Maria Rodale, the third generation of the family that originated the organic gardening movement in the United States, has written a comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to designing and planting an organic garden that is both beautiful and productive. Conveniently divided by season, the book includes delicious recipes. 600 full-color photos and 50 color illustrations.
Maria Rodale, who comes to organic gardening naturally–her father and grandfather, who founded Rodale Press, were famously passionate organic gardeners–felt for many years that while there was plenty of good information about organic gardening, there was neither an existing primer that taught all the very basics nor a book that showed that organic gardening can be a beautiful, sophisticated way to plant. (“Admit it, you thought that if you were an organic gardener, you needed to have black plastic mulches and aluminum pie plates to scare the birds and rabbits, didn’t you?”) So she wrote this one, which, from the discussion of planning your garden on graph paper and the tips on digging up grass to the recipes for using the fall harvest, is utterly, seductively beautiful.
The seasonal organization of the book does sometimes seem almost incidental, save for the calendar pages that show what to plant and what tasks to do during each month. But the discussion of seeds–the various types, where to get them, how to start them indoors–plus Nana’s kugel recipe will keep new organic gardeners from chafing at the bit during the winter, and the interviews with numerous long-time organic gardeners make great reading throughout the year. Rodale shows great sense in deciding what’s important to new gardeners and those just deciding to go organic. Pests, both animal and plant, are the great fear of potential organic gardeners, and many pages in the book are devoted to weeding effectively, beating the bugs, and gently monitoring the animal population (getting a dog or cat is one good, low-effort solution to keeping a number of destructive small mammals out of the root systems). Rodale’s excellent photographs–of her children, her garden, the Rodale Institute farm–appear on almost every page of this artfully designed book. It’s a joy to read, and will inspire many a fresh organic tomato. –Barrie Trinkle