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Book Reviews

GROW FOOD ANYWHERE: THE NEW GUIDE TO SMALL-SPACE GARDENING

by Mat Pember and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon (Hardie Grant 2017)

Review by Patrick Lias

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The latest offering by The Little Veggie Patch Co is like a good urban garden—colourful, full of diversity, well-planned and organised. Grow Food Anywhere covers the basics of small-space productive gardening in a fun and informative fashion.

Divided into three sections, the first, ‘What plants need’ covers the nutritional and growing requirements for specific plants as well as general soil fertility . ‘Fruit and veg to grow’ has an emphasis on plant suitability for small-scale growing, consolidated into a clever rating scale as well as all the basic planting info for specific plants. ‘Pests and diseases to know’ also has a rating scale for common garden pests (in which the human child rates the maximum 5 out of 5!).

Full of tongue-in-cheek humour, colourful photos, psychedelic illustrations and handy tips, this book could be a coffee table read or the number one go-to gardening guide for beginner to more experienced growers alike.

RETROSUBURBIA

by David Holmgren (Melliodora Publishing 2018)

Review by Robyn Rosenfeldt

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David Holmgren’s vision is to see the suburbs retrofitted to self-sustaining and highly productive places to live. Rather than moving to the country to make a tree change, David suggests we stay where we are, which for nearly 90% of us is an urban setting. There we can change the way we live, using our gardens and surrounding green space to produce our own food and turn our homes into productive hubs for family life.

This book is an in-depth guide to making the change to live truly sustainably, with case studies to show how it can be done by ordinary people in ordinary settings.

It’s divided into three areas of life where we can make change: the built, the biological and the behavioural fields. David has focused on the Australian setting (in particular, Victoria), speaking from direct experience and knowledge to present a pattern language that can be easily translatable to any climate and culture.

GROWING FOOD THE ITALIAN WAY

by Fabian Capomolla (Pan Macmillan 2017)

Review by Samantha Allemann

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When asked by his cousin, ‘Why doncha go to Italy? I’ll look after ya cat’, Fabian Capomolla (aka The Hungry Gardener) promptly moved his family to Tuscany for a year. This is the story behind his latest book, inspired by Fabian’s involvement in a Tuscan community garden, through which he embraced the Italian way of gardening.

This beautifully designed book contains practical information such as an A-Z plant guide, advice on how to set up, plant and maintain your patch, and information on common problems and remedies. The ‘Easy Gardening Activities’ section teaches you how to make handy contraptions, such as a tool rack and a bird scarer.

And as Fabian points out, gardening and eating are very much connected for Italians. Gardening is about feeding your family, so once you’ve grown some of the ingredients, try your hand at one of the simple recipes (of course there’s pasta, but leave room for the fruit cake and zesty doughnuts).

WHITE WASH: THE STORY OF A WEED KILLER, CANCER, AND THE CORRUPTION OF SCIENCE

by Carey Gillam (Island Press 2017)

Review by Samantha Allemann

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Whether you staunchly oppose Monsanto or have never heard of them before, the brand name Roundup is likely to be familiar to you. This popular weed killer is the world’s highest selling herbicide, so it’s likely that you or someone you know is using it in the garden. But the concerns around the potential danger of using Roundup go way beyond the backyard garden, with it being sprayed on public land and food crops as well.

Written by former Reuters agriculture journalist Carey Gillam, White Wash looks at the impact that Roundup (also known as glyphosate) is having on our wider food systems, as well as on individual farming families. Although focused on the US, Gillam gives plenty of international statistics and examples to show that we have reason to be concerned here too about what we’re unknowingly ingesting. It makes for an informative yet alarming read.

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