Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #164

Radical Gardening by George McKay, 2011

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander
Review date: 2011-06-10

book"The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But lets the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose."
-Anonymous Victorian author, 1854

This epigraph opens the first chapter ("The Garden in the [City] Machine") in George McKay's Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism & Rebellion in the Garden, and refers to the conflict between between affluent private landowners and poor villagers over access to open space which was once shared by all. Don't be put off by the crude cover art: McKay offers thoughtful discussion based on his extensive research into the role of public and community gardens, the politics of the organic movement and its offshoots (biodynamics and permaculture), gardens of peace and war, and the many ways in which gardens and open space have figured into politics, society, and culture. McKay enjoys wordplay (remember that 'radical' is rooted!), coining the term 'horticounterculture' to describe gardening-related movements which represent activism and resistance, as well as utopian (or dystopian) visions.

Of local note: McKay cites Professor Linda Chalker-Scott's debunking the pseudo-scientific underpinnings of biodynamics (a philosophy of agriculture developed by Rudolf Steiner, whose views held some appeal for National Socialists). Seattle is also noted briefly in a list of cities with an active community garden movement.

Keywords: Community gardens

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