Flowerdew’s Organic Gardener

Shortly after moving into a 4 ½ apartment in Villeray, my husband and I got our first shared garden plot. We sought out some assistance about what we should plant in the 20 x 10-foot space and found “The Organic Gardener” by Bob Flowerdew. The book was two years old when we bought in in 1995.

It’s still my favourite gardening book.

Flowerdew gardens in the United Kingdom, so the seasons and the growing schedule doesn’t match Montreal. Still, his experience and confidence about gardening as a way to improve society crosses geographic boundaries.

A healthy soil is the key to organic gardening,” he writes. “Not only does it provide plants with the food they need to live, it also confers health and vitality, making them much more able to withstand outbreaks of diseases.”

He then explains that the best way to create good soil is to “add as much organic matter to the soil as you can get.”

More than thirty years later, and that advice continues to hold true.

Most of organic gardening centres around improving soil through green manures, mulches, and composting. Flowerdew doesn’t focus on permaculture, but he does explain how to design a garden with the ecosystem and human requirements in mind.

There’s a whole chapter on beneficial insects and wildlife and lots about choosing the correct plant for any location.

He goes into types of plants, sowing and growing, plant species and many types of food that can be grown in any garden.

This isn’t a basic guidebook, although that’s its primary role. Organic Garden is extremely well-written and Flowerdew’s slightly persnickety personality shines through. It’s evident that he really cares about food and has thought out his presentation in detail. For example, he explains why nasturtium leaves, celery and marigolds are in the chapter about herbs.

 I define an herb, whether it is eaten raw or used in cooking, as one that is added to dishes rather than served as a portion on its own. Thus some minor crops are included here rather than in the section on vegetables.”

To finish off the book, Flowerdew provides a monthly list of chores that can be combined slightly for a Canadian climate.

Unlike many garden books, Flowerdew’s includes a full index and chapter outline.

Recently, I examined all my garden books to see which one I would recommend most. Flowerdew’s Organic Gardening still wins handsdown. Flowerdew has updated his work considerably in the last twenty years of course. If you want a compendium of his latest thinking, consider purchasing his Organic Gardening bible (2005) or his guide to Going Organic (2008). Links to the first are available above through the Amazon and the Abe Books links. The Indigo link goes to the Going Organic book.

You can also just read his blog or join me as one of his 3,050 Twitter followers. Don’t expect him to care about you though. He only follows 35 people.

The Organic Gardener, London: Reed International Books Limited, 1993, ISBN 060057461X.


Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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  • Stephanie O'Hanley says:

    Weird. I too have a copy of The Organic Gardener. Picked it up at a library book sale. I find it useful but also turn to Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza for gardening tips.

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