Peter Bennett’s “Australian and New Zealand Organic Gardening” (National book Distributors, 1993) was originally published in 1979 by Australia and New Zealand Book Co. I am told that the book is now “hard to get” so you may need to see if it is in a library or available by inter-library loan. Then when you have it, you will need to read it and begin making notes, for this is a comprehensive text book; wonderful to have and read, but so jam-packed with information that it is difficult to review.
The book has nine chapters – the life of the garden (general ecology); the nature of soil; preparing and maintaining an organic garden; the use of fertilisers, alternatives to poisonous chemicals; composting; cultivating plants; out of season growing and community gardens. There are also seven useful appendices – tools and accessories; composition of compost ingredients; flower sowing guide; vegetables in containers; sowing guide for vegetables; goods and services, and a list of useful contacts that would need to be now updated. Still, the names of associations are still useful and can be followed up on the internet.
The material on ecology is detailed and should give anyone an excellent background understanding about the “web of life” and the philosophical foundation of organic farming.
In such interconnected systems, one can “never do only one thing”, and therein lies the problem with techno-industrial agriculture with its sprays. Predator of pests are killed off as well as pests, but pests soon develop immunity. Bennett though is no mere arm-chair philosopher of agriculture and he has organically farmed many crops and successfully dealt with pests and diseases. He discusses codling moths as a test case because unlike Europe, our climate allows for the moths to have in one season three consecutive and overlapping generations. Control is somewhat complex but involves understanding the life cycle and behaviour of the pests. Bennett found that corrugated cardboard wrapped around the trunk and major branches of the trees were irresistible places for the larvae. The cardboards traps can then be burnt. Bennett used this idea and others to give high yields from his apple trees.
Obviously much more can be said – another book could be written in commentary, but I am still working through the details of the text. This is an important reference work which should be obtained and consulted regularly – the bible of organic gardening. Add its knowledge to your Crossroads collection.