I am totes the wrong demographic for this book. Believe me. It is zip zap instant gratification for the iPhone generation where everything has to be easy-as and fun fun fun. I am sure Mat and Fab have their loyal following in Melbourne although I think that hailing them as “Australia’s No 1 gardening authors” might be a little over-hyped by the publishers. However there is a contagious delight in their exuberance, even when you are not their target audience and that is not to be derided.
The book is a collection of 70 step-by-step photo sequences showing assorted, and often somewhat random, gardening skills. You too can “pimp your soil” with a one minute tutorial, just as you can learn how to manufacture a stink bomb (an old sock filled with blood and bone) to deter possums from coming on your property. The technical information is patchy, as is the photography. The enthusiasm is relentless.
This is urban food gardening for hipsters. I have heard it described as “the $70 lettuce approach to gardening”. At the end of it, you will get a nice lettuce (definitely not an uncool Iceberg variety) which you can pick leaf by leaf, but it will have cost you $70 to grow it. Need some compost? Cut open a 25 litre bag and tip it on. Need to top-up a no-dig garden? Layer on a variety of materials you have purchased at the store – pre cut mulch, pelletised fertiliser, mushroom compost, all purpose compost, potting mix AND worm castings. Your vegetables can hardly fail to grow in that environment. Just add water. By the way, a little metal letterbox makes a perfect small-space shed for your garden tools.
There is no concern about sustainability. Shipping sugar cane mulch from Queensland to Victoria is not an issue. This is about the urban good life. If it gets people gardening, that is good. With experience, they will learn what works and maybe consider the environment.
Maybe, just maybe, with experience they will also discover that one of the joys of gardening is that it can take time to get good results. By very definition, it is not an activity that gives instant gratification. If it takes the help of Fab and Mat to reach that stage of awareness, then all is not in vain.
The 1-Minute Gardener by Fabian Capomolla and Mat Pember. (Pan Macmillan Australia; SBN: 978 1 74351 700 0).
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.