Continuing on from my post last week, I am now focusing on vegetable gardens, organic and sustainable gardens and dry climate gardens, all of which are highly inter-related. In our view, vegetable gardens should only ever be organic and sustainable, as they contain the very food we eat, not to mention the importance of these concepts for our environment and the natural world around us! While most of the books are Australian, a few are written by English authors, notably Christopher Lloyd, Joy Larkom and Jane Taylor. We might discuss the books by the first two writers first.
Gardener Cook by Christopher Lloyd 1997 was one of our early vegetable garden books and is a lovely introduction to the world of vegetable growing! His chapters on fruit trees, soft fruits, root vegetables, green vegetables, salads and herbs include delicious recipes and mouth-watering photographs by Howard Sooley. They include information on all the different types of fruit and vegetables; their varieties; cultivation and storage and lots of personal anecdotes. An essential book for the gardener-cook and anyone who loves food!
Christopher actually quotes from my next book: The Salad Garden by Joy Larkom 1984. It is a comprehensive guide to all things salad: creating salad gardens; the cultivation of salad greens; garden practices like raising from seed; sowing outdoors and indoors; germination; manures and compost; weeding; mulching and watering; greenhouses, cloches and container gardening; and pests and diseases; as well as specific techniques for salad plants like blanching; seed sprouting and cut-and-come-again; salad making – the different types of salad, preparation and presentation and delicious recipes for different salads and their dressings; and a large section on specific salad plants and their components – leaves; stems and stalks; fruits; bulbs, roots and tubers; cooked and cold legumes and potatoes; and the use of herbs, flowers and wild plants. The appendix includes salad crops for special situations; plants for saladini crops, a glossary and facts about salad crops, including their vitamin content, seed life, germination temperature and fertility index. It was written at a time, when Australia’s culinary world was suddenly and markedly expanding and has such a wealth of information, that I am not surprised that it was in Christopher Lloyd’s library!The Cook’s Garden : From the Garden to the Table by Caroline Gunter and Karen Green 2000 is an Australian Women’s Weekly publication and has its typically high standard! After a brief examination of planning for production and cultivation for success (including recipes for home-made sprays), it follows a seasonal pattern with a seasonal diary of picking and planting chores for each different climate zone (temperate and cool; subtropical and Mediterranean; and tropical) and detailed notes on the fruit and vegetables grown in each season, including their cultivation in the garden and their preparation and presentation for the table. It is a very practical and useful publication and has some delicious recipes. It finishes with a brief chapter on preserving the season’s abundance including freezing; bottling and drying, as well as a map of world climate zones.
Diggers Club also produces wonderful books on heirloom gardens, especially vegetables! The Australian Vegetable garden: What’s Old is New by Clive Blazey 1999 is one of their excellent publications. Clive is a passionate advocate for heirloom varieties of vegetables, because of their superior flavour, longer harvest period and disease resistance, not to mention their decorative qualities! In this informative book, he discusses the value and importance of heirloom varieties; different vegetable gardening styles; space-saving; and growing basics – the soil; water; mulch; temperature and heat; as well as seed sowing and saving. He provides a calendar and plan for growing a year’s supply of food in just 42 square metres and another one for seed sowing. And he discusses each heirloom vegetable in depth, including its historical background; varieties; preparation and management. There are so many varieties which I had never even heard of! Apparently, Diggers have over 112 commercial and heirloom varieties of tomatoes. One day, I would love to grow their Moon and Stars watermelon , an old American variety!Organic Gardening by Peter Bennett , first published in 1979, is another very important and seminal book for the organic vegetable gardener. We have the 6th edition, dated 1999, but there is now a new revised 7th edition, published 2006. Peter is THE authority on organic gardening in Australia and a forerunner of the current sustainable and environmental movements. Even though he has since died, he can still be seen in this You Tube clip at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua6Or0-W9W4. In his wonderful book, he talks about all the wonderful creatures that make up the life of the garden; the living soil; the preparation and maintenance of the organic garden; the use of natural fertilizers and acceptable alternatives to dangerous pesticides; composting; community gardens; and the organic cultivation of many different types of vegetables, fruits and flowers. His appendixes include photographs of useful tools and accessories for organic gardening, a table of the composition of compost ingredients; another table of the minimum depth of container required for growing vegetables in containers; a sowing guide for flowers and vegetables, including the best months for sowing in tropical/ subtropical, temperate and cold climates; best sowing method (seedbed or direct); the sowing depth for seeds; the number of days it takes for seedlings to emerge; the distance to thin seedlings apart; and the number of weeks till flowering for type of flower or vegetable. There is also a list of Goods and Services referred to in the book. This is an essential book for all gardeners! I cannot recommend it highly enough and the fact that it has sold more than 160,000 copies since it was first published in 1979 supports my claim!
