Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally – Mark Highland (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, Minnesota)
Gardening is all about inputs (and, obviously, outputs): you need the water, nutrients, light, soil, seeds/cuttings/transplants, and a bunch of elbow grease and sweat and love and passion to reap the rewards. I’m thinking that most gardeners have
substantial overflowing reservoirs of passion and love for their plants, but I’d argue that one of the most important of the remaining inputs is soil. Specifically, healthy soil.
Which brings me to one of my favourite aspects of Mark Highland’s new book Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally. He talks a lot about soil (he does, after all, own a soil company in the United States). More importantly, he stresses how to respect instead of work the soil – a statement which really aligns with my whole abject laziness when it comes to that elbow grease expenditure. I can respect with the best of them! Seriously, however, his discussion of the significance of the relationship between the microbial activity in the soil and organic gardening/no-till (or low-till) principles is one many gardeners may be interested in. No matter if you garden organically or not, knowing something about the biological and physical properties of your soil will help you offer the very best for your plants. And understanding how to conserve your soil brings your garden closer to sustainability.
When he’s not presenting valuable tips about boosting soil health, Highland covers everything from irrigation and siting, to amendments and mulching, and using organic controls within Integrated Pest Management. He talks about food forests and mushroom farming. He offers solutions for container and raised bed gardening, and explores xeriscaping design. He wades into the lawn/no lawn debate. Chapters explore planning your garden, seed starting, and vegetative propagation.
With its accessible layout, excellent photography, and straightforward, experienced voice, Practical Organic Gardening is comprehensive and highly informative; I can easily see this as a go-to manual for both novice and experienced organic gardeners.
*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Mark Highland’s Practical Organic Gardening; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.