Book Review: Fruit & Vegetable Garden - Diggers Club


The essential premise is that the average Australian household could, for the small up-front cost of $250 AUD be harvesting 254 kg of fruit & veggies from their front yard. A years supply, they suggest (and on their website they reckon such a garden only needs 6 hours a week of upkeep). And if the authors of the book, The Diggers Club, had anything to with it, that yield would all be non-genetically modified, organic produce, grown from heirloom seeds. (Heirloom refers to those rarer varieties almost lost to gardeners by the standardisation of commercial food production. For instance, there used to be over 3,000 varieties of apple, but supermarkets now only offer 4 or 5.) This book, richly filled with photographs, history and cultivation tips for a cornucopia of plants (428 in total!), also covers pruning, soil, mulching, pollination and pesticide-free pest control. But more than that, it lays out a framework of food that can be grown no matter the Australian climate you live in, from the northern tropics to the southern temperate zones, from coastal to inland regions. It explains how to design mini-plots for urban yards, which fruit bearing trees suit the technique of 'espalier' or growing horizontally to produce greater yields. And it details how food gardens can be designed to look as attractive as flower beds. Witness the five coloured Silverbeet in the pic above. In comments that would make Michael Pollan's face light up (read of his article in the New York Times), the Diggers say in their book that "We forget that food is greater than the sum of its identifiable parts", when they note that it is food that makes us healthy, not vitamin pills. So if you wanna grow your own Macadamia nuts, gorgeous Dragon Fruit or spectacular Turk's Turban pumpkins then starting out with this comprehensive, yet succinct, book would be a encouraging place to start. Let the 100 Mile Diet start in your own yard.The Diggers Club was founded back in 1978 and has grown to be what they term as "Australia's largest garden club." They provide mail order heirloom seed, including many that are organic, and through a connection with the US based Seed Savers Exchange can source about 25,000 non-hybrid seeds. This writer is not personally fond of tomatoes but was encouraged to see that such seeds can yield up to ten differing colours of tomato: black, brown, purple, red, yellow, orange, pink, green, white & cream. Impressive. ::The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden book.

See also our book review on 'Food Not Lawns', A US publication tackling the same terrain.

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