Monday, April 4, 2011

The $64 Tomato

Critters are destroying my garden. I've replaced the tomato plants three times but I know it's futile. My humble little plot is barricaded so completely I can barely get to it, but these critters are unstoppable. I think they're airlifting themselves in.

Man vs. the enemies of cultivation is the subject of The $64 Tomato, a memoir sure to hit a responsive chord with frustrated farmers like me. If your attempts to grow your own salad have been thwarted by the superior forces of Mother Nature, you'll appreciate William Alexander's account of adopting the life of a gentleman farmer in New York's Hudson River Valley.

To Manhattan transplant Alexander the plan seemed simple enough: put in a kitchen garden and some fruit trees, weed a little, water a little, then sit back and enjoy nature's bounty. But instead of
apples and corn he got all-out war, with contractors, plant diseases, bugs of every variety and (of course) deer, ground hogs, rabbits and all sorts of hungry, determined fauna.

Alexander's response to his negative gardening karma is hilarious. When organic solutions don't work he moves on to the hard stuff, including dreaded pesticides, traps, and a 10,000 volt-electric fence. Outsmarting Mother Nature takes up all of his time and most of his money. When he harvests the fruits of his efforts--his glorious heirloom beefsteak tomatoes--and figures the production cost per tomato, the result is an astonishing $64 each.

Still, Alexander's passion for gardening in spite of the odds is endearing, and his responses to horticultural adversity are a hoot. If you're struggling with mealy bugs and javalinas, or even if the local Safeway is as close to a garden as you want to get, this laugh-out-loud book is sure to delight.


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