Tag: composting

Organic Hobby Farming Book Review

Organic Hobby Farming

Andy Tomolonis shares gardening knowledge and so much more in his text Organic Hobby Farming: A Practical Guide to Earth-Friendly Farming in Any Space. Even though the sub-title includes the term any space, most of the book is geared toward gardening on a slightly bigger scale than most households. However, the author himself lives in suburbia. Thus, anyone can gain from Organic Hobby Farming.

The first six chapters focus on the organic. Tomolonis starts with evaluating the land. He gives tips an assessing both grounds and property structures. He focuses on small amounts of land. The book includes tips on finding farmland. Furthermore, questions to ask about zoning if you plan to stay within city limits are included. Also, references to websites and agencies both in the United States and in Canada that provide further information are cited.

After extensively discussing elements needed for a good property to farm, the second chapter turns to tools of the trade. Again the information is useful and the tips provide actual value to your pocketbook. In addition to describing various tools, both hand and machine, the author shares how the implements must be cared for in order to comply with organic farming.

Soil Care

Chapter three discusses the science of the soil better than any book I have previously read. The diagrams and photos gave a great understanding of soil composition. The information given by ph table and the points on soil typing are easily understood. Tomolonis incorporates the natural ways to improve soils into the chapter. This informative chapter includes composting, soil sampling and testing.

Calendar of Farm Chores

Organic Hobby Farming gets to the heart of organic gardening in chapters four, five and six. Chapter four contains a calendar of farm chores. Tomolonis shares the fact he is in zone 6 and explains how readers in other zones can adapt the information. Each month goes into detail what needs to take place on the farm (or in your yard) that month. For example, the book highlights floating cover crops during cooler weather and pests and diseases once the temperature warms up.

While chapter 5 extends the discussion on bugs and distinguishes beneficial from bad, the information focuses on individual plants. Not every vegetable known to man has its own spotlight. But the book details those typically grown at home or found at a farmer’s market. Also, the chapter discusses herbs.

Tomolonis gives great information on each highlighted edible. He begins with the basics. The reader learns about the plant family, key points about sowing, growing times and harvest lengths. Then Organic Hobby Farming details soil temperature, ph needs and germination.

The author indicates the ease of growth, shares varieties and my favorite, discusses companions. (For more information on companion planting, click here.) But the information does not stop there. Tomolonis gives tips on growing, pests, diseases, challenges and harvesting. He concludes each synopsis with marketing tips. Organic Hobby Farming is geared toward selling produce.

Chapter six focuses on berries and fruit trees. A caveat about what can be planted gives readers a glimpse on why this chapter is quite a bit thinner than the preceding one. The advice is good and Tomolonis is spot on with the information shared. However, if you want to grow grapes you will need to find another source.

Switching to Animals

The author begins discussing farm animals and their potential income in Chapter 7. Chickens are the topic of this chapter. Tomolonis shares the requirements to label both eggs and meat organic. This is timely information for those living in America. Across this country, many cities are allowing chickens back into the backyard. Organic Hobby Farming is a great resource to read before you build a chicken coop.

Next in the animal section is a chapter on honeybees, rabbits and goats. After chickens, these three animals are most likely to be found on a small homestead or even in suburbia depending on zoning laws. Once again, the author provides outstanding information in the “Easy Does It” sidebars. Other tips and tricks are abundant throughout.

Organic Hobby Farming Marketing Tips

The final two chapters are business related. Tomolonis has one chapter with information on marketing your organic produce. Much like the beginning chapters much of the information shared is specific. Quite a bit of time is spent on Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). These co-operatives are located across the country.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the book is the last chapter. Tomolonis stresses the importance of developing a business plan for your Organic Hobby Farm. The advice is good. If you plan to sell any of your produce, or even just have honeybees, you need to think about liability issues. I found this chapter as important as those focused on the crops.

If you are serious about gardening, especially organic gardening, I encourage you to buy this book. It is quickly becoming a go-to book in my home library. Andy Tomolonis provides great information applicable for any serious gardener.

Raised Row Gardening Book Review

Book cover of Raised Row Gardening
Book cover of Raised Row Gardening by Jim and Mary Competti

In the blog post January 2018 Wrap Up I recommended the website Old World Garden Farms. This is one of my favorite garden know how web sites. I am pleased to now share with you a review of their first book, Raised Row Gardening. I plan to implement such a garden this year.

Jim and Mary Competti are the authors of the book and the founders of Old World Garden Farms. They started using the raised row method as a way to fit gardening into their busy life. Both have full-time jobs and they are parents to four children.

Book Contents

Raised Row Gardening is separated into ten chapters. The first gives an overall background of gardening and the different techniques. Chapter Two starts in on the how-to of creating a raised row garden. The authors use both photos and illustrations in the instructions. Chapters Three through Six discuss the planning and planting of the raised row garden. Again, there are visual aids galore. Chapter Seven gives wonderful insight into composting. I have composted for years but I still learned from the information. The final three chapters discuss the raised row concepts in the fall, winter and years two and beyond.

Key Concepts

There are a few key concepts in the book. First, rototilling is not necessary except in very few cases. This saves on a lot of labor and time. Furthermore as the authors explain, rototilling can be harmful. Second, use of a heavy mulch is imperative in order for this concept to work. The authors give the needed information on what materials are appropriate for using as a mulch. Finally, Chapter four contains a planting guide for the raised row. The tips are great. They include concepts such as companion planting. Also, the guide pages discuss plants grown from seed versus transplants.

I highly recommend this book. If you are not an experienced gardener, this book will give you the confidence to start. If you have many years of experience, the ideas in Raised Row Gardening will make your life easier. Gardening is fun. The Competti’s present a method to make gardening less work with an increased production. I plan to implement the raised row method in the area shown. The white tubing and scraps indicate the edges of the area. I will post again as I create my own Raised Row Garden.

Empty lot
Plot for future raised bed garden
Empty lot
Second View of proposed garden area.