After a long and rather bitter Winter here in Canberra, I am inclined to step outside and perform the Salute to Sun as a gesture of thanks to some warm, sunny days. With the start of the new season, my vegetable garden needs some attention, so Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables, a new book by Alison Chivers and Mary Canning, arrived on my doorstep at just the right time.
Alison Chivers says she grew up in a family of three generations of Australian gardeners, and she and her siblings inherited 'a love of the natural world and a generational history of how things grow in Australia'. She documented this information in journals over the years and has now compiled it into this starting out guide in the hope that it will give readers the skills to grow their own food.
At the risk of using a cliche, the book really does cover everything you need to know about creating and nurturing your own fruit and vegetable garden. Chapters explore planning your vegetable patch: assessing your space, things to consider and how to build a garden. Before you start, a look at soil, fertilisers, mulching, compost, worm farms, irrigation and watering. Setting up costs, tools and equipment needed, preparation of the garden for planting. There's information on the principles of organic gardening, crop rotation and companion planting, seed saving, bees and pollination. And how and when to sow seeds.
There is an A to Z (Asian greens to zucchini) of growing vegetables, as well as information on growing herbs and a variety of fruit, such as apples, berries, citrus, figs, mangoes, melons, passionfruit, rhubarb and strawberries. Pests and diseases are also explained, together with suggestions for natural remedies. A comprehensive gardening calendar explains what to sow and when in each of the cool, temperate, tropical and subtropical regions of Australia. Common gardening terms are also explained.
I love the gems of information in this book, such as spraying foliage with espresso coffee as a snail killer; and the sage reminder that conventionally grown strawberries are among the most chemically contaminated crops. And did you know that San Pedro and Smyrna figs require pollination by a fig wasp from the Capri fig?!
Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables by Alison Chivers and photography by Mary Canning (New Holland Publishers) $40.00. Many thanks to Alison Chivers, Mary Canning and New Holland for giving me the opportunity to review this title.
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