Book Review: Grow the Good Life

Oh, the angst! I put down the book and looked out the window. Still winter! I checked the calendar. Still winter! I picked up the book again and continued reading. I put it down again and gazed out the window across the garden to where I grow vegetables. Still winter!

What book has lead me to this state of agitation, impatience, and sheer longing to go out and plant my peas, lettuce, onion sets, and radishes a month before I should?

Grow the Good Life by Michele Owens (2011, Rodale, $24.95), subtitled “Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, and Wise”.

In ten chapters of easy to read prose, Michele tells us the story of her own garden and takes us down her path to becoming a vegetable gardener, along the way laying out a compelling case for why everyone should plant some kind of vegetable garden.

My own experience is different from Michele’s, namely because I grew up with a Dad who always had a vegetable garden in the backyard.  I always knew I’d have my own vegetable garden as soon as I had a place to plant it. But I applaud her for telling her story, which is more like that of many people who grew up amidst an expanse of lawn and no vegetable garden.

This is not your typical "how to" book on vegetable gardening. You'll find no lists of what to grow, when to plant, or when to harvest. Instead, Michele mixes in her own personal experience of growing vegetables with information from various studies and experts to present a compelling case for the vegetable garden. She helps us all understand not only why we should want to grow vegetables, but also how easy it can be to do so and how doing so nourishes us in many ways.

Read it to gain the confidence to grab a shovel and start your own garden. Or read it to be re-inspired if you already grow vegetables. Regardless of whether you agree with all of the political views expressed, after reading this book, you’ll find it hard not to agree that anyone can grow vegetables and everyone should try to. 

To quote Michele, “No matter how different from me they may be, I find that I can always talk to gardeners. Yes, we share an interest, but the sense of community among gardeners runs deeper than the common topic of conversation and transcends vastly different ways of living. The respect for nature and the confidence that comes from shaping a piece of earth make gardeners at bottom alike. And even the most worldly gardeners recognize a sense of the miraculous in each other.”

There is a sense of miraculous in this book, too, and I think more than one non-gardener will read it and decide to try to grow a few vegetables and many a gardener will read it and decide to grow more.

(Yes, the publisher sent me this book to read and hoped for a review. I was not obligated to review the book, but I liked it, so I did.)

(Yes, I noticed that Michele only uses a shovel to garden. She and I will one day have to talk about how much a hoe would add to her gardening experience.)


  1. Thanks for the review, Carol. I am going to read this book, and am now going to read it sooner. I love Michele's writing style, still evident at Garden Rant and before in her garden blog Sign Of The Shovel, the first blog I ever read.

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book. I know you are so eager to get back in the garden. I couldn't believe the weather man this morning when he was talking about another winter storm for the mid West while here in the South we are in the mid 70's. This winter has been too long.

    Always Growing

  3. Nice review Carol. I was a good read and one to make you want to get out in dig...especially with old man winter still hanging around.

  4. Thanks Carol..this book is now in the Amazon cart...boy I have about 20 to read, but seems this one will be at the top of the pile

  5. Sounds like an interesting read. I will have to check it out. Thanks for the review. Hang in there, spring is on its way. I am anxious to get planting too.

  6. I, too, am enjoying the book. We each have a personal story concerning our garden history. Hers is quite interesting but what I love most is that she encourages people to just go out there and do it. It is not hard, it just takes a bit of will as with anything. And, no hoe? Really, she needs a hoe.

  7. I really enjoyed the approach Michele takes to gardening, but I have to say I need more than a shovel. And more than a hoe. I like getting down on my knees with a cultivator.

  8. Great review. I love the last line. Yes, I wonder that she only uses a shovel.~~Dee

  9. Carol, What a nice review~The book is on the night stand ready to be read! I think a hoe is essential if one is growing veggies~Now in my heavy clay soil garden~No way does one use a long handles hoe! We use Hoe-Dags! gail

  10. Oh, fun! I just bought this book yesterday!

    My go-to garden tool is a hori-hori. I can do all of my gardening with it!


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