Now for another very important book, Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison 1988. Bill Mollison (1928 – 2016) was the co-founder of the permaculture concept, along with David Holmgren, from 1972 to 1974. The first classes in permaculture started in 1981 and since then, thousands of people from all over the world have studied this concept. It is now practised in over 20 countries, providing wonderful hope for the future.
Permaculture, a term coined from two words ‘permanent agriculture’, is defined in the book as ‘the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people, providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.’ Its principles include: working with nature, rather than against it; the problem is the solution; make the least change for the greatest possible effect; the yield of the system is theoretically unlimited ; and everything makes its own garden and has an effect on its own environment. It relies on cycles; pyramids and food webs; complexity and connections; diversity; stability and harmony and self-regulation.
Permaculture garden designs are based on flow patterns and zones:
Zone 1 (ideally ¼ acre for a family of four) is the most intensively used space in the immediate area of the house and can include vegetables and salad greens with a short growing season; small trees with commonly used fruits like lemons; worm farms; workshops and sheds; glasshouses, cold frames and propagation areas; rainwater tanks; fuel for heating like gas and wood; and small animal pens eg rabbits.
Zone 2 (ideally 1 acre for a family) is also used intensively, but less than Zone 1 and includes perennials and vegetables with a longer growing season; fruit trees and orchards; compost bins; bee hives; ponds; chook pens and enclosures for larger animals requiring regular attention.
Zone 3 (4 to 20 acres) is farmland for main farming crops; orchards of large trees like oaks and nut trees; livestock grazing by cattle and sheep; and water storage dams.
Zone 4 can be any size and contains wild and partly managed land for the collection of wild foods; timber production; a source of animal forage and more pasture for grazing animals.
And finally, Zone 5 is unmanaged wild and natural ecosystems with bushland, forest and wilderness conservation areas for observation; meditation and reconnection with nature. Hunting and gathering can occur in this zone.
Permaculture garden design also involves planning to control external incoming energies like wind, sun angles, unwanted views and danger from fires and floods, using a number of strategies to block, channel or open up an area to their impact. It is a HUGE topic and an enormous door-stopper of a book, but essential reading for gardeners interested in the philosophy behind permaculture!
The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow 1996 is a much lighter, smaller, more portable and very practical book on the subject. It covers permaculture garden design based on the principles of time-and-motion; multiple use; working with nature; and synergy and using a seven mandala system of circles to maximize use of space and energy efficiency. She discusses : choosing a site; climate: light, temperature; wind; frost and pollutants; water; soil management; mulching, composting and worm farming; propagating plants; lunar planting; guild planting; maintaining the garden and coping with pests; building a chook dome; and the cultivation of fruit trees and a large variety of vegetables. It is a very useful book, especially for gardeners in Northern New South Wales.
Two more terrific practical permaculture guides, both of which I would not be without and both written by gardeners in Maleny, Queensland are: You Can Have Your Permaculture and Eat It Too by Robin Clayfield 1996 and Paradise in Your Garden by Jenny Allen 2002. Robin has practised permaculture since 1983 and lives at Crystal Waters Permaculture Village in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. This great publication is a fantastic book to dip into at random, with snippets of information on permaculture principles, garden design and techniques; sustainability; natural pest control; cash crops; health and diet; food combining; natural cosmetics; food preservation; bulk cooking; bush tucker; gift giving; and even party games; all with lots of wonderful recipes from herbal teas to soups, nibbles and dips; salads and main courses; and desserts and party nights. It is a wonderfully generous book and has such a wealth of information to explore and digest! For more about Robin, see: http://dynamicgroups.com.au/ and https://permacultureprinciples.com./post/permaculture-pioneer-robin-clayfield/.
