Fresh Food from Small Spaces and Other Books by R.J.Ruppenthal: Review
Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R.J. Ruppenthal, is an extremely useful and clearly written how-to guide to urban gardening. Its subtitle gives you the idea of what it covers. It isn’t strong on illustrations, so this is one for readers. Wow, he’s been prolific since it came out. Here are some of his books and booklets at Amazon and my review continues below these images…
I would guess that the booklets may draw on the material in the book. Some of these are just in Kindle, but others are also paperbacks. If you read in the Kindle format, I was pleased to see that most or maybe all of them are in the Kindle Unlimited program.
Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and SproutingHow to Grow Potatoes: Planting and Harvesting Organic Food From Your Patio, Rooftop, Balcony, or Backyard GardenBest Chicken Breeds: 12 Types of Hens that Lay Lots of Eggs, Make Good Pets, and Fit in Small Yards (Plus Bonus: 5 Varieties of Exotic Poultry)How to Grow Squash: Planting and Growing Pumpkins, Zucchini, Summer and Winter Squash, Gourds, and ChayoteStarting a New Garden (VOL. 1): How to Transform Your Yard and Patio Into Beds and Container Gardens (Growing Organic Vegetables at Home)Starting a New Garden (VOL. 2): How to Plant Seeds and Seedlings, Care for Your Plants, and Grow 12 Simple Vegetables, Plus Shade Gardening (Growing Organic Vegetables at Home)How to Grow Beans and Peas: Planting and Growing Organic Green Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, and Heirloom Dry Beans and PeasCheating on a Chicken Coop: 8 Cheap Ideas to House Your Backyard Hens and Save MoneyNo Fail Kale: How to Grow Your Own, Make Kale Juice and Green Smoothies, and Cook Delicious RecipesHow to Grow Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant: Planting and Growing Organic Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers, Chili Peppers, and Gourmet EggplantFall and Winter Gardening: 25 Organic Vegetables to Plant and Grow for Late Season FoodHow to Make Probiotic Drinks for a Raw Food Diet: Kefir, Kombucha, Ginger Beer, and Naturally Fermented Ciders, Sodas, and SmoothiesBackyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken LawsBlueberries in Your Backyard: How to Grow America’s Hottest Antioxidant Fruit for Food, Health, and Extra MoneyEssential Vegetables Box Set (4 Books in 1 Package): Organic Gardening with Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Broccoli, Cabbage, and MoreThe Healthy Probiotic Diet: More Than 50 Recipes for Improved Digestion, Immunity, and Skin HealthHow to Sprout Raw Food: Grow an Indoor Organic Garden with Wheatgrass, Bean Sprouts, Grain Sprouts, Microgreens, and MoreBy R.J. Ruppenthal How to Make Probiotic Drinks for a Raw Food Diet: Kefir, Kombucha, Ginger Beer, and Naturally FermenFall and Winter Gardening: 25 Organic Vegetables to Plant and Grow for Late Season Food by R.J. Ruppenthal How to Make Probiotic Drinks for a Raw Food Diet: Kefir, Kombucha, Ginger Beer, and Naturally Fermented Ciders, Sodas, and Smoothies
Quite a lot of books! So back to my review of Fresh Food from Small Spaces:
I laughed at that “square inch” in the title as it’s a takeoff on a classic gardening book called Square Foot Gardening. So if it’s inches rather than feet we are talking here, it’s about things you can do in a very small space, no matter where you live (city, country, or in between) and no matter how cold, dry, wet, hot, or otherwise challenging your climate might be.
Ruppenthal is well suited to writing this book — he has lived a lot in small apartments and condos, yet still manages to garden, sprout, and ferment to an amazing degree. This is the book he couldn’t find, so he wrote it himself. He and his family have something fresh to eat 365 days of the year, and we are not just talking a few leafy greens. The amount of protein that can be produced indoors is quite amazing. Oops, I said “amazing” a moment ago, but this book really did startle me. I have done many of the things he writes about, and I still kept learning new things as I read.
In these days of economic crunch, weird weather, and other uncertainties, Fresh Food from Small Spaces offers many simple skills you can develop to eat inexpensively, deliciously, and healthfully. In the Introduction, Ruppenthal talks about the importance of knowing basic food production skills in order to thrive and even to survive sustainably in the coming years. And then he goes on to describe many things city-dwellers can do to grow 10% to 20% of their food or more.
Here are the chapters. I like how he mentions websites and other books as he writes.
 Creating a Food System for Your Space: Consider both indoor and outdoor space: the top of your refrigerator, a balcony, a closet or other storage space, a yard no matter how tiny, and other spots. Notice the amount of sunlight or other light too, but there is a lot you can do in dark areas.
 Deciding What to Grow: Includes sections on vegetables in low light conditions, growing berries and small fruits, and companion plants that can repel pests. (Mint repels white fly, aphids and cabbage moths, for example.) It also covers cold climates, and pests and diseases.
 How to Buy or Build Productive Vegetable Containers: He makes a case for self-watering containers and tells you how to make or buy them. He also discusses soil and fertilizer. Naturally, his approach is organic.
 Using Vertical Space and Reflected Light: “If there’s one urban commodity that’s almost as precious as land, it’s light,” is how this chapter begins. It continues with tips for terracing, trellising, and tumbling. (Tumbling is growing downward from a hanging planter.)
 Starting Transplants and Cycling Your Crops: It’s optional to start transplants, but after he says that, he makes a compelling case for doing it and gives you lots of information on how to.
 Growing Fruits and Berries in Your Spare Space: You can grow them in planters. There’s a very useful list of fruits that can grow well in a range of climates. Many are dwarf or semi-dwarf so you don’t have to be a climber to harvest them!
 Sprouting Grains, Beans, Wheatgrass, and Salad Sprouts: This is a very good introduction to sprouting, with some mouth-watering recipes. If you haven’t done much sprouting, it is a very economical and quite easy way to get quality organic produce.
 Making Yogurt, Kefir, and Fermented Foods: “This is a book about producing food, not cooking or preserving it. Why then, you ask, is there a chapter on fermentation? Fermented foods have a place here because culturing them greatly adds to the nutritive value of the underlying food, as well as enhancing your body’s ability to digest and absorb its nutrients. Yogurt, for example, contains around 20 percent more protein than the milk it’s made from…”
 Cultivating Mushrooms: This is the only thing in the book that I have absolutely no experience with, and the chapter made me want to go buy a simple kit and give it a try.
 Raising Chickens and Honeybees in the City: This is probably the most “out there” chapter in the book. I immediately thought of roosters crowing but he is talking about keeping hens only, for their eggs. He comments that a few eggs may convert any dubious neighbors.
 Making Compost and Partnering with Worms: Lots of tips on easy methods, relatively smell-free.
 Survival During Resource Shortages: This chapter focuses on ways to prepare for supply disruptions, power outages, and the like. Could be useful.
Helping to Build a Sustainable Future: A good summary. The book has an index (as a librarian, I always check for one), and a list of resources.
Do consider buying this book, if you live in a city.
It’s SO worthwhile!
great review! I need to start a garden. Go knows I have the climate for it!