Why I Wrote the Green Gardener’s Guide
(And book giveaway)


by Guest Ranter Joe Lamp’l

They say that ignorance is bliss.  I say that ignorance is killing our

I seem to be a lot more sensitive these days to
wasted opportunities to be eco-friendlier. As a lifelong passionate gardener and
one who has always appreciated and respected nature, I thought I was doing a pretty good job
protecting and preserving it too. That is until I started becoming more aware of
all the things I could be doing better
to lighten my footprint in my own little corner of the world.

I wrote The
Green Gardener’s Guide
primarily for two reasons. First, I wanted to raise
the environmental awareness of the many well-intentioned yet uninformed
gardeners and weekend warriors out there. Second, I wanted to offer real
solutions. Although the title is rather succinct, it’s the subtitle that strikes
at the core of my purpose behind this book: Simple significant actions to protect and
preserve the planet
. As a group, we’re a pretty large force at 90 million
strong. Yet while we’re creating so much beauty, we do a lot of not-so-pretty

Here are but a few examples:

Watering! We
do it in the middle of the day or every day or off target. So is it any surprise
that about half of all outdoor water use is wasted? We’re facing a global water
crisis yet simple steps could save billions of gallons. In addition, those bad
practices contribute to unhealthy plants, which the uninformed usually treat
with chemicals that do nothing to help and in many cases create even more

Runoff! On a
related note, water that isn’t absorbed into the ground runs off into watersheds
and storm management systems, taking with it harmful contaminants, either from
our own yard or our neighbors. The impact to habitats and ecosystems is
staggering…and avoidable when we learn how easy it is to keep much of that water
from leaving our property.


Contrary to popular belief by the uninformed, more is not better! Ranters know
this but many others still pursue the greenest, weed and pest-free lawn and
gardens in America using a 100% chemical diet. I stand in those aisles at the
big box stores agape when I hear what some of these consumers plan to do with that stuff in
the bag or bottle. All they want is something that works and works fast. I have
a hard time keeping quiet.

Lifeless soil!
Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant. The environmental and
horticultural benefits are far-reaching, from controlling erosion and runoff to
the billions of microorganisms that nurture plants. Sadly many people don’t have
a clue about this concept.

Wrong place!
Putting a perfectly healthy plant in the wrong place is asking for trouble.
For the unsuspecting gardener, it invites a multitude of unsuccessful attempts
at throwing random chemical fixes at the problem. We know the only real solution
is to plant it where it belongs in the first place.

Mow & Blow!
One gas-powered mower pollutes as much as 40 cars on the road for the same
amount of time… just one!  And blowers
and trimmers are even worse. During the growing season, about 50 million lawns
are cut each week in America.  You don’t
need to do the math to know that’s a lot of harmful emissions. Rechargeable,
electric, or good old-fashioned people power makes for a much greener

Over 60% of what ends up in a landfill, doesn’t have to be there
because it can be recycled or composted. Seeing plastic garbage bags of grass
clippings and other yard debris on the curb makes me cringe. And can we please
settle on a uniform way to recycle plastic pots or at least make it easier to
find them a second home?

A favorite quote by Thomas Fuller in 1732 sums it
up for me; “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry”. Today, we
are consuming resources at unprecedented and unsustainable rates. I’m not trying
to change the world, but with the help of many of you, I would like to enlighten
the roughly 90 million of our gardening peers that collectively have the power
to make a signifiJoecant difference.

Lamp'l is the host of GardenSMART on PBS, Fresh from the Garden on the
DIY Network and is a sought-after speaker around the country. He is a
Master Gardener, Certified Landsc
ape Professional and the founder of
The joe gardener Company.  He blogs at Compost Confidential.

Someone who really, really needs it.  So if the information in this post is news to you, you qualify!  I'll choose randomly from the most clueless.  And just in case no GardenRant reader qualifies, go ahead and nominate your clueless friend or neighbor – if you think they'd really read this book.

Buy the book here: The Green Gardener's Guide: Simple, Significant Actions to Protect & Preserve Our Planet.


  1. Yea for this book and this post! I hope you sell a gazillion copies, because I’m with you–the planet needs more of this information. I’m sure you’ll find someone in the visitor quotes who is clueless about these issues (or just doesn’t know yet) and will benefit hugely from your giveaway. Thank you for taking the time to write the book AND this post.

