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Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners

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We have begun to lose some of the most important skills used by everyday gardeners to create beautiful, productive gardens. With a personality-driven, engaging narrative, Deep Rooted Wisdom teaches accessible, commonsense skills to a new generation of gardeners. Soulful gardener, Augustus Jenkins Farmer, profiles experienced and up-and-coming gardeners who use these skills in their own gardens. Enjoy this chance to get planting, propagation, and fertilizing knowledge handed down directly from the experts in the field. 

248 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2014

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Augustus Jenkins Farmer

4 books1 follower

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5 stars
28 (31%)
4 stars
37 (42%)
3 stars
18 (20%)
2 stars
3 (3%)
1 star
2 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Lauren Csaki.
76 reviews2 followers
July 6, 2015
Reading this book is like working the soil alongside a seasoned gardener while he waxes poetic on traditional gardening wisdom that has become somewhat lost in the modern era of Round-Up, Miracle Gro, and gas-powered leaf blowers. The aptly named Augustus Jenkins Farmer covers such subjects as taking plant cuttings, saving seeds, making garden structures from materials found right in the garden, and using hand tools. But it's not really a how-to reference. It's more of a discussion--stories, tidbits of wisdom, musings and philosophy with some specific hints and tips scattered throughout. I think the book would have been even better if he had ended each chapter with a practical how-to section, but I think he wanted it to be more of a flowing narrative rather than a step-by-step manual. And I'm okay with that. He sources the wisdom and stories from dozens of individual gardeners, which imbues the book with the satisfying and well-rounded richness of multiple perspectives. A richness you just can't approximate with a bottle of Miracle Gro.
September 13, 2019
I really enjoyed this book. The author's voice was soothing, knowledgeable, and welcoming. It was also just what I needed to read as I had to take almost 4 months away from creating the space I envision. One quote from the book from a Cambodian gardener resonated with me, "When I stay here, I take great care of the garden. I need to walk around my garden. To water, to pull weeds. But when I leave it, I don't worry about it. Things die, weeds come, vines go everywhere. It's on its own."

The inspiration I drew from this book:
1. It resonated with my intent to create a space affordably and naturally.
2. The chapter titled, "Finding the Spirit: Telling Stories Through Your Garden" has me yearning to be a better story teller through my garden. Although I can also see how the current state of my garden precisely tells my story if you know it.
3. It inspired me to get back to plants and seeds with stories. I have a bunch but I would love more.
4. Affirmed my natural inclination to water by hand even though folks are constantly trying to push an irrigation system on me.

The book is great. It helped to relax me regarding the current state of my garden and to keep on keeping on.
Profile Image for SarahJessica.
146 reviews3 followers
June 14, 2019
Where does the soul of your garden come from? Have you ever wondered that while pondering your own corner of earth? This beautiful book collects wisdom (as advertised) from Jenks Farmer those whose paths he has been lucky enough to cross in his gardening life. You hardly notice the copious practical advice for how to tend a garden in the manner least disruptive to all of the forms of life that it touches because these nuggets are nestled amidst stories told as though the reader were a friend just over for some sweet tea on the porch. I picked this up because a garden communicator I am a fan of is a fan of Jenks; if she likes him, I will, I thought. Well, and how! I am left wanting to come by the farm and pull some weeds myself, and see what stories I can collect while I'm there. This is a lovely read for anyone who is a fan of the late Elizabeth Lawrence's garden writing. It would also make a lovely holiday or birthday gift for the gardener who has everything. Highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Jenika.
50 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2017
The overall messages of this book has helped shape my thinking about gardening. Even though some things sound like a regular trite laundry list, he has a deep and lovely way of exploring concepts like building soil, using natural processes rather than synthetic shortcuts, a return to hand work over motor work, and recognizing how we are helped and harmed by what and how we plant.

I felt frustrated at times throughout the book, feeling like it didn't deliver on its subtitle of "skills and stories." I picked up a few gem concepts but it drove me crazy when he'd say something like "I've found a way to do x without y happening" and never elaborated on what this magical discovery was. On one hand he's all about discovering what works in your region and yard, but I felt like there could have been more concrete examples.