Paradise in Your Garden is a beautiful book, both visually and creatively! Jenny uses photographs and experience gleaned from her own garden to illustrate the basic permaculture principles of multiple use; zoning; smart placement; elevational planning; diversity; recycling resources; homemade insurance; using nature’s gifts and seeing solutions, instead of problems. It’s an inspiring book, with lots of fun, imaginative ideas like aspirational trees; mediation areas; hammocks and swings; firepits and water features; places for wildlife; kids’ gardens; healing gardens and even an aphrodisiac garden! She has a large section on garden design and understanding site factors like sun and wind; weeds and stormwater; soil types; frost; and noise, providing an 18 point design checklist and techniques for managing these factors, like creating microclimates by managing Summer sun; building effective windbreaks; managing soil, water, frost and weeds; and reducing annoying noises. She discusses integrated pest management and smart use of monetary and time resources. Her descriptions of exciting and unusual edible plants and bush foods makes you want to go straight out and plant them and she also includes some great project ideas from sheet mulching and lasagne gardening (no-dig); building herb spirals, ponds, swales and paths; making worm farms, compost heaps and home brews for plants (comfrey tea); and planting green manure and cover crops. In the back of the book is a list of useful resources and recommended reading. For more current information on Jenny Allen , read this article in the Hinterland Times on the 4th May 2016 at : https://www.hinterlandtimes.com.au/2016/05/04/is-the-love-affair-over/.
And finally, a swag of books by the wonderful and knowledgeable Jackie French, who has a wonderful organic garden in the Araluen Valley near Braidwood in Southern New South Wales. On her website (http://www.jackiefrench.com/), she describes herself an Australian author, ecologist, historian, dyslexic and honorary wombat, which is all very accurate! She was also 2014 – 2015 Australian Childrens’ Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year and is the patron of Youth Educational Support Services (YESS),which delivers the MultiLit Literacy Program, developed by Macquarie University to improve reading skills in local primary and high school students. I volunteered with this rewarding program at Bega Valley Public School in our first year here. We have nine of her books, in order of their publication:
The Wilderness Garden: Beyond Organic Gardening 1992
Jackie has a delightful enthusiastic writing style and this book focuses on how to make gardening fun by changing our approach to gardening and using new or different methods or as she coins it: ‘the wombat way of gardening’ ! She has a very commonsense, practical approach in both her gardening and writing with chapters on different gardens for different places (wet areas; dry areas; polluted areas; seaside areas; and frost zones); feeding the garden (mulch; compost; nitrogen fixation); easy garden beds (weed-mats; hanging gardens; tyre gardens; raised beds; vertical gardens; and modified jungles (I just love that concept!); organic pest and weed control; and vegetable, fruit and flower gardens, with a very useful garden calendar at the end.
Backyard Self-Sufficiency 1992
This publication has been a very well-thumbed book in our house over the years. While steering the reader away from the toil of total self-sufficiency, she has some wonderful ideas for still growing a fair proportion of your own food from staples (grains, legumes, oils and sugars and sweeteners) to vegetables and fruit all year round. We particularly liked her lists on fruit for small places; footpath trees; unusual fruits; edible fences; hardy fruiters and fruit for cold, temperate and hot climates. She also has chapters on growing in adversity; scavenging in the suburbs; small animals for small gardens; saving the surplus; and the backyard supermarket and medicine chest with lots of great recipes for cosmetics and bath products; dyes; cleaning products; and drinks (beer, cocoa, tea and coffee and coffee substitutes). Her final chapter on self-sufficiency, including her self-sufficient owner-built house, and her general philosophy of simple living resonates so strongly with us and should be a blueprint for all human beings, living in harmony with nature and all is inhabitants on this very special planet we call home. This book also finishes with a comprehensive calendar covering planting; harvesting; other jobs; pests and fruit. This is such a useful book!
Switch : Home-based Power, Water and Sewerage Systems For The Twenty-First Century by Jackie French and Bryan Sullivan 1994
This little book expands on the concept of the self-sufficient integrated house and gets down to the practical nitty-gritty of ways to actually achieve this. It examines home-based power systems (solar, wind, steam, petrol or diesel, hydro and hybrid or combined systems), as well as batteries and invertors; installation and maintenance and living with your own power system. There are separate extra chapters devoted to lights and a wide variety of appliances (power tools; vacuum cleaners; stoves; kettles and toasters; refrigerators; computers; sound systems; irons; washing machines and solar dryers, to name but a few); and heating and cooling (new house design and orientation; ventilation; insulation; greenhouses; pergolas and more active heating and cooling systems, as well as specific problems and solutions). The authors then turns their attention to water supply, including measures to reduce use; grey water systems; rainwater tanks; bores; pumping water and hot water systems. Sewage treatment is next and includes information on outdoor dunnies; septic tanks; methane digesters; composting toilets and finally garbage processing: the concept of reduce/recycle; compost; worm farms and chooks. Even though this is now quite an old book, it was cutting edge when it was first published. Renewable energy and sustainable technology and alternatives have come a long way since then (though it still has a long way to go and should have been de rigueur by now for every home!), but the basic principles are still the same and this is still a very valuable little book.
The Earth Gardener’s Companion: A Month-by-Month Guide to Organic Gardening 1996
Exactly what it pupports to be! A very comprehensive month-by-month guide to organic planting and harvesting and pest control solutions, with some wonderfully obscure recipes along the way from culinary delights like Chinese pickled vegetables, soy cheese and beetroot flour to chilli massage oil and even a chilli bosom enhancer!
Making Money From Your Garden 1997
This is another Earth Garden magazine publication and its treatise on ‘Time or Money’ is sufficient reason alone to own this book. We have photocopied and shared that article so many times in our lives, as it is the basic creed by which we live! While sufficient money is important, so you are not stressing out your little brain constantly, ‘sufficient’ being the key word here, time is a far more valuable and precious commodity, which is often under-valued in today’s busy world with its hectic lifestyles! While money may have been a constant challenge for us, we have raised a family to adulthood and always met our basic needs, and our lives have been very rich and fulfilled, with time for creativity, family fun and relaxation. In this book, Jackie shares so many ideas and recipes for making a living from your home and garden from selling surplus or gourmet produce, seeds, potted trees and bush tucker; herbs; bonsai; flowers; and animal produce to making garden gnomes, topiary pots and terrariums; natural bath products, cosmetics and cleaning products; paper and textile crafts and of course, delicious culinary delights to opening your garden or providing accommodation or a much-needed service like child-minding; home or specialist catering; garden design; or running kids’ parties. So many wonderful suggestions….!!!
Growing Flowers Naturally 1997
The world of flowers is such an enormous and magical subject, it requires a whole book of its very own! They speak to the soul and fulfil the human desire for beauty! Like Jackie state in her introduction, one can never feel poor when surrounded by beautiful flowers, especially when they are straight from your own home garden! This sentiment applies to home-grown vegies too!!! After citing a dozen good reasons to grow flowers, Jackie explores flower magic; popular native flowers; cut flowers; drying flowers; roses; bulbs, corms and rhizomes; perennial and herbaceous borders; and climbers, shrubs and trees, before delving into the practical advice about starting a flower garden; different ways of growing flowers; flower problems and their solutions; and propagating flowers. She even covers medicinal flowers and includes recipes for perfumes, skin and hair products, and flower food. She finishes with an alphabetically ordered flower compendium with notes on their description; requirements; sowing times and potential problems. I’d forgotten how good this book was!
Seasons of Content: A Year in the Southern Highlands 1998 is a lovely dreamy read, which should possibly be part of next month’s post on inspirational gardens, but I am including it here, amongst Jackie French’s other books! Written in the form of a diary, it describes a year in the Araluen Valley, following the seasons and enjoying all that nature has to offer. It’s a delightful read, as well as being packed with delicious recipes! Equally good to read all at once or dip into for a quick revitalizing pick-me-up!
How To Guzzle Your Garden 1999 is a great book for kids and for inspiring the gardeners of the future! Linking gardens with food and eating is a brilliant and inspired decision, and such an obvious notion when you stop to think about kids! As a very popular childrens’ author, Jackie knows what turns kids on and this book is so much fun for a kid to read! I also love the pencil sketches by her illustrator Judith Rossell! The book is written in a question-answer format. It addresses making jam, cordials and sweet treats and eating edible weeds and flowers and bush foods, as well as the more practical aspects of planting from seed and pips; tree planting; and making compost.
