I’d been umming and ahhing about whether to buy “The Australian Vegetable Garden” by Clive Blazey for a few months when I came across it at the local library. I immediately borrowed the book and decided to read through it to help me make up my mind.
At the end of reading through it, I’m still not 100% sure I want to own it but on balance I think I would. It’s the kind of book that would sit on your shelf unused for a lot of the time, but would be really useful in those moments when you’re planning your garden or trying to work out when you should be doing something.
Clive Blazey is the founder of the Diggers Club, which (historically) has been one of the few places that you can get open pollinated, heirloom plants. This is important for a few reasons: firstly it means that you can collect your own seeds (with hybrid plants you are not necessarily guaranteed that the seeds you collect will grow the same plant, and also lots of the hybrids are under patent making it illegal to re-use their seed). Secondly it means that you are helping to keep the gene pool alive (and avoiding GM foods/seeds if that’s something that bothers you). Thirdly heirloom plants tend to be bred for their taste/desirability rather than their ability to withstand being transported or their shelf-life, which means that they’re often tastier than hybrids.
“The Australian Vegetable Garden” is broken up into four segments: “What’s New is Old” “Basics for Growing” “Growing Vegetables” and “Seed Saving”.
What’s New is Old
This section talks about the types of vegetables we should be planting. Clive Blazey suggests that heirlooms are the best option for a number of reasons (and not just the ones I suggested above, though those do rate a mention, too). In this section he runs through the desirability of heirlooms for reasons like their appearance and production rate.
Basics for Growing
Here Clive goes through the best ways to ensure success in your garden. He deals with everything from the importance of good soil to how to sow seeds successfully and the temperatures you need to grow your plants. Some of this information a lot of you will already know, but there are also some handy hints in there so it’s well worth reading (especially if, like me, you’re trying to grow from seeds for the first time).
This is by far the most comprehensive section of the book and goes through a number of different vegetables. Under each listing he states when it should be sown (in Australia) how much space is required, how long for a harvest and a rough yield. He then gives a brief summary of what the plant is, the history of its use and how to select each variety. Each section also contains a guide to how to prepare and maintain the patch for this type of vegetable. Finally he lists a few recommended heirloom varieties of each vegetable. It is this section that is the most dense to read, but that I think makes the book worth owning overall.
In the seed saving section, Clive goes through the various ways seeds are pollinated, and how to collect and process a variety of different seeds. I haven’t attempted to save any seeds yet, so I’m not sure how enlightening this section is – I’ll have to keep you updated once some of my plants have fruited as to whether it really is a comprehensive guide.
This book is available from Bookworld and Booktopia for around $26 (including postage). Given the price and the vast amount of information contained in it, I’d say it’s worth getting if your plan is to grow and collect heirloom variety seeds.
Have you read “The Australian Vegetable Garden”? Are there any gardening books you’d recommend?