This isn't so much a how-to on gardening as a how-to on thinking about gardening. It follows the course of the natural year, from spring through winter, as Pollard, an editor at Harper's , chronicles his growth as a gardener in Connecticut's rocky Housatonic Valley. Starting out as a "child of Thoreau," Pollard soon realized that society's concept of culture as the enemy of nature would get him a bumper crop of weeds and well-fed woodchucks but no vegetables to eat. Far more serviceable materially and philosophically, he now finds, is the metaphor of a garden, where nature and culture form a harmonious whole. Pollard finds ample time for musing on how his own tasks fit in with the overall scheme of existence; thus, there are chapters titled "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives" and "The Idea of a Garden." Although serious in import, the writing is never ponderous; Pollard's wit flashes throughout, and particularly in anecdotes about his youth: one memorable incident has his father mowing his initials in the front yard after being reproached by a suburban neighbor about his overgrown lawn.