers, and aphids, Stewart takes us on a tour of four seasons in her coastal garden. Confessing her sins and delighting in small triumphs, she dishes the dirt for both the novice and the experienced gardener. Along the way, she brings her quintessential California beach town to life--complete with harbor seals, monarch butterfly migrations, and an old-fashioned seaside amusement park just down the street.

Each chapter includes helpful tips alongside the engaging story of a young woman's determination to create a garden in which the plants struggle to live up to the gardener's vision.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"Gardening is the number one, most popular hobby in America. All over the country, people just like you are aiming their pruning shears at their fingers, gathering up armfuls of poison oak, and walking into rakes," writes Amy Stewart, who knows that gardening is an unceasing education and an endless adventure. Her deep-digging From the Ground Up shares lessons learned from her first gardening experiences. For those weighed down by garden guide prescriptions, this light-spirited book is a welcome change of pace.
...a first book filled with promise....
Library Journal
How-to gardening books abound; how-not-to gardening memoirs are rarer. When Stewart and her husband bought their first home in California, she was eager to grow the bountiful, colorful garden she had so long envisioned. With much enthusiasm and little knowledge, she began her weekly trek to the local nursery to stock up on all varieties of seedlings. Why, she wondered, did they not flourish after being planted in the bare backyard? Only after many mistakes, much expense, and worrisome encounters with weeds and bugs was she able to transform her little plot into "a garden with soul," jumbled and luxuriant. Along with a witty description of her mistakes, the author shares her solutions. She gives other beginning gardeners tips on making earthworm manure, improving the soil by sheet composting, encouraging beneficial insects, and sharing excess produce with neighbors. Written in a humorous, conversational style, this book is recommended for public libraries.--Ilse Heidmann, San Marcos, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
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2 MB

Meet the Author

Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world. She is the cofounder of the popular blog Garden Rant and is a contributing editor at Fine Gardening magazine. She and her husband live in Eureka, California, where they own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books.

