Submit a vegetable recipe to the Global Recipe Project by May 31st! Each recipe counts as one entry – enter as many times as you wish! One entry will be randomly selected to win a copy of…
By Annie Spiegelman, Illustrated by Maggie Agro
Who says Divas can’t play in the dirt?
If you fancy yourself to be the forward-thinking sort of gardener, you need to read this book. If your experience with gardening books is limited to toast dry narratives of rules and instructions, you really need to read this book. The Dirt Diva – Annie Spiegelman, that is – offers sage gardening advice in whimsical prose, injecting plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor to keep you laughing all the way from your favorite reading chair to your backyard garden.
In a very manageable sized text, The Dirt Diva walks the reader through a gardening season from beginning (“Let’s Start with a Plan”) to end (“You did it! You and Your Garden Grow Up, Finally”). Ms. Spiegelman accommodates those of us with limited warm weather attention spans (cough, cough) by dividing her text into five succinct, convenient sections. In the first and longest section, readers are given a comical crash course in everything from plant taxonomy, gardening tools, understanding soil, composting, irrigation, and pest control. In this last subsection, Ms. Spiegelman’s perspective on the importance of going organic is crystal clear. Regarding conventional pesticide use, she explains, “You’re now on an endless cycle of wasting money: weakening your plants; killing off the bird, butterfly, and bee populations; depleting your soil; and polluting the neighborhood’s groundwater. That’s not gardening. That’s lunacy!” (p. 57)
Subsequent sections address growing and rehabilitating your organic garden, including flowers, food crops, and an easy to understand seasonal division of labor. Garden rehab is not to be underestimated. In Ms. Spiegelman’s words, “You don’t want hyperactive and sugar-addicted plants. (Aren’t hyperactive and sugar-addicted children enough?) Stop being an enabler.” (p. 75) Put that way, it sounds just crazy enough to be true.
My personal favorite chapter in Talking Dirt is Chapter 13, “Shall Hell Be Paved with Weeds?” After all, weeds are the first excuse given by many spray bottle wielding backyard gardeners, yes? Ms. Spiegelman is not dismissive of this reality, nor does she accept the excuse. “It’s best to face the fact that you’ll be doing some serious hand weeding a few times a year,” she states plainly (p. 123). From there, she goes on to provide a few pages of sensible advice on how to avoid losing your sanity in the process.
I would recommend this book for the last few pages, “Your Final Pep Talk,” alone. But really, you may as well start at the beginning to laugh and learn your way through a few rainy days. Then, go play in the dirt!