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The Organic Home Garden: How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables Naturally

The Organic Home Garden: How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables Naturally

by Patrick Lima, John Scanlan (Photographer)

A cornucopia of information.

Once available only at farmers' markets, organic produce is now basic stock at the supermarket. With mounting concerns about pesticides, climate change and consumption levels of fossil fuels, consumers are more careful about how, and where, fruits and vegetables are grown — and how far they have traveled to get to their


A cornucopia of information.

Once available only at farmers' markets, organic produce is now basic stock at the supermarket. With mounting concerns about pesticides, climate change and consumption levels of fossil fuels, consumers are more careful about how, and where, fruits and vegetables are grown — and how far they have traveled to get to their table. More than ever, people are deciding not only to purchase organic and local produce, but also to grow their own.

The Organic Home Garden shows in detail how to plant, grow and harvest delicious vegetables and fruits from spring to fall and from seed to harvest.

Since most consumers live in urban and suburban settings with limited space, Patrick Lima explains how to create an organic garden that is both compact and productive. Through step-by-step examples, he shows how to prepare odorless in-ground compost;
transform fallen leaves into a valuable soil conditioner; and design, build and plant permanent raised beds. Among the important topics covered are:

  • Soil preparation
  • Using cold frames
  • Selecting seeds
  • Transplanting techniques
  • Natural pest and disease control
  • Multiple harvests fromasingle garden
  • Frost protection.

Extensive line drawings and charts plus 50 stunning color photographs illustrate the different gardening steps. For making the most of home-grown fruits and vegetables, 30 outstanding recipes are also included.

Editorial Reviews

Rocky Mountain News - Dale Langford
Well-illustrated and written, this book has all kinds of tips... Strawberry instructions alone cover several pages.
Tulsa World - Megan Miers
How to create fruit and vegetable gardens that are both pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.
Columbus Dispatch - Michael Leach
Delightfully written, it covers the hows and whys of organic gardening.
Harrowsmith's Truly Canadian Almanac 2008
Lima's gardening books are consistently wonderful, and this is no exception... Though there's plenty of dirt under its nails, the book's practical side is elevated by gorgeous veggie photographs taken by John Scanlan. Bottom Line? The new kitchen garden bible.
Publishers Weekly
Lima's fourth gardening book shares his extensive knowledge of agriculture gleaned from years of tending Larkwhistle (his own home garden in Ontario, Canada) without use of chemicals or pesticides. Larkwhistle, Lima states, "grew out of a flat, sandy hayfield thick with twitch grass and weeds. Seasons of organic care and cultivation have transformed the field into a lush and productive garden." Scanlan's mouthwatering full-color photos of Larkwhistle and its harvest certainly add to Lima's credibility. Lima talks would-be gardeners through the planting of the first seedlings-early and indoors-and explains how to feed the soil with compost and natural fertilizer. He advocates designing the garden around small beds rather than long, tedious rows, and offers specific tips for fruits and vegetables from apples to zucchini, always providing line drawings to illustrate finer points. The book covers natural, effective methods of pest prevention and removal, and includes a comprehensive seeding, sowing and transplanting schedule to ensure fresh foods year round. Lima even tosses in several simple recipes in which to use the resulting bounty. The author's passion for natural gardening is infectious, and his language often borders on poetic ("Watermelons sit there, fat and inscrutable"). His knowledge provides an invaluable source for those just beginning their organic garden, as well as more experienced growers looking for some new tricks. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Almost 30 years ago, Lima and Scanlan relocated to a property in Ontario, Canada, so remote that they had to start growing their own food for survival a scary proposition for men who had only a couple seasons of urban gardening experience (e.g., hauling zoo manure home via a city bus). Now seasoned organic farmers, they share their successful horticultural experiences and recommendations relating to crop types, soil nourishment, intensive gardening, and fostering diversity, among other topics. Organized according to the food grower's year, their tips can be used by gardeners in varying zones but, at the same time, are very standard. The authors' real strengths lie in their encouraging tone and their humor, which they use to relate their trials and errors. Scanlan's photos of intensive beds will inspire readers. Relentless optimism and an appreciation for beauty are as evident here as in the authors' earlier collaboration, The Art of Perennial Gardening: Creative Ways with Hardy Flowers. Recommended for public libraries supplementing or updating existing organic gardening collections. [A Home Style Book Club selection.] Bonnie Poquette, Whitefish Bay, WI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date:
Edition description:
Reprint edition
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Breaking New Ground First Garden

Almost from the moment I set trowel to earth I knew I had found something I loved to do. Suddenly a world of wonders opened up. It was 1973. My friend John Scanlan and I had access to the garden of a rented city house. Like many other people then — and now — we were concerned about the array of pesticides routinely used on food plants. A small yard meant that we could grow at least some of our own food free from chemical residues. From the start, it never occurred to us to garden any way other than organically We knew that freshly picked vegetables and fruits are at their nutritional best, and we soon learned how delicious they could be: vine-ripened tomatoes, peas fresh from the pod, a crisp head of cabhage or lettuce mere minutes from garden to salad howl. We also discovered the simple pleasure and satisfaction that come from working with the soil, sowing seeds, tending a garden,
bringing in the harvest.

