Facing gardening challenges

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A new book from CSIRO Publishing

We have certainly had some very extreme weather lately in Sydney - searing heat, torrid humidity and recurrent storms with heavy rains: a real challenge for our gardens. A new, easy-to-read book published by CSIRO Publishing, called Australian Garden Rescue: Restoring a damaged garden by Mary Horsfall, explores how changing weather patterns may impact on our gardens and how we can adapt to these in the way we garden. However, the book is also a practical manual for incorporating many helpful general organic practices into our gardening and would be very useful for gardeners just starting out as well as for