Documents: Special Interest: Organically Minded:

Organic Growing - New Books
by Jeff Johnson
November 18, 1999

With winter winds blowing and snow on the ground, it's often hard to remember the joys of gardening last season. Winter is a good time for reading about gardening and growing in general. Below are some useful books on organic growing.

If you grow your own fruits and vegetables, you'll find these three books invaluable.

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman is a classic primer on how to grow food.

Although his focus is on market gardening on up to five acres, the information Coleman imparts, including his discussion of tools, will help make your gardens more productive next year. How to Grow More Vegetables (than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine) by John Jeavons is an information treasure house on how to produce more food from your gardens using bio-intensive methods. Some of the text is complex, and the book should be read through as written to ensure a full understanding of the theory and practice of Jeavons's methods. His premise is that one 100 square foot plot is all it takes to grow vegetables one person for a year. Although his plan is based on California's growing season, doubling his growing plan (to 200 square feet) should make up for the

Canadian shorter growing season. Another way to overcome the short growing season is to read Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest, which shows how you can start your gardens weeks earlier, and extend them weeks later, by using coldframes and tent structures. Coleman explains the difference between a four season growing period (which is not possible here) and a four season harvest: by allowing hardy crops to grow as long as possible, and then keeping them protected from destructive freezing and thawing, we can eat fresh vegetables for most of the year.

If you're interested in creating a more ecologically sustainable and productive landscape, check out Bill Mollison's books on Permaculture. Permaculture is a design and planning system that takes into account energy systems (wind, sun, water), site, climate, and the requirements of the people living on the land to create a growing system that can actually improve the environment while producing food and other useful products for the owners and the community. One of Mollison's tenets is: "Protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour." Mollison recommends observing your property for a year before making any big changes to it. By now, most of us have spent years on our property, yet many of us will be very surprised how little we've observed -- prevailing wind direction during each season, surface water runoff direction, and many more topics these books discuss. A library author search on Mollison or subject search on Permaculture should provide you with some selections. (Canadian Organic Growers' member-only mail lending library has Permaculture books available; visit our web site for a membership form:

A book that will interest flower gardeners is the newly released An Ecological Guide to a North Temperate Garden: Bioplanning for the Next Millennium by Diana Beresford-Kroeger of Eastern Ontario. North Temperate Garden is the first of a series (this one on flowers) that ultimately will include vegetables, vines, fruit, roses, herbs and other topics. The book includes bioplan designs, which combine various plants, landscape features and terrains. The designs include discussions of the ecofunctions of the plants involved: for example, providing fragrance; attracting birds, butterflies, bees, etc.; repelling pests, including aphids and nematodes.

The book discusses almost 1,500 varieties of Canadian perennials, biennials, tubers, corms and bulbs. It also provides a sequencing chart of spring- and summer- flowering bulbs and corms. The book is published by Quarry Press in Kingston, Ontario, and should be available before Christmas for gift giving.

Canadian Organic Growers Jeff Johnston

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