The soil in our first city garden was dense and full of cinders, probably the dumping ground for years worth of coal ashes. But optimistically we dug and planted. Results were mixed. Tomatoes spread into a wild tangle, half their fruit lost under leaves; zucchinis swelled overnight, apparently blown up by some unseen squash fairy Marigolds bloomed among the vegetables and morning glories crawled over everything, Unwittingly we spread fungus on the Swiss chard by watering every evening. Not knowing better, we transplanted small pea vines from the shade to the sunnier front yard; the peas, not knowing that they "resent transplanting," attached themselves to strings and began to climb. Cucumbers soon joined them to veil the front porch in green vines hung with fruit. Squirrels helped themselves. It was not a completely successful garden, but in a season we were smitten. And we had learned the gardener's perennial refrain: "Next year...."

Our homesteading instincts were roused. That winter we pored over copies of Organic Gardening magazine in preparation for some "real" gardening next spring. Seeds arrived in the mail. From bits of scrap wood, we knocked together shallow boxes for seedlings that sprouted under a bank of florescent lights in the basement. Gardening articles had convinced us that the key to good growth lay in adding quantities of organic matter — manure, compost, rotted leaves and such — to the soil. Dutifully we looked around for sources.

As it happened, this was shortly after the downtown zoo had closed. One day, while walking through the deserted grounds, we saw a heap of manure on the other side of a high chain-link fence. The sign on the fence read "Yak," but there was no yak (or any other creature) in sight. Longingly we looked through the fence. "If we could get in there," John said,
"with buckets or bags and a shovel..."

Early next morning we were back, with two burlap potato sacks and a spade in hand. Up and over the fence we climbed, and in no time had two bags full — and heavy. With considerable effort we hoisted the bags over the fence and dragged them to the boulevard. It was going to he a long haul home. There had to be a better way. And there it was, coming down the street. We were soon settled comfortably on the streetcar with our bags of soggy yak dung — and no one the wiser. It was the first of several excursions to collect what is now sensibly composted and sold as Zoo Poo.

Eager to experiment that second season, we grew a little of almost everything. Adding organic matter to the garden made a noticeable difference. Spaghetti squash trailed along a wire fence, dangling yellow fruit on both sides. Brilliant Scarlet Runner beans coiled up a tropical looking sumac tree. Cabbages and romaine folded into proper heads, while yellow crookneck squash cascaded down a hill of compost. Tomatoes, staked and trained by the book, grew red in the sun. To our delight, the small city yard provided us with almost all the fresh vegetables we needed through the summer and into fall.

To use the yard to the fullest, we laid the garden out in beds (rather than rows) and planted the beds intensively so that every square foot of earth was growing vegetables, herbs or flowers. Even today with room to spare in a country garden, we continue to grow vegetables and fruit in beds tended with basic hand tools.

The chapter called By Design (page 23) details how to design, build and plant intensive beds that make the best use of any space. Throughout the book, photos show small, easily maintained beds of odd shapes and dimensions filled with lettuces, beans, carrots, even corn. To get the most from small space, tomatoes are staked and anything that can climb
— cucumbers, peas, beans, squash — is directed upward on strings, wire, netting or trellises. For most home gardeners some variation on intensive gardening is the most efficient way to grow — planting a little of this and that in whatever space you have, back yard or front, along a walkway up a fence or porch. Food plants take their place beautifully in any landscape.

Going to the Country

In July of 1975, just as our second city garden was overflowing with growth and color, notice came: the house was to be sold and we would have to be out by the end of August. Confirmed city slickers until then, it had never occurred to us to search for a place in the country. We had no car. Where would we work? What was out there anyway? And yet, when a friend told us about land four hours north, we decided to investigate. The land, she said, belonged to a couple, university professors who lived in town and had bought property to preserve it. In a spirit of experimentation, the professors had allowed some of their students to build a geodesic dome on the property and try their hand at "homesteading." A succession of students had lived in the dome and done some gardening; but all had pulled up stakes, usually after the first winter. The dome now stood empty our friend said, and assured us that the professors, almost second family to her, would not mind if we moved in and gardened a half-acre corner of the 300-acre parcel.

We had a rough map, a few lines and an X penciled on a scrap of paper. One Saturday morning, we boarded a northbound Greyhound, got off three hours later and reboarded a yellow school bus that traveled on from there on summer weekends. The driver opened her doors for us at a gravel sideroad. Laden with back-packs and tent, rake and shovel over our shoulders, we hitchhiked and walked the remaining six miles in — looking for a place to garden.

Turning the last corner, we saw a flat field waist-high in swaying grass. A giant dead elm, gray and barkless, spread its twisted arms against the sky. A leaning barn, sided with weathered wooden shingles, sheltered a flock of swallows. Toppling fence posts, looped with rusty; barbed wire, outlined what may once have been a garden. Half-hidden in the grass, a rusty iron hand-pump stood beside a shoulder of exposed rock. The field was broken here and there by piles of rock, old apple trees and banks of lilacs. Later we came to recognize the signs that tell a story: here a family cleared land; piled stones by hand; joined with neighbors to build shelters; planted shrubs, an orchard, daylilies, daffodils, a vegetable garden; perhaps suffered a fire; rebuilt down the road or moved away.

After pitching our tent by the well, we were eager to find out what lay under the grass. Digging through the thatch of roots, we came up with handfuls of earth so dry it flowed through our fingers like sand in an hourglass. This was not the dark loam we were hoping for, but it was late July of a dry year — and better sand than brick-hard clay. And weren't the magazines filled with tales of unpromising ground transformed into fertile soil?

Back in the woods, and the end of a rutted track, a quarter-mile from field and well, stood the dome, bug-eyed and silver, like an alien craft landed by accident among the maples, a po

Meet the Author

Patrick Lima is a noted organic gardener based in Ontario and the author of several books, including of The Art of Perennial Gardening.

John Scanlan's photographs have appeared in many books and magazines.

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