|This picture came with an email before the book arrived.|
Maybe one day I'll take pictures of what's inside!
Shall I tell you my woes? My camera isn't mended. I've smashed my phone (I fell over) and the speaker I dance around the house to got knocked off its bookcase so the music it spouts sounds tinny.
Right. Having got that out of my system . . . there's a book I was sent ages ago for reviewing and I've been meaning to tell you about it ever since and would have done if I hadn't been feeling so very bolshy about not being able to take photos of it.
It's 101 Organic Gardening Hacks by
Cool Springs Press Minnesota.
I like it. (I'll say that fast before you think I'm about to be hyper-critical as usual.)
But before I enthuse, I'll mentions a few 'buts' about the title. It's probably the English / American thing. To me a 'hack' is negative - 'old hack', 'hacking into a computer', 'hacking a horse' (whatever that means) 'hacks in fingers' during cold weather or after doing too much washing up; and taxis. (Hackney cabs.) Computer hackers have been getting a better press recently. 'Hacking' in computersese seems not so much to mean 'breaking in' or 'cheating' but going straight to the point with skill and disregard for convention. Something like that.
'Organic' confused me too. It's not really about organic gardening but it's a book about gardening by someone who happens to do organic gardening. In other words, it's practical rather than proselytising. You wouldn't need to be an organic gardener to find it useful.
The '101' bit.
The book has wonderful advice but there's also what I would call 'padding'. '101' is probably a number publishers (?) like . . . '37' or '93' wouldn't have the same zing. And by padding I mean things like how to renovate a chandelier so you can hang it in your garden . . . or disguising your shed by putting screens and metal gates round it (what's wrong with garden sheds? I like garden sheds!) . . . or how to decorate your fence by sticking spades on it.
And at the risk of spending all the review space on the title, 'hacks' makes it sound as if the 101 ideas are easy - like growing carrots in a wellington boots. You know the kind of thing.
The cover's very jaunty and the insides are attractively displayed and widely spread - so it looks as if we can flick through and imagine gardening's a doddle. (A popular theme on the gardening shelf.)
So why do I like this book?
It doesn't go for the 'doddle'.
The big deal thing which won me over was that the first 22 'hacks' are solidly about soil and composting. (I'll miss the bits I found irritating in the introduction.) And while it all sounds fun - like making a muddy mixture with earth and tipping in vinegar or baking soda to measure the ph of soil by seeing if it bubbles (waaaaaaaaay!) . . . it's the first book to make me wish I had an allotment - and that the work involved would be properly serious. All of a sudden I want to experiment with making compost. I'm not sure I'd bother with growing veg. - I'd just spend my days making compost in different ways. Shawna does happen to suggest coffee grounds are useful. Maybe they are but I'm a dubious. In my hands they go white and furry. But my hands are not her hands! Clearly. And I'm not sure she mentions what kind of worms you should use. Ordinary earth worms wouldn't be interested. (If I were a good reviewer I'd re-read it to find out but I'm not going to.) Never mind - the thing is . . . all of a sudden, I'd like to go into compost production. (Can you really buy worm casts at garden centres?)
|This is the only picture which has come from my camera in ages so I'll use it.|
I've got a grump about notices like these.
What if motorways had signs which pointed just to 'roads' in every direction.
It's definitely an American book and inclines to hot weather gardening. Cacti don't like Dorset even though it's hot compared with other parts of the British Isles. And succulents are expensive. I don't need to know how to attract hummingbirds (however much I'd like to) and don't think Japanese Beetles cause much of a problem in the UK. (Though one day they might so perhaps it's good to have this book on hand in case they do.) I can't find bee-preservers in our local gardening centre (or even on Amazon) but that's no matter; finding a way to give bees access to water without risking they'll drown is worth thinking about.
Apart from some things (like edging a path with old wine bottles) I think it's a very respectful book. Gardening may be fun but it's not 'a laugh' in the sense of 'anything goes'. It's a sensible mixture of different kinds of information.The easy-to-make garden bench looks ok. And the suggestion that we should try deep-planting tomatoes is interesting - especially when accompanied, as it is, by an explanation about different types of tomatoes. (I didn't know there are 'determinate' and 'indeterminate' ones. Did you?)
And there are a few 'tips' of the kind which are obvious once you've thought of them - like storing hoses in figures of eight to stop them kinking while stored away . . . or using flour on the earth to mark out garden designs before planting.
Yup. I'd recommend it.
P.S. I like the instruction that you shouldn't drink tea made from manure.
And I like it that arthritis gets a nod,
And that it's the first gardening book I've read with bison in it.