There are also lots of fun projects like growing plants in joggers, bottles and boxes; growing an apple tree in an orange; and making an egghead with watercress seeds or shrunken heads from apple cores. I blame Jackie for my daughter’s optimistic (and we thought doomed!) decision to grow a pineapple in a pot from the discarded top and leaves in the depths of the Armidale Winter, but would you believe, it did actually produce a small pineapple on our move to the warmer subtropical climes of Dorrigo !The Best of Jackie French 2000 Our final book and a culmination of over 30 years of gardening wisdom, this book is typical of all her other books- light-hearted and fun, enthusiastic and inspiring; practical and knowledgeable and incredibly generous with recipes, not to mention eminently readable! There is SO MUCH in this book, I will have to leave it to you to peruse at your leisure!!! Suffice to say Jackie has been a wonderful ambassador for sustainability, self-sufficiency and organic gardening!
Sustainability is a such an important issue, especially nowadays with the increased incidence of droughts and rising temperatures associated with global warming. The following books shed light on ways of dealing with our uncertain future and all the challenges it issues.
Earth Garden, the publisher of two of Jackie French’s books, has also produced a publication called The Earth Garden Water Book 2004, with lots of interesting articles by Earth Garden magazine contributors and readers on water collection, purifying, conservation, reuse and recycling and water-saving tips.
Readers’ Digest elaborates on these principles in their book Waterwise Gardening 2010 with chapters on climate; soil; waterwise garden design; waterwise plants; wise use of water; plant care and maintenance and a waterwise plant guide.
And finally, two increasingly important books when it comes to choosing plants, which can cope with hotter and drier climates:
Even though Jane Taylor is English, her book: The Dry Garden: Gardening With Drought-Tolerant Plants 1993 focuses on Australian gardens and includes many Australian natives. It was published just before the start of the Millenium Drought (late 1996 to mid 2010) in South-Eastern Australia, so was a very useful book during that period. She briefly discusses dry climates and drought; plant mechanisms for coping with lack of water and the maintenance of dry climate gardens (including notes on soil; planting; windbreaks; lawn and lawn substitutes; and irrigation techniques), but the majority of her book is devoted to an in-depth discussion of over 1000 drought-tolerant plants of all types: trees and shrubs; conifers; palms and cycads; climbers; perennials and ephemerals; grasses and bamboos; bulbs; and succulents and xerophytes, the latter being plants especially adapted to dry conditions. In the back are lists of plants with special characteristics: bold and lush foliage; sword-shaped leaves; fragrance; wind-tolerance; and horizontal growth, making them ideal for ground-covers. It certainly is an inspiring book and offers hope and optimism for future gardens which, although different, can still be beautiful havens.
Plants For a Changing Climate by Trevor Nottle 2004/ 2011, an Australian garden writer and historian, who has also written books on cottage gardening, perennials and old roses, which I have already discussed in Part 1 Specific Gardens last week and favourite Rose Books. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2017/03/21/books-on-specific-types-of-gardens-part-one-cutting-gardens-cottage-gardens-and-herb-gardens/ and https://candeloblooms.com/2017/01/10/fabulous-rose-books/ . Being a South Australian gardener, Trevor has had to cope with a hot, dry climate for over 30 years and is well-versed in Mediterranean-style gardening. Unfortunately, with climate change and global warming, the rest of us will have to adjust to a different style of gardening, less dependent on unfettered water use and more appropriate to future climatic conditions. In the introduction to his second edition and concluding chapter, Trevor examines the future implications, especially for gardeners, in great depth and offers possible solutions for the challenges ahead. He has divided his plants into a number of chapters with interesting titles : Shademakers; Statement Makers; Structure makers; Scent Makers; Silver Superstars; Useful Food Plants and Vegetables; Super-Special Plants; Geraniums; Succulents; Perfect Perennials; Roses and Other Pricklies; Little Potted Histories; Surprises From Last Summer and a Motley Crew of 10 of his favourite plants. Trevor is so knowledgeable about Mediterranean plants and so generous with that knowledge. It is a great addition to any horticultural library and is particularly pertinent in contemporary gardens.
Next month, I will share some beautiful dreamy and inspirational garden books from our library, as well as some fascinating books about gardening and plants!