The Truth About Organic Gardening

From time to time a book comes along that makes you question again what you believe in. The Truth About Organic Gardening by Jeff Gillman is such a book. Jeff Gillman is a professor of horticulture based in the US and has spent many years researching the benefits and drawbacks of organic and chemical gardening. Because he has studied both sides of the coin he is able to give a balanced run-through of the arguments in favour and against both methods. Using this approach he broadly comes down in favour of organic gardening when it comes down to its emphasis on bio-diversity, composting, inter-planting, green manures and various other cultural techniques developed to get round the need to use chemicals but is not so sure about pesticides – some of which are allowed under organic systems. He uses a rating developed through scientific study to rate pesticide treatments according to how dangerous they are to people, other non target animals and the general environment. Using this system he finds that many organic pesticides are just if not more dangerous than artificial chemical controls. Many of you will be aware of this already – and will know for example that the organic pesticide Derris has recently been banned. But for the starter gardener wishing to understand the pros and cons of both systems whilst learning how they both work The Truth About Organic Gardening is a very useful book. He concludes the book by suggesting that most gardeners will never need to use pesticides – organic or chemical – if they follow the basic rules of organic gardening. They will produce biodiverse gardens full of healthy plants. I certainly find that this is true. To my mind the greatest organic gardening writer is still former Gardeners World presenter Geoff Hamilton. He tested organic methods by directly contrasting them in test beds with other systems and found they worked much better. His book The Living Garden (written with garden ecologist Jennifer Owen) is a great introduction. It’s still available second hand from various outlets. Well worth getting hold of. His book on Organic Gardening is still in print. Buy this alongside The Truth About Organic Gardening and I think you’ll have a good combination of reads. If you want a slightly more holistic approach with all the other eco ideas thrown in the mix too then my book The Organic Garden is well worth a shout. There are still a few copies available on the internet if you look around and a paperback version will be available from next March. If you’re looking for the definitive reference guide then Garden Organic’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is the one to get.

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