Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Organic Home Garden by Patrick Lima

I wanted to write about this book because, in my humble opinion, it is an outstanding gardening book. It remains the guide I go to year after year. It is the one book that I live in fear of my local library weeding from their collection without my knowledge, thus denying me access to it. It's published by Key Porter, and it is "out of stock indefinitely" according to their website. I have a local bookseller who may have ideas, and I need to talk to them before I panic.

For a reference book it's completely readable, and it's a pleasant read to boot. Lima never attempts to suggest that what works for him will work for anyone else. That said, it quickly becomes clear that he absolutely knows what he is talking about, and that following his suggestions is probably a very good idea.

To know why I love this book so much, it maybe makes sense for me to finally come to terms with something: my first, and greatest, gardening love is the vegetable garden. I like perennials, I'm growing appreciative of annuals, I'm always happy to see the bulbs that manage to escape the squirrels. But it is the vegetable garden that I love. It has something to do with the treasure hunt for peas and beans, digging up new potatoes, discovering the squash hidden under the great squash leaves, watching an eggplant go from a beautiful purple flower to a stunning purple fruit. There's something about knowing that I can grow brussels sprouts in my own garden that makes me want to learn to like them.

One of the things I love about Lima's writing, no matter what he's writing about, is that I believe his first gardening love is the vegetable garden, too.

Throughout the book's helpful tips and tricks and guidelines for growing organically and growing well, are stories about past gardens. We hear the story of how Lima and his partner John Scanlon ended up at Larkwhistle, and I am amazed at how brave they were, and how they managed to make it work. We get little tidbits of information on how various vegetables were used and viewed in the past. We hear about their very first garden, on a little rented lot in Toronto. I love especially this bit:

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.

Can't you picture it? What a fabulous garden that must have been, and how exciting. I like the part about the peas especially, because it reminds me that plants want to grow. They want to grow in spite of their hapless gardeners. I love a forgiving hobby.

This book is fantastic because the information is good, the writing is great, and the whole thing makes organic vegetable gardening seem quite accessible. Not always a walk in the park, but accessible. I also am drawn in by the sheer awe in which Lima clearly holds all living things. It's a "how to" of the best sort, with beautiful photographs, information about soils, troubleshooting, and various groups of vegetables that can be grown reliably in Canada. If you like gardening, or just the idea of gardening, try to get your hands on a copy of this book. And if you do, please tell me where you got it because I want one too.

1 comment:

Stephens said...

You'll be pleased to know Five Rivers Chapmanry, a small indie publisher in Ontario, has now released an updated, quirky edition of The Organic Home Garden, by Patrick Lima and John Scanlan.

It's available in both digital and print from major online booksellers, as well as directly from Five Rivers at: