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The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

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Scientist/gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for organic gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields -- resilience science, climatology, climate change, ecology, anthropology, paleontology, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, health, and medicine. In the last half of The Resilient Gardener, Deppe extends and illustrates these principles with detailed information about growing and using five key crops: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs.

In this book you'll learn how to:

-Garden in an era of unpredictable weather and climate change

-Grow, store, and use more of your own staple crops

-Garden efficiently and comfortably (even if you have a bad back)

-Grow, store, and cook different varieties of potatoes and save your own potato seed

-Grow the right varieties of corn to make your own gourmet-quality fast-cooking polenta, cornbread, parched corn, corn cakes, pancakes and even savory corn gravy

-Make whole-grain, corn-based breads and cakes using the author's original gluten-free recipes involving no other grains, artificial binders, or dairy products

-Grow and use popbeans and other grain legumes

-Grow, store, and use summer, winter, and drying squash

-Keep a home laying flock of ducks or chickens; integrate them with your gardening, and grow most of their feed.

The Resilient Gardener is both a conceptual and a hands-on organic gardening book, and is suitable for vegetable gardeners at all levels of experience. Resilience here is broadly conceived and encompasses a full range of problems, from personal hard times such as injuries, family crises, financial problems, health problems, and special dietary needs (gluten intolerance, food allergies, carbohydrate sensitivity, and a need for weight control) to serious regional and global disasters and climate change. It is a supremely optimistic as well as realistic book about how resilient gardeners and their vegetable gardens can flourish even in challenging times and help their communities to survive and thrive through everything that comes their way -- from tomorrow through the next thousand years. Organic gardening, vegetable gardening, self-sufficiency, subsistence gardening, gluten-free living.

324 pages, Paperback

First published October 5, 2010

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Carol Deppe

6 books14 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for Susan Albert.
Author 88 books2,196 followers
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November 6, 2010
I have been looking for a book like this one for several years, so the publication of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times gives me cause for rejoicing. Carol Deppe (whose earlier book, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, should be on every gardener's must-read list) brings us practical, common-sense garden wisdom and comprehensive, detailed advice for producing our own food staples. She's funny, too, and her wry humor goes a long way toward lightening her serious subject.

Carol Deppe is a long-time gardener and plant breeder (in Corvallis, Oregon) who specializes in developing open-pollinated, public-domain food plants for organic gardens. The Resilient Gardener encourages us to redesign our gardens for hard times. Its first focus, Deppe says, is on achieving greater control over our food supply, rather than relying on fossil-fueled industrial agriculture to supply our staple foods. Its second focus: on surviving the natural and personal disasters (droughts, family emergencies) that can wreak havoc in the garden. Its third: on gardening not just in the good times, or even in the hard times, but "gardening in mega-hard times." And not just gardening for ourselves, either, but for others: "A gardener who knows how to garden in both good times and bad can be a reservoir of knowledge and a source of resilience for the entire community." The bottom line, for Deppe, is the awareness that a time may come when our gardening pastime turns into a basic survival skill. Natural disasters, widespread resource depletions (fossil fuel, water, soil), or a catastrophic economic downturn may require us to grow our food, she says, so it's a very good idea to learn how to do this before we have no other alternative. To which I say "amen."

The first four chapters expand Deppe's definition of resilience and self-sufficiency in the context of climate change, possible food shortages, and personal dietary needs. The next three focus on gardening essentials: labor and tools, water, and soil fertility. There's lots of important basic information here, and I found myself frequently underlining and taking notes. Her chapter on the laying flock (although it feels a bit interruptive to me, coming as it does between potatoes and squash) fits neatly into her DIY food philosophy. Home-grown protein-rich eggs are an important addition to our diets, and even urban gardeners are finding ways to raise backyard poultry these days. I learned from her discussion of ducks and, while I'm a chicken person, I have to admit that it made me nostalgic for the ducks I've raised in the past. I had to smile, too, at the love and humor evident in the song she sings when she tucks her ducks in for the night: "It's Great to be a Ducky in the Rain."

But the really good stuff in this book happens in Deppe's chapters on potatoes, squash, beans, and corn—staple foods that do not receive enough attention in our arugula-centered gardens. Because Deppe is a plant breeder, she knows these plants from seed to harvest and beyond, and offers an extraordinary amount of valuable planting, culture, harvest, and storage information. Although some readers may not feel they need all the technical advice on plant breeding, Deppe's guidance on the selection of varieties, on garden layout and planning, and on pollination is basic, helpful, and encouraging. As well, she is an enthusiastic cook and relies on each of these four staple crops in her own diet, so she includes some excellent recipes and cookery information, as well. There's more to corn than roasting ears, and more to squash than zucchini!

