Advantages Neat format, well illustrated, packed with informatio
Disadvantages Teaching some grannies to suck eggs?
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If the idea of ‘going organic’ appeals to you, then so will this delightful book from Dorling Kindersley. The late Geoff Hamilton was Contributing Editor, and his down-to-earth approach enhances the vision of ‘chemical free’ gardening he held so dear and with which he inspired so many of us.The book is in the DK ‘Pocket Encyclopaedia’ range which means it is compact in size and packed with information. The layout is very comprehensive and it is liberally sprinkled with illustrations: colour and black & white photographs, black and white line drawings and colour drawings – they’re all here, enhancing the appearance of the book, and providing a wealth of useful visual information.
A brief introduction describes the natural cycle of plant and soil life and explains how, in organic gardening, the soil is fed in order to sustain the plants and the microscopic animal life which exists in the soil. In gardening, where we expect more of our plants than is expected in the wild, the natural cycle has to be ‘beefed up’ a bit in order for our gardens to give us the yields we want.This book explains how to achieve that.
Eleven further chapters comprehensively cover all aspects of garden organically, starting with ‘What you can grow’, which gives a brief run down on the variety of shrubs, bulbs, perennials, fruit, vegetables and herbs which can go into an organic garden.Chapter 2, ‘Planning your organic garden’ is a microcosm of garden design. As a garden designer myself, I would prefer to have seen rather more space allocated to this most vital aspect of any type of gardening. However, for many people, who prefer their gardens to ‘evolve naturally’ with no planning, then what is there is adequate.
‘Soil Improvement’, the subject of Chapter 3, is well laid out, dealing with the basic chemistry of soil and going on to give advice on the management of different types of soil. Nutrients and soil nourishment are also succinctly dealt with before we get on to the grist in the mill of every organic gardener – Compost!Detailed instructions show how to make a wooden compost container, a brick-built compost bin and a wire-and-post container so you have no excuse for not having at least one in your garden! The remainder of the chapter tells you at length how to go about filling your compost bin in order to make the best possible compost. It looks at the roles of animal manure, green manures, alternative manures and soil conditioners. Organic fertilisers are not left out, nor is the humble worm. Instructions for making a wormery are included!
Chapter 4 looks at ‘Setting up an organic framework’ and covers hedges, lawns, trees, ponds, greenhouses and containers. Personally, I would have been inclined to amalgamate this into Chapter 2 as it is relevant to garden planning. Still, who am I to argue?Chapters 5 to 8 rattle through ‘Creating ornamental borders’, ‘Growing organic herbs’, ‘Growing organic vegetables’ and ‘Growing organic fruit’ providing much comprehensive gardening information as they go. Most importantly, in relation to organic gardening, are the sections on Crop Rotation and the Deep Bed system, for these form the corner-stone of most successful organic gardens, certainly gardens which earn their keep by producing fruit and veg.
Next follows a useful run-down of garden tools and techniques, including cultivation and propagation techniques, all helpfully illustrated by black and white photographs and line drawings.Chapter 10 is all about ‘Pests and Diseases’. Now every garden will have these, organic or not. The difference lies in the way you decide to treat them and here a mine of information is presented which will enable the organic gardener to maintain the health of his or her garden without resorting to artificial pesticides.
One of the main problems when using artificial pesticides is that they are indiscriminate and can’t tell the difference between beneficial insects, which may help pollinate some of your plants, and their nasty cousins which are stripping the leaves off your plants. Birds and animals, soil pests and insects – all are mentioned along with the best organic ways of controlling them.I use the word ‘control’ because the organic gardener has to accept that we cannot, and should not, seek to ‘eradicate’ any pest from our garden as all creatures have a part to play in a balanced eco-system. Control is as much as we can expect!
Finally, in Chapter 11, it deals with the vexed subject of ‘Organic Weed Control’. As all sprays are anathema to the organic gardener, this boils down to manual removal and prevention of seeding of the crops. Add the useful technique of mulching, and you have the weeding sorted! Photos and line drawing show the reader which weeds are ‘useful’ ie. are edible, decorative, or attract beneficial insects into the garden, and those weeds which are ‘baddies’ and have to come out. These, of course, include the invasive ground-elder and bindweed with their relentless underground creepers and the ubiquitous, many-seed-bearing Rosebay willow herb.All things considered, this is an excellent way to acquaint yourself with the ways of organic gardening. The information is well-presented, comprehensively laid out and beautifully illustrated throughout.
It is a lovely book and one I would highly recommend!
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Pages: 224, Paperback, Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd
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