The Classic Guide to growing flowers, fruit
and vegetables the natural way
By Geoff Hamilton
Organic Gardening is a safe choice for sceptical newcomers to organic gardening as well as being a useful resource for the well and truly converted.
Although Geoff Hamilton spends some time in his introduction anticipating the objections of the sceptics — and he was one of them for a large part of his long career as a professional gardener — he is now of the opinion that organic gardening is far less “cranky” than the methods employed by chemical growers.
Former conventional gardener His style of organic gardening draws on his previous gardening experience, retaining many of the innovations and techniques used in conventional gardening, (without the chemicals of course). Organic Gardening integrates these techniques into the holism of organic gardening, with its emphasis on looking after the soil and nurturing the web of life.
He sees the organic way as working in harmony with nature without denying that science has made, and still is making, a tremendous contribution, considering that nature never intended that land should be as productive as we now demand.
But the dramatic turnaround from scarcity to plenty that has been achieved by modern technology has been at the expense of a massive and ever-increasing input of chemicals.
“Every year some chemical previously thought to have been safe is banned somewhere in the world.”
General Gardening Reference Hamilton does an excellent job of drawing together a sizable and comprehensive body of information and arranging it in a way that is easily accessible.
Besides covering organic basics, he also provides growing information for a large number of plants, the result being a general gardening reference book, but one for organic gardeners.
For the last six months, we have found that whenever we had a specific query, such as exactly which shoots to prune off the tomato plants, which plants to concentrate our liquid comfrey fertilizer on, when to harvest the fennel bulbs and how to make a hedge — the answer has been found in Organic Gardening.
Although aimed at Britain, the information is arranged in a way that works for the Southern Hemisphere as well.
Vegetables Vegetables are arranged according to group, ie salad vegetables, fruiting veges, etc. Each one has a planting and harvesting table covering from early spring, mid spring, late spring and so on through to late winter, with when to sow inside, plant outside, sow outside and harvest.
So instead of having to convert June to December as New Zealanders sometimes have to do with English gardening books, this book is easy enough to apply to Southern Hemisphere conditions.
Each vegetable listed has advice on varieties, soil and site, sowing and planting (including for deep beds), maintenance, harvesting and pests and diseases.
Fruit Growing your own fruit makes a big contribution to the organic kitchen, especially if you have growing children. The fruit section is extensive and besides conditions for individual fruit, has drawings showing how to train trees into a variety of useful space saving shapes including espalier, cordon, festooned, stepover or pyramid.
Pests & Diseases He has taken a scientific approach to testing some of the natural garden cures for pests and diseases, some of which he says “stretch credibility well beyond breaking point.”
In order to sort the wheat from the chaff, he operates four identical plots, each growing identical plants — one plot is organic, the next inorganic, one traditional, using a mixture of the two methods, and one is the control plot. By this means he has established that creosoted string, for instance, does not work for carrot fly, but that carpet underlay works very well for cabbage root fly.
Comprehensive Starting with the soil, the book devotes chapters to soil improvement, fertilizers, organic pest and disease control, organic weed control and planning the garden, a chapter each on ornamental, container, vegetable, fruit, herb and greenhouse gardening, and three more on basic techniques (tools, draining, watering), propagation techniques and the gardening year (seasonal tasks charts &, for British gardeners, frost maps).
Within the chapters, a sample of topics covered is making compost, constructing a wormery, green manure, major and trace elements, companion planting, natural predators, weed ID drawings and photos, lawns, crop rotation and cloches.
Glossy pages with colour photos and various id drawings used throughout make this book an attractive one which is well written and easy to read despite the depth of information covered. A very useful book.