It has been very good to see the recent swing away from ornamental to vegetable gardening. Some garden writers are beginning to pay serious attention to the practical business of raising our own groceries and are encouraging us to become less dependent on the supermarket as our sole food supplier. But Carol Deppe's book stands out among the current crop of vegetable gardening guides in the same way that a 10-foot stalk of Aztec Red Mexican corn stands out in my garden. If you're looking for help in growing staple crops at home, put The Resilient Gardener at the top of your list.
Profile Image for Jennifer Kleffner.
61 reviews1 follower
September 25, 2012
The first part can be a bit tedious, with all the info on diet and how to, but the work she has done on squash, corn, potatoes and beans make it worth having in your reference library. Made me want to start saving seed and breeding my own varieties.

As an aside, if I read one more gardening author who lives someplace where it rains in the summer recommend "no irrigation" gardening I'm going to scream. We don't all live where rain falls from the sky at the right time to water a garden...even a drought tolerant one. In fact, I've never lived anywhere that I did NOT have to irrigate. Sigh.
24 reviews
April 15, 2021
Overall I think this book is likely quite useful for people who want to grow corn, beans, potatoes, and squash and to raise ducks, particularly if they live in a climate similar to that of the Willamette Valley. It's certainly the most in-depth resource I've found for those particular crops.

A couple of caveats: 1.) The section on climate change is now woefully outdated-- the book is over 15 years old, and weather-related disruptions have worsened so much during that time that this section of the book might best be skipped over. 2.) The author assumes that you'll be tilling your garden. I'm not sure how well some of the techniques could be adapted to no-till horticulture.
Profile Image for Sarah.
59 reviews1 follower
January 30, 2011
I have a few small issues with this book: for one thing, I don't like to be told what to eat and don't look for diet and nutrition information in a gardening book. second, deppe herself advises against reading non-regional gardening books and then writes one herself. however, much of the information IS specific to the pacific NW, where deppe lives, and I feel like this could have been an even stronger book for those of us who also live here, had she truly focused on the region. all of that aside, this is a really great gardening book, one of my new favorites. deppe limits her crop information to a few key subsistence crops and provides a ton of information on each one. she is obviously an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable gardener and plant breeder and is able to communicate her knowledge in an interesting and clear manner. I hope that she writes another because I'd like to know what other vegetable varieties she grows and how she grows them.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 44 books94 followers
March 30, 2014
I've been meaning to read this book for two or three years, but I kept getting turned off every time I opened it. I'm ashamed to say part of that is just because I'm so used to full-color non-fiction books that having a big book with no photos (except in the middle) made it feel daunting. But I also wasn't as interested as I could have been because the book is about a homegrown diet of field corn, dried beans, squash, and duck eggs, and only the last seems like a really healthy staple given my crazy dietary beliefs.

But the book is actually quite readable once you get into it. (Even the obligatory climate change introduction is much better than many I've read.) Sure, I skimmed the chapter on corn, but I still found plenty to capture my interest. More highlights on the blog in a week or so.
14 reviews4 followers
July 11, 2018
I rate Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener the most important gardening book of the last few years, and simultaneously the most frustrating gardening book I've ever read. Deppe, also the author of Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, draws on more than three decades of experience in the Willamette Valley of Oregon to present a treasure trove of tips and tricks for Pacific Northwest (PNW) vegetable gardening. After touching on many common vegetables and devoting some space to orchards, berries, and nuts, she thoroughly covers five staples for calories, protein, and omega-3s: potatoes, eggs, squash, beans, and corn. Her distilled expertise alone makes the book a must-read for regional gardeners and highly valuable for growers in any temperate climate, and her thorough coverage of sustaining staple crops truly sets her book apart.

I love that Deppe has laid out such a solid plan for growing a complete diet in the PNW (and with some thought, experimentation, and adaptation, anywhere in temperate areas.) I hate that four of her five staple crops grow as labor intensive, soil and habitat disturbing annuals. And I feel uneasy with three of her five staples conflicting with the paleodiet.