As far as storytelling, it was often what I call "postcard storytelling" where you get a brief overview hinting there is a story but not the actual story. He'd tell us ABOUT people who could weave wonderful tales and tell the history of hand tools or that plant but didn't bother to actually write down or relay any stories!

Example: "Bob can launch into the history of just about any tool you put in front of him...He'll start with a seemingly random story, like how the half-moon edged was originally made by Roman soldiers to cut turf to build walls and ramparts. Through stories, he explains the history of metals and how the best wooden handles come from Appalachia." ....okay? Care to share anything about the Romans or why the wood is great in Appalachia? But no, that's all you get - scattered allusions.

It also frustrated me that although he talks about all these great gardens he designed there are no pictures or plans of any of them to help you imagine, or apply those concepts yourself. The book has great photos but none do a great job of illustrating the bigger layout principles he mentioned.

So to use a reductionist rating system to summarize: in some ways it's a two star book to me - I wish a journalist had helped him out in the writing to share stories and weave a sense of his own work and backstory. But in other ways it was a four star book, because I feel more equipped to understand soil and healthier ways to amend it, to embrace curiosity and failure as an inherent part of gardening, and a renewed interest in sustainable gardening.
Profile Image for Dottie Suggs.
194 reviews8 followers
May 26, 2018
Awesome little read about gardening in the South. Jerks takes us into the lives of his family and all of the many gardeners he has met when stopping by and asking to see their yards. Charming and full of practical gardening information.
177 reviews
May 24, 2022
I haven’t read the final copy but part of this included my Dad - Jenks is an excellent writer! He paints a picture with his prose!
Profile Image for Dorothy.
1,319 reviews92 followers
May 6, 2014
Augustus Jenkins Farmer, known to his friends as "Jenks," gardens in South Carolina, using the traditional skills and techniques he learned from his parents as a child and later from a large cast of teachers and mentors who had, in their turn, learned from generations of gardeners. In a straightforward and engaging style, he writes about what he has learned from all of them and from his own experience.

He espouses a model of gardening that is quite different from the corporate-driven one that we see in many slick gardening magazines and in television commercials for weed killers, insecticides, and manufactured fertilizers. It is a kinder and gentler way of gardening, one that is in harmony with Nature.

He writes about the basics of his kind of gardening, which starts with building a fertile soil to encourage a healthy web of life. He goes on to discuss harnessing the natural power of worms and fungi to help the soil and he expounds on the pleasures of watering by hand as a way of not only keeping the plants hydrated but keeping the gardener informed about their condition.

Jenks has chapters on saving seeds, on scavenging for plants, and on the use of pass-along plants. He shows how gardening need not be an expensive proposition. He also has an informative chapter on the use of tools, especially hand tools, some of which modern gardeners may not even be familiar with.

I found particularly interesting his discussion of handling garden pests. He takes a holistic approach to the management of insects and weeds. Since this is the method which I utilize in my own garden, I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read.

In a fascinating final chapter, the author writes about telling stories through one's garden. The truth is each garden does tell a story - whether we want it to or not. Gardening is a creative process and the garden one creates says much about its creator. It speaks of the culture which produced the gardener and of the biology of the land on which it exists. In effect, it reveals the essential spirit of the gardener and the place.

I've been reading a lot of garden literature this spring and each book has offered the wisdom of gardeners whose trowels I am not fit to handle but all have been accessible and generous in the sharing of their knowledge. None more so than Jenks Farmer in this book which could very well be sub-titled "The Joy of Gardening" because it is presented with an infectious joyousness which is difficult to resist. But why would you even try?

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest review of it. No other compensation was provided. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)
Profile Image for Katie.
1,111 reviews18 followers
March 29, 2015
Some unique perspectives on old gardening tricks and tips. It feels like a good country get-together with a bunch of old gardeners telling their stories. The author is from the South and most of the plants he mentions are specific to his area, but the themes he discusses are universal.

972 reviews1 follower
July 22, 2014
Any gardener, aspirant or expert, will savor this book and put it on their bedside table for anytime reading. Filled with inspiration and wise ways of gardening.
Profile Image for NancyL Luckey.
452 reviews15 followers
August 3, 2016
I like gardening books that can be read like stories rather than textbooks. Love me some Jenks Farmer, too!
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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