If the rather grandiose title makes you raise your eyebrows, the subtitle is more modest: “Successful growing the natural way”. Bob Flowerdew has been gardening organically for 30 years and is a well known radio contributor (BBC Radio4 Gardeners’ Question Time), author and sometime television presenter.
Pare down organic gardening and take it away from the faith based aspects (lunar planting, biodynamics, reverence for heirloom varieties, romantic interpretations of times past, even interlocking with astrology and homeopathy) and what you end up with is the unvarnished reality. Quite simply, to be an effective organic gardener, you have to be a good gardener following sound environmental practices because when things go wrong, you don’t have the option of falling back on chemical intervention. If you get it wrong, you won’t get a harvest.
Bob Flowerdew takes organic gardening back to the basic principles of sustainable gardening with a common sense approach. He does not try and pretend it is all wonderfully easy and anybody can do it at the drop of a hat. Modern aberrations like tomato grow bags and raised bed potagers do not make an appearance. It takes time and practice to learn how to be a good gardener though good advice can help short circuit some of the common mistakes. There is information about which plants fix minerals in the soils, on the pros and cons of various companion planting options, green crops and which ones are recommended in various situations and at different times of the year. This is the first time we have seen mention of the effect green crops can have on crop rotation. For example, mustard is a brassica and that has to be factored in to planning. The author’s preferred fallback option is miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). The focus is on creating healthy and rich micro environments within your garden. There is a wealth of information contained in the 270 pages (and large format at that), with a comprehensive index at the back. However, we were surprised at the absence of information about the importance of carbon in maintaining soil health. Not even traditional charcoal got a look in.
That aside, if you want good, sound information on organic gardening methods without the smoke and mirrors that too often accompany such books, this is a good place to start. It is just a shame it is English and geared to a colder climate. That is its major drawback for New Zealand gardeners in warmer conditions.
Organic Gardening Bible by Bob Flowerdew (Kyle Books; ISBN: 978 0 85783 035 7) reviewed by Abbie Jury.
First published by Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.