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350 reviews
January 24, 2011
This is a book that Northwest Gardeners will need to add to their library. It's quite unique in tone and content. Carol Deppe's gardening philosophy is the result of her long experience as a gardener and seed saver and her own problems with food, specifically celiac's disease, an intolerance to wheat gluten. Gardening ( her case more like farming due to the size of her "garden"), for resilience she has learned to focus on five crops that will provide food throughout the year: potatoes, corn, beans, squash and duck eggs. I resonated with these ideas because last year, on my own, I tried to plant for an extended eating season rather than just trying to produce the typical kitchen garden veggies like lettuce, chard and spinach. I picked beets, potatoes and green beans but Carol Deppe had given me lots of good ideas on specific varieties to try and grow. In addition to detailed information on potatoes, corn, beans, squash and duck eggs which each get a comprehensive chapter, she has very interesting ideas on watering, tools, help, labor, seed saving and preserving food. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Danielle McClellan.
536 reviews51 followers
February 27, 2014
This book will be of great interest, particularly to other Northwest gardeners. Deppe is specific and knowledgable. Some of her concerns do not intersect with my own (the details of her diet, for example), but those topics that do intersect (raising ducks, growing potatoes & squash) are extremely helpful. It is like having a mentor who takes the time to provide the details of each piece of advice and who explains exactly what she does and how she does it. She is thoughtful, methodical, and clear. That said, this book provides less of an overview than I had hoped and I found myself bogging down a bit midway through. I do have a page of notes that I intend to turn to with a variety of her recommendations for tools and planting suggestions.

My favorite quote so far (which I have added to the book quotes section), which I find wonderfully funny and all too true in gardening and in life in general:

“Only some things are worth doing well. Most things that are worth doing are only worth doing sloppily. Many things aren't worth doing at all. Anything not worth doing at all is certainly not worth doing well.”
46 reviews
July 9, 2022
This book somehow managed to be a disaster in just about every possible way. I might have forgiven the terrible proofreading and ATROCIOUS layout design (in the ebook version, can’t vouch for print) if the actual content had been worthwhile, but for the most part this reads as a horrifically scatter-brained manifesto on the author’s personal opinions. I even agreed with a great many of those opinions, but the presentation is very preachy and off-putting and most of it has very little to do with the supposed topic of the book. It’s a bit infuriating how often she insisted that no gardening advice applies to every climate/individual garden only to then evangelize about how she’s right and everyone else is wrong. On top of that a great deal of the information in here is massively outdated, and her obsessive love affair with tillage has not aged well given what we now know about soil science and resilient ecosystems. If you want a book about how to build a resilient garden ecosystem, this is emphatically not it. It doesn’t really even address that topic. You know. The one in the title.

On that note, time to go remove all her other books from my To Read list. I’m doing this again.
358 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2011
Very useful for how the author considers resilience in many different ways and at many different levels. Valuable information on growing and storing staple crops and saving seed from year to year. She is opinionated in the ways most garden writers are, and carries that over a bit too far into the One Right Way to select and cook foods. This makes it harder to differentiate between valid, data-derived information and her own tastes and preferences.

Many of her methods and practices are tough to scale down from. One can not reasonably grow a dozen varieties of even the four crops she focuses on if you're working on the scale of a garden rather than a farm. It would've been even more useful if she'd talked about how, if it became necessary, one could be prepared to quickly adapt backyard gardens into productive cornfields.
Profile Image for Sher.
535 reviews3 followers
September 30, 2012
Book 58 2012 Reading Challenge - Amazingly comprehensive book covering food production and Self-reliance in uncertain times. Revolves around five main crops--potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs. And for this author the eggs are duck eggs and not chicken eggs. Consequently some excellent advice for duck keepers- most books cover chickens. I learned a lot about the nutritional value of potatoes, and also she has a chapter on how to use gardening as exercise to stay fit. The book is also valuable if you are interested in growing vegetables from your own seed that you have collected from last year's plants. A definite strength of the book.
Profile Image for Eileen.
323 reviews70 followers
March 10, 2014
I'm clearly going to have to return this to interlibrary loan before I can give it 100% of the attention it deserves, and "deserves" is the correct word. A SUPER interesting and practical read, much more about small-scale farming and food storage than gardening per se. Did you know there are garbanzo beans out there you can pop like popcorn? And that you can establish your own seed store, viable for far longer than you'd expect, with the help of a freezer and a standard dehydrator? This book is making me want to go see whether my mom still has her old Excalibur flour mill stashed somewhere in the attic. I clearly need to get my own copy so I can use it as a reference book forever.
Profile Image for Aleksandar.
121 reviews3 followers
October 2, 2019
If you need to know about growing corn, beans, potatoes or squash on a home scale - this is the book for you. It has a specific Northwest US perspective, but she puts down enough caveats so that you can work out if that particular variety or technique applies to your region.

The book is very dense, not many tables, charts or photos. But she's able to get her message across clearly and concisely.

