Faithful readers of the Fork’s exploits will realise that I have been in search of a good, all-round veggie guide for some time to replace, or at least update, my trusty Reader’s Digest Guide to Gardening. I think I may have found it!
The ABC has just released a fully revised version of Annette McFarlane’s Organic Vegetable Gardening, which was first published in 2002. TB somewhat deflated my excitement by pointing out that we actually had a copy of the ‘old’ version already, oh well, all the better for purposes of comparison.
The book which is now twice the size of the original, roughly falls into two parts, the gardening basics and the A to Z guide. The opening section has the stuff you would expect from a good garden book these days. It has details on principles of organics, climatic information, setting up your beds, rotation plans, planting guides etc etc. Plus there are good sections on managing pests and diseases with organic-agreeable remedies.
There are several new sections added in this edition including Edible Flowers and Weeds, Fabulous Fungi and a Garden to Gourmet section which offers coverage, largely of herbs and spices, of relevance to particular cuisines. I particularly liked the section on Australian flavourings as this is a subject which it can still be hard to get information on.
The much larger A to Z section now starts with Amaranth, rather than Artichoke like it used to, reflecting the growing variety of plants that Australian veggie gardeners are currently getting into. New sections include Asian Cabbages and Asian Salad Greens and Australian natives and tropical crops being included for the first time. TB was pleased to see that among the expanded list of vegetables covered were water chestnuts and water spinach. I was thrilled to see some details on propagation of my favourite Warrigal Greens (New Zealand Spinach). Even the bean section has been expanded to include additional information on varieties of green beans (1 page) and 4 pages on other types of beans. There are lots more photos of veggies included in this edition along with more ‘Did you know?’ boxed snippets of information. The book also includes longer boxed sections, such as Fancy a Cuppa? which provides 4 pages of information on herbal teas, and even includes some recipes.
Each plant listed has a good summary at the top of the entry which is followed by propagation, growing, pest and diseases, harvesting and seed saving information. One of the most useful bits of information carried over from the earlier editions covers how many plants you should allow per person for growing. This is a really handy bit of advice for a question we often ask at our place.
The more I look at this book the more I like what I see. At $35 (soft cover) this is the book that I would be recommending for new veggie gardeners and well seasoned ones alike.
Annette McFarlane Organic Vegetable Gardening, ABC Books, available at ABC shops and presumably any reasonable book shop.