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From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
ualanook More than 1 year ago
I read this several years ago because it had gotten excellent reviews. The author writes simply, but lovingly of her growth as a gardener in a rented bungalow in Santa Cruz. I don't gatden, but I was taken with Stewart's trials with tomatoes, growing catnip for her cats, and triumphs with vegetables. Her writing is eloquent, her voice is kind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book, even if you are not a gardener. It makes you want to get your gardening gloves on and stick your hands in the dirt! I hated to see the book end and hope that she writes another book about her many gardening adventures.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Stewart uses a combination of wit and wisdom to bring her garden to life in the minds of the reader. You can see her archenemies - the snails and the Oxalis, and share in her triumphs as her garden grows in sometimes unexpected ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the year she shared with me, and I hope there will be another installment so we can share her next adventure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'From the Ground Up' lets us in on the secrets of organic gardening and the fragile beauty of relationships, as written by someone who has found her art form, and is willing to share it with us. In journal form, it should be read the first time for pure enjoyment. Then it can be used forever after as an informative reference, or thumbed through in the evening, as a way to stay in touch with a gentle friend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm not a gardener but I have been absorbed and delighted by Amy Stewart's charming writing style. The gardening tips and recipes interspersed with her narrative create just the right pacing to keep anyone interested.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A helpful garden book I could actually sit down and read... turns out this book is exactly what I didn't know I was looking for. I've already started shopping for a worm farm!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ORiley More than 1 year ago
An easy read with charming anecdotes and I learned a lot. As a result of reading this book I have bought a worm farm. The best message was, don't be afraid of being daring in your garden. Loved it and have already recommended this book to my friends.
Mollywog1 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Anyone who has ever gardened, whether a novice or an expert, will appreciate Stewart's humor as she describes both the pitfalls and the rewards of gardening. I heartily recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
March in New England is the perfect time to read this thoroughly enjoyable book. Stewart has me excited to start gardening again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lovely little book. I don't even like gardening (bugs and dirt-yuck), but really enjoyed the story. It was charming, informative and a true love story about a woman and her garden. You will like spending time with this author, her husband and her cats in her seaside garden.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the best book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A charming "garden" book. Must get the seed catalogs out. Shows that even a small garden can be wpmderfi;
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A nicely written, well edited book by a woman who loves gardening. 180 pages. Entertaining. AD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Amy Stewart's fine book, From the Ground Up, last week on a very long plane ride home to California from Indianapolis, Indiana. I'd been to Indianapolis to speak to the Indiana Arborists' Association convention, as I am a garden writer myself (Allergy-free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden, etc.). My flight was delayed due to a snowstorm in Detroit but the extra long trip was made more than okay because I had this delightful book to read. I'd received From the Ground Up as a present from my Mom. It is the story of one lady's first attempt at gardening, and as one who taught horticulture for 20 years, and who has gardened for almost 50 years, it was remarkable fun for me to see all the little mistakes she made, the discoveries she uncovered, the personal disasters and achievements that accompanied her quest to create a wonderful garden. Really great gardens don't just happen, not at all. They are created with huge effort, smarts, learning, help and advice from other gardeners, with tips from garden books, and most of all by the vision of the gardener in charge. One thing Stewart explores very well here is the paradox of gardening. In order to grow carrots we have to kill weeds. To grow great tomatoes we may have to fight with gophers. A handsome cat in our garden looks almost perfect, but what does our cat do when a mocking bird makes a nest in the lemon tree? Gardening told well is a reflection of life, and here, Amy Stewart is a keen observer. There exists within the wide range of garden writing a host of some rather fabulously good writing. These are the books that combine solid garden advice with a large dose of very personal observance and experience. Although From the Ground Up is a first book, it reads as though written by someone who had been writing for many years, someone who had honed and polished her writing so that every line sparkled. I would expect that this book would appeal most to those who love to garden, but because the level of writing is so unusually excellent, I'd guess almost anyone who appreciates literate writing would enjoy it. If you're one who is new to gardening you'll find a wealth of useful tips here, interspersed with some darn good recipes too for making gourmet meals of all that extra fresh produce you'll eventually have. I really can't say enough about this marvelous book. Reading it was pure pleasure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amy Stewart makes you 'see' her garden every step of the way. Her writing style is as light and airy as an ocean breeze. She takes gardening seriously but not herself. Her wry humor about her gardening pratfalls had me chuckling and learning at the same time. Especially hilarious were her descriptions of the cat on a gopher chase and the terror of a too bountiful vegetable garden.Her book has given me the courage to move ahead in my own gardening adventure. At 53, I'm about to buy my first house with a real yard. As an apartment and condo exile, I've dreamed of having my own garden all my life. Its vision fills my head just like Ms. Stewart's did.This book has undoubtedly saved many hours of wasted work and dollars. I, too, wanted to ignore all the garden book advice about planning, soil preparation, composting, etc., as too boring and tedious. I want flowers and vegetables, now. This quick-read book taught me the folly of gardening impatience. I will learn from her mistakes and tend to the basics, first. However, she also showed me that perfection is not required. It's impossible in gardening. Ms. Stewart illustrates the importance of accepting and learning from the inevitable crises and disasters that come with gardening.Finally, this is a must-read for anyone who loves cats. My two cats will be grateful to Ms. Stewart, also. Her book provided the list of plants for them so that my garden can become our garden. In the meantime, I hope Ms. Stewart is busy writing her next garden book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amy Stewart's lovely little garden comes alive in this well-written memoir. Her vibrant, life-loving personality shows through along with the personalities of her wryly supportive husband, Scott, and her two cats who, like the reader, all vicariously experience Amy's joy of creating her first garden.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally and incredibly boring. Worst book ever. Hoe does junk like this get published? Whats next, how to paint a house and watch it dry?