13 November 2007

Required Reading: Going Organic by Bob Flowerdew

Although I write book reviews for several of my regular markets, there are some books that simply need to be recommended to the widest possible audience. That's not to say that hundreds and thousands will read this blog for my book suggestions, but good books ought to be promoted wherever possible. Poorly written books, on the other hand, don't deserve reviewing at all. I'd rather ignore a book completely than give it a negative review, which gives it attention. Far better to spend time to applauding and promoting well written books, rather than venting spleen on one that is poorly written, inaccurate or otherwise scorn-worthy.

Bob Flowerdew is the sort of gardening neighbour I would dearly love to have. Yes, he gardens 'across the pond' in England, but don't let that put you off. This is no garden snob: he's the sort of garden cheerleader I try to be, with all the knowledge I hope to one day have. The first thing Flowerdew does is be reassuring: "Your garden is better than you think", he writes, continuing:

"All real gardens always have something that has still to flower or has gone over, a patch that needs weeding, and without doubt, a plethora of pests and diseases if you make the effort to look for them. Yet these same gardens are beautiful and beloved, productive of fruit and flower; many are considered superb by most of their visitors. The point is: a garden is surely to be enjoyed, not fretted over."

AMEN! If you take away nothing else but this from his book, or from my blog or scads of other garden writings, clasp these truths to your heart and your grubby, callous and dirty-nailed hands. Most of us are gardening for the sheer joy of watching plants grow--perhaps to help feed ourselves and beautify our surroundings too, but not as a matter of life and death. If the tomatoes get blight, well, then we'll buy tomatoes from a local farmer or hope our neighbour's are unscathed. If a plant dies, we'll figure out why and plant another one or something different.

With this gentle encouragement laid out, Flowerdew sets the stage for making our garden as successful and problem-free as possible. There CAN be problems with a garden, of course, and the trick is to determine what are real problems versus what are little annoyances. For the little annoyances, a little laissez-faire is in order; for the more serious problems, there are remedies.

Prevention, we are told, is a good medicine, and Flowerdew outlines some mistakes to avoid, from planting more garden than we can handle to falling for every garden gadget under the sun. As with any talent, gardening is a skill and we learn to refine those skills from weeding effectively (without killing our backs) to learning whether, what and when to prune, to the gentle wonderful art of making more plants. There will still be bad things that can happen to good plants, and Flowerdew is good at explaining the what and why of these things as well as what we can do about fixing them. He does so from an organic perspective because he has been gardening organically for most of his life, but he is also qualified in pesticide use so that he knows all the options for dealing with garden problems.

Sometimes English gardening books are a little too UK specific, as much of the climate there is rather different from those of us in most of Canada and the US. Flowerdew's books tend to be broad spectrum in their wisdom, although some of his entries in his calendar of pastimes' are the exception: I can't imagine cutting grass in late winter 'if no frost is likely' and the ground is not going to be workable here for planting out shrubs and trees. However, these are minor quibbles that most of us will be aware of, and that novice gardeners can easily check on by chatting with other local gardeners or their extension offices.

The cheery, encouraging tone of Flowerdew's writing coupled with his prodigious knowledge is what brings me back to his books, and I wholeheartedly recommend this for any gardener, flower or fruit and vegetable, who wants to grow great plants without making a chemical assault on the earth and its denizens.


  1. yes i like Bob flowerdew, and alwayse turn to his artices first if he's written in a magazine.

  2. I have just found your blog and find it very interesting, I live in saskatchewan, so our winters are long and summers waited for with baited breath!!
    I love your cats, having 3 of my own. Ena

  3. I am so glad you aren't venting spleen everywhere. I hate to even take the time to read a negative review.

    I am clasping though. This sounds like a good book. My kind of gardener.

    Thanks for the review.

  4. hey jodi! thanks for the book review. this sounds like one I should make sure to try to find.

  5. Another book to add to my Christmas Wish List! Thanks for the great review. With a name like 'Flowerdew', you just know it has to be good. ;-)

  6. I've been reading your blog for quite awhile. I am also a compulsive gardener, but I have been learning a new way to garden since we moved to the Yucatan. I look at your photos and sigh.
    I got tagged today, and I am passing on the tag to you. I hope you like playing the game.



  7. now that definitely sounds like my kind of book. I'm going to make note of it, get my own copy, and will put it on my list so that I too write about it in my weekly environmental column (I'll have to wait until spring to include it now).

    Isn't it so true that we gardeners do so for the love of gardening, watching things sprout, grow, and maybe even feed ourselves. I get so frustrated with people who bathe their plants and yards in pesticides and the like.

    I'll track the book down -- thanks for the heads-up on that one (or maybe I should say the blossom-up)!

    Diane in Alberta
    "Has your ship come in?"


  8. Ah, you've found Bob Flowerdew (great surname isn't it?). I had the privilege of watching him on Gardener's World for several years and learned a lot from him. He's a great guy, with a very positive attitude.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I found it very interesting. I can't wait to get this book! I will being purchasing asap! Thank you again for such a wonderful review, I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading it.

  10. I love it, "a garden is surely to be enjoyed, not fretted over."
    Maybe this is a good book to read for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club?

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  11. I also know Bob Flowerdew from English TV's "Gardener's World". He is indeed a very interesting man with excellent and practical tips.

  12. I enjoyed Bob Flowerdew's No-Work Garden. He doesn't quite mean no work - just less work. Gardening smarter, maybe. I also liked his Companion Gardening, but not quite as much. Although the writing was very good, he didn't seem to have much enthusiasm for the topic. I'll add Going Organic to my wish list.

  13. Thanks for all your great comments and feedback; those of you who are new to visiting, I'll return the compliment soon, I promise.
    I'll do more book reviews over the coming weeks, what with Christmas coming and all that!

  14. Jodi (Blogger isn't recognizing me, again, so I don't even know if this will work :))

    I just had to come and let you know that, as I said in my response back in November, this is one book that is most definitely up my alley. Well, I ordered it online and it just arrived today. I'm thrilled to bits (I ordered two gardening books). I've just given it a quick once-over but now I can hardly wait to pore over it through the cold months ahead. Thanks a million for the book review or I never would have bought it!

    Diane, Sand to Glass


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

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