Wednesday, April 7, 2010

U is for...Urine

That got your attention, didn't it? Mine, too. I have read a charming book that I am going to review for you over a series of posts. I have been grappling with the best way to highlight the essence of this book  and it turns out that I cannot do it in one post.

The book is called The Alternative Kitchen Garden, an A to Z, by Emma Cooper. From her website, coopette.com: "Emma Cooper is a freelance writer, photographer and podcaster. She is a keen gardener and lives in Oxfordshire with husband Pete and two pet chickens - Hen Solo and Princess Layer." Listen to The Alternative Kitchen Podcasts on her site.

I found Emma Cooper quite by accident , and then shamelessly asked if I could review her book. Several days later, it arrived in the mail. Three hundred seventy-six [376] pages of glossy wit and quirk. You can see from the names of her hens that she is not going to be dull. I was not disappointed.

She had me in the introduction when she was explaining how she had earned degrees in Physics and Astrophysics, but ultimately moved from office life into the world of work-from-home gardening, blogging, and podcasting.  There is hope for the rest of us who long to work behind the computer screen of a home office while viewing outdoor scenery from our own bay window.

It does not matter that I live in the U.S. and Emma lives in the UK. Her book is as relevant to me as it is for any other reader. She has a wonderfully unconventional approach to life and gardening that harmonizes with my own lack of convention. Her topics will have value to me  here in zone 7b and will have value to another in a desert region because her scope is broad in many respects.

Which brings us to urine. It matters not in which zone you garden. All that matters is that you produce urine, and Emma says you might want to begin to consider its worth in your garden. Did you know NASA has used urine in their hydroponics systems? Neither did I until this book. Did you know that "neat" urine is strong enough to kill weeds? Look out [namebrand weed killers whom I refuse to name]! Seriously. I do not use toxic chemicals in my garden or on my property. Weeds are awfully pesky. I have used a salt and vinegar solution in the past to kill weeds in my gravel pathways, but it can be dangerous to future plant life to put too much salt around. It can cause an imbalance in the soil that makes it inhospitable to the plants you wish to grow. So, for weed killing, order your urine neat.

For feeding your plants, dilute urine 5 to 1, or even 10 to 1. Use it fresh because when it begins to have an odor, that means the beneficial nitrogen is turning to ammonia and escaping.  Emma says, however, that if you "don't fancy wandering around the garden with a watering can full of wee" that you might follow a different path and compost it instead. Urine makes an ideal compost activator and adds a lot of nitrogen to help with woody contents in the heap.

I love that her turns of phrase keep the reading interesting, her zest for life give inspiration, her 8 years of experience in gardening allow her to impart knowledge, and this book is a very fast read. It is not even intended to be read front to back, but I have been able to peruse the entire contents in just a couple of evenings. I have gone through several more times just for fun and further exploration. I am happy to have added it to my gardening books collection, and I think you might enjoy it also.

I will share more from the book next week.
Happy Gardening.
Some book stats:
Published Autumn, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-85623-046-9
205 mm x 160 mm
paperback
376 pp
190 colour photographs
£14.95
$27.95
Gardening, green living,
environment, home, lifestyle
(follow the link above to purchase)

While I did receive a copy
of the book for the purposes
of this review, it was at my own
request, and the opinions 
expressed are my own.



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1 comment:

Kaye Turner said...

Fascinating stuff! You have a very interesting blog here. Just wanted to say thanks for coming to see my blog today.