  2. I too cringe every time I see plastic bags filled with debris on the curb. But most communities require it packaged that way in order to have it hauled off. Hopefully more and more people will compost their yard waste. The day will come…

  3. love the idea of this book, will have to order several copies for friends and neighbors who constantly have “just one question” about their lawns and gardens, then disregard my advice when i tell them not to use chemicals!

  4. HI Joe,
    I’m so impressed with your work in every medium be it print, podcasting, or television. THanks for that great interview in your podcast with the owner of the NW and SF Flower SHow. You gave us the back story.

  5. My MIL is well intentioned…..but has enough chemicals in her shed to contaminate our entire 20 acres! She is also a believer in the use of household stuff (cleaners, mouthwash, tobacco, etc.)as an ‘organic’ solution to problems–not realizing that they can be as toxic to our environment as chemicals purchased at the local Wal-Mart.

  6. I’m starting my first garden this year. I manage to keep our house plants alive, but this is my first outdoor garden. I’ve been reading Garden Rant for months gleaning good information, but I think it would be super helpful to have read the Green Gardeners Guide before I create my first garden.

  7. Joe,

    I’m so glad you’ve written this book. In my day-to-day world as a garden coach, these are some of the eye-popping “who knew” topics I introduce to new (and some veteran) gardeners everyday. Keep on getting the message out there (everyone)!

  8. Sounds like the perfect book for those in my fair city who have now purchased cloth bags and stainless steel water bottles but continue to drive around in SUVs and letting the mow and blow guys do the programming of their lawn. Thanks so much for writing this book. I actually need a few copies — to give away as “gifts”.

  9. The problem with the clueless, is most of them do not want to change their ways.
    Here in California we are bombarded with public service messages via the radio and television, 20 foot tall flashing electronic billboards, old fashion billboards plastered across public transportation busses , inserts in our water bills, etc…..

    The message is getting out loud and clear yet because there are no punishments or repercussions for these ecological endangerments many people do not head information.

    They ARE informed and many are not ignorant to the information but simply choose to continue their arrogant self indulgent ways of life that they feel they have an entitlement to.

    Let’s face it folks, people who have been practicing a certain way of life are not going to change their daily practices unless it hits them in the pocket book. For this to happen legislation has to happen and laws have to be enforced.

    Education via this book is a good thing. It may reach a subset of our population, but for those who are steeped in their tradition of poor environmental stewardship, it’s not going to change the way that they have been doing things unless they are hit in the pocketbook.

    Unfortunately that is how change happens for those who are set in their ways.

  10. Sounds like a great book. How can we convince those who need to read it to do so? I’d like to give it to the managers of the three nurseries we have here. And all the landscape contractors. And our city officials. And our parish/county officials. Sigh. The list is too long.

  11. Everyone complains about mow-blow guys but no one does anything about them. What if the Master Gardeners program started certifying gardeners-for-hire? The maintenance worker could broaden his/her education, the master gardeners could spread the word about appropriate practices, the homeowner could pay more for someone who offers better service . . . oops, there’s the catch!

  12. I have a candidate who needs this book. No, it’s not me. It’s my daughter’s preschool director. I’m working with the preschool director on taking 1/5 open acre behind the preschool she owns and turning this unused, weed-ridden lot into a school garden.

    She knows nearly nothing about gardening. I’m helping to educate her bit by bit on when to plant, I have advised her to ask for help from the local college’s horticultural program (May get a student to do an internship on starting up a school garden).

    This lady needs help on knowing when to water all the pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and squash she plans of growing this summer. And considering we’re in California facing one of the worst drought in over 30 years, she’ll need this help. I can instruct her, but when my daughter moves on this Fall to public Kindergarden, she’ll need a book to help remind her the best green gardening practices to make the most of the environment she is trying to help teach her kids about.

  13. Thank you all for your kind words of support. And I do want to point out that Michelle makes a very important point in her comment above. I have ‘some’ compassion for those who are poor environmental stewards simply because they ARE clueless. But as she points out, there are many who know better but simply don’t care do do anything about we. We know through surveys conducted by National Gardening and the Garden Writers, about 30% of those who participate in gardening and landscaping activities don’t care about being more eco-friendly and have no intention of changing. Thanks Michelle for adding that very important comment!