Also, great practical cooking methods :)
Profile Image for Patti.
196 reviews
May 18, 2022
The strength of this book is really in the first few chapters: how to be strategic about your gardening practices to make it more resilient to disturbances. Although looking at a book title like this in the year 2022 makes you immediately think of pandemic-related food shortages or something more on the catastrophic end of disturbances to the food supply, she also makes a very compelling case for more mundane (and much more likely) situations where the birds eat your seed, or expected rains don't come that year, or you have a life situation that sucks up most of your time, or you get old and have a hard time bending, etc. Having this kind of thought process running in the back of your mind as you make decisions about your garden is so smart.

I did laugh as she started talking about her five main crops, because I no longer thought she was a "gardener" but more a "farmer" with a separate huge property to farm and intense variety breeding activities. The exquisite detail on how she dries the particular squash variety that she bred specifically for her Pacific NW climate was slightly interesting, but not all that applicable to this midwestern backyard gardener who has space for one, maybe two squash plants total. But I could see how her thoughts could be a goldmine of info for the right person. She convinced me to grow some potatoes, so I currently have one pot sprouting up.
Profile Image for Kali.
216 reviews
January 26, 2021
I suppose it’s not the book’s fault that I had the wrong idea going into this about what kind of book it would be. It was recommended in a permaculture group so I was not expecting to find it focused on essentially small scale organic farming using pretty traditional methods (tilling, growing in rows, etc. Most of the advice is very specific to growing on a larger scale in the Willamette Valley, so not very relevant to me as a backyard gardener in the Mid-Atlantic. The author also tends to go on uninteresting tangents about her health issues and allergies and sprinkles in some dubious health advice and her personal take on climate science. There are some generally useful nuggets about seed saving, storing produce, etc but it wasn’t worth the labor of going through a lot of dense and irrelevant material to get them.
9 reviews
March 19, 2018
The author waffles on a bit, so it's a difficult book to pick up quickly off the shelf to reference, but hidden in there is plenty of very useful information so it's well worth reading for anyone interested in homestead survivalism and a resilient diet. It's not just about growing food, but storing it and cooking with it, and all kinds of resilience. I like that she has detailed information here about how to save disease-free seed potatoes, how to use garden tools without damaging the back, gardening without much water, how to produce fertility on the land from water weeds, legumes etc.
477 reviews8 followers
September 1, 2017
Deppe focuses on 5 crops that — with care in choosing, sowing, growing, harvesting, and processing/cooking — should see home gardeners through hard times: potatoes, corn, beans (green and dry), squash and pumpkins, and ducks/eggs. Before she gets into the discussion of each of these, she talks at some length and in some personal terms about resiliency, climate change and weather, diet, tools, soil, and water.
11 reviews1 follower
June 6, 2019
One of the best gardening books I have ever read. I have lost track of how many times I checked this out from the library. Practical advice, theory, and a surprisingly good section about food preservation that really expanded my dehydrator usage!
46 reviews1 follower
August 13, 2022
Is it worthwhile to underline every line in a book? This one makes me wonder! Carol Deppe has so much to offer us: perspectives on preparation and resilience that are imminent and practical but with enough perspective and philosophy to feel, well, like you could actually live happily with this mindset. It's about culture and not just hunkering down.

There is so much in here to mention, but in particular I really value the emphasis on wider plant spacings, what to sacrifice in a drought, labor/flexibility considerations, and the enormous detail provided for growing more staple crops. As a result of reading this and other related books, I have begun to pull off gardening that doesn't feel exhausting by mid-summer. I have learned to adapt a little more. Read and reread, it is a great reference book and inspiration.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
435 reviews15 followers
August 15, 2021
I learned so much about growing squash and corn and potatoes, saving seeds, and saving and storing staples from the garden. Highly recommended for vegetable gardeners.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
93 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2021
Interesting, some new information I didn't know. I saved some ideas for next season. Worth the read!
Profile Image for Ashley Reiter.
161 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2022
It really doesn’t go past these 5 main crops, and I don’t see corn or wheat being practical for the West Coast home gardener. I did learn a few things about potatoes, though. Worth a read.
Profile Image for Elaine.
25 reviews
December 8, 2022
Just a wealth of knowledge and some unique ideas, I will return to library but probably need this on my gardening bookshelf
Profile Image for Fernleaf.
296 reviews
February 15, 2016
One of the greatest and most relevant gardening books that I've read in a long while! Deppe talks you through the logic of having a resilient garden - one that is better able to handle the vagaries of local weather in the midst of climate change, and one that will be an asset in a crisis large or small instead of a drain on your time, energy and resources.

