This is a handy reference book for diagnosing many common problems in the garden, predominantly of the pest or disease variety. It is reasonably comprehensive though not encyclopaedic. Each ailment is given a brief description, usually with a clear illustration, and then advice for dealing with it or avoiding the problem happening again. I like the fact the illustrations are paintings, not photographs because it gives a much clearer picture. I also like the fact that not every recommended treatment involves buying a Yates product. So when spinach bolts to seed prematurely, the advice is that this can be caused by long days, summer temperatures, dry conditions and overcrowding. Sow summer spinach (well, ‘Summer Supreme’ actually – presumably one of Yates’ own). There is a fair amount of handy general information which is not commercially driven, though the organic section is pretty perfunctory. That said, we are talking an interventionist approach to gardening and where products are recommended, they are branded Yates products – it is their book after all. We double checked the ingredients of branded sprays and the in-house expert here gave the advice a general thumbs up for accuracy. I am a bit suspect about spraying cheap annuals like pansies and hollyhocks. I am more of the view that you rip out diseased plants and try a different strategy with replacements but if you are an older style gardener who reaches for the sprayer at the drop of a hat, at least you will have a diagnosis and know which spray to use.
The book is well laid out, easy to use and has a strong plastic cover which is a fair indication that it is designed for repeated reference. It is aimed at the average gardener, not the expert, and will be a handy book for many gardeners to keep within reach. You can of course use it to diagnose problems without having to follow the treatment advice if you are not happy with the use of fungicides and insecticides.
Yates Garden Problem Solver (Harper Collins; ISBN: 978 186950 981 1) Reviewed by Abbie Jury.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.