  14. Hi guys,
    I think this is an awesome book! As a Peace Corps Volunteer working with school and home gardens in rural Panama I would greatly appreciate a copy to keep in our technical library. You can send a copy to:

    Peace Corps Director Peter Redmond
    Edif. 104, 1 Piso Ave.
    Vicente Bonilla
    Ciudad del Saber, Clayton
    Panama, Rep de Panama

  15. I think most gardeners do want to be greener. Maybe we should stick this book in the mailboxes of the clueless who put the leaves in plastic bags on the curb. Some of your post was eye-opening for me- particularly regarding water and run-off. Living near the Hudson River, we have to be particularly conscious of what goes into the streams.

  16. I wold love for my neighbor to get the freebie. She is going to grow vegetables for the first time this year, DIGGING UP LAWN TO DO IT. She recently completed a holistic nutrition degree (or something like that….) and wants to grow more of her own food. She would actually take the advice in this book and put it into practice!

  17. The Botanical Garden here gladly takes plastic pots for their plant propagating side. My sister up in Atlanta picks up the bags of leaves and grass, composts them, and uses that on clients’ yards. (She appreciates the bagging – easier to put in the car.) And wasn’t a regulation recently passed limiting the noise output of blowers? Hopefully that will help lessen their use. Sounds like a useful book; I hope someone who can share it with many others wins.

  18. I don’t mind leaves bagged up at the curb, it makes it easier to load my truck and bring them home! My peeve is plastic under mulch, and landscape fabric is just as bad as airborne seeds sprout and root thru the fabric making a mess…

  19. This is cool, for Chicago area gardners I just checked their website and Joe will be a featured speaker at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show on 3/7.

  20. Joe is coming here to Seattle as well, next week. Woo hoo! I consider myself fairly educated on most of these subjects but I do need to improve my watering practices, even though Seattle rarely has drought years. Everyone can do something at least a little better, right? Haven’t met anyone perfect yet! I have my justifications, like my upper garden almost never needs watering, so my parking strip where I have veggies and flowers gets hand-watered whenever needed, in the evening. But a drip irrigation system would be so much more efficient, I know. Just haven’t had the $$ to pony up quite yet.

  21. I vote to send a copy of this book to the lawn service association (if one exists). We have a push mower (love it!) but we can hear the drone of mowers in the distance on neighbors’ mega-lawns! The industry needs to reinvent themselves!

    Seeing sprinklers going full blast in the middle of a hot, full sun day makes me want to call 911!

  22. Joe,

    You’re right on the money. I hope your book is a great success.

    My book, “Sustainable Gardening for Florida,” to be released later this year, covers similar territory. I would love a copy so I can market it along with my book once I hit the Florida Highways.

  23. WAIT A MINUTE……….

    Nice book but the subjects in this book are the same ones rant founders complain about when garden columnists write on them: watering during the day, wrong place, mow and blow etc…….

    I think they fell for the guys good looks!!!!

    The TROLL

  24. The day Master Gardeners hold certification rights over this industry is a day to run for the hills.

    We banned Master Gardeners from being at our spring garden show because of the flase information they handed outseveral yeras in a row.

    Can’t speak for them in other states but in New York they are being trained with outdated mayeraial and still recommend(at least as as late as 2006) Mancozeb and other pestcides that have banned for years!

    The (not in my backyard) TROLL

  25. I’d love to give this book to my mom. I keep telling her stuff she can do to be greener and she’s taking it as my opinion rather than facts; reading it in a book will make her actually do it. My biggest pet peeve is she still allows the people who cut her yard to use a leaf blower 🙁

  26. Joe is really passionate about sustainable gardening. Not only did he contribute this guest blog to Garden Rant (great read, btw), he contributed two other great blog entries as well: one on Gardens ‘n’ Gardening and a second on The Casual Gardener. Check ’em out!




  27. Well, I’d be interested in this book and may buy it (but would of course enjoy the free copy). I’ve just started a blog about my novice attempts at gardening. It might be fun to write about following the advice in the book.

  28. I’ve loved gardening for many years thanks to my mom, who kindled in me a great love for flowers and plants of all kinds. I still consider myself a novice, however, especially when I visit local botanical gardens and see what I COULD be doing. And regardless of how much (or how little) I know about gardening, there’s always room for improvement. I would love a copy of this book to help me learn more about “right” ways to do things. By the way, I live in Florida and grow many native plants in my yard.

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