She focuses on adapting gardening practices away from the good-times highs (high outside input, high labor, high water needs) and instead planting and planning so that if something goes wrong, whether it's a drought, shipping strike that empties store shelves, or a broken leg that keeps you out of the garden, the garden will be able to produce and provide. Some of her strategies for doing this include developing soil fertility and tilth through organic methods, wider row and plant spacings to require less water, working with what you have so that irrigation isn't necessary, and planning redundancies into your garden.

She then goes into detail about the five crops that she sees as nutritionally core to any garden, particularly here in the wet pacific northwest where most grain crops aren't feasible on a meaningful scale. These crops are corn, squash, potatoes, beans and eggs, with this combination of crops you can have a delicious, diverse diet that still provides a nutritionally well-rounded base.

One of the best features for me personally was that this is not a beginner's gardening book. Deppe doesn't hold your hand while painstakingly walking you through how to plant a potato or hill up corn. She assumes that you either a) know the basics/have some prior gardening experience or b) are intelligent enough to locate that information in one of the MANY other books on the subject, preferably one relevant to your own region. Instead she goes into depth about panning and planting for minimal labor, which varieties are best for particular purposes, sourcing quality seed/stock, saving your own seed, plus storing and cooking the harvest.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who gardens or wants to garden, her variety recommendations are particularly valuable to those that live in the PNW.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
286 reviews22 followers
December 2, 2011
Hugely useful guide to growing your own food; especially useful to me because Deppe lives and farms in the Willamette Valley. She is also completely charming; for instance, she includes a sidebar with the song she sings while putting her ducks to bed, because ducks like singing. SERIOUSLY. I love her.

It's a very holistic treatment of growing your own food. The main things she covers are potatoes, corn, beans, squash and eggs (she prefers duck eggs), although she does mention growing greens and such, too. Deppe tells you what her preferred varieties are and why (some of which she's bred herself), how to plant, grow and harvest the food, AND how to prepare and preserve as well. Yes, there are recipes! And instructions for dehydrating, which is Deppe's preferred method of preservation.

Although the title mentions self-reliance, that isn't entirely what Deppe advocates in this book. Her philosophy seems to be a combination of self-reliance and community interdependence. She says several times that people can't really expect to be totally self-sufficient and isolated; there will always be a need for trade and specialization. But it's also good to be able to provide for yourself when you really need to.

Likewise, Deppe doesn't (at least currently) live completely off-grid, nor desire to do so. She uses electricity to get water and to run a freezer, as well as for light. And if no electricity were available, she admits that she would have to change the way she does some things. Indeed, she often gives tips for how to do things differently if you have a water shortage, or unseasonably cool, wet or warm weather. After all, being resilient is also about being able to be flexible and roll with the punches.

For those who eat gluten-free (I don't): Deppe also eats gluten-free, so there is an awareness of this issue throughout the book. If you're not gluten-free? Don't worry. There's plenty for you here, too.

I plan on buying this book (I've got it out from the library now) for future reference.
Profile Image for Jack Stephens.
Author 1 book19 followers
June 1, 2014
I took my time reading this book while making notes in the margins and highlighting key bits of advice and snippets of clever wisdom. I will be using it as a reference in my garden library for a long time to come. Carol Deppe does not write theory. Her insights have been hard earned from years of experience, and her thoroughness and attention to detail is admirable. I'm looking forward to applying her advice in my garden.

The bulk of The Resilient Gardener is useful for growers in any region or climate. However, it will be of best help to those growing in places similar to where the author resides...in cold temperate climates, temperate maritime rainforests, Cascadia, or the Willamette Valley of Oregon in particular.
Profile Image for Kim.
1,215 reviews16 followers
October 23, 2011
Although this book is aimed specifically at the Pacific Northwest, and we live in upstate NY, I find much of what Carol says translates well now matter where you live. The book has a different spin than the many other garden books I have read. It focuses on sustainability, on a personal level. How can you sustain yourself and your family, through good times and bad? How can you garden in such a way that health, finances or weather issues can be worked around. And what are the basic crops (and animals), a family would need? The book balances theory with practice, and always fills it out with good common sense.
Profile Image for Andrea.
516 reviews
May 27, 2015
This book is about strategically growing high calorie crops to provide food for year-round eating. She directs a chapter in the book to each of the following crops: corn, squash, beans, potatoes, and eggs. These crops are the easiest to grow, harvest and combine for a balanced diet. She also eats other foods but I like how she directs the reader to focus on the most important crops. I learned a lot about corn and it's many varieties. I saw how she fit her efforts into the natural patterns of her environment so that she works with it instead of fighting it. This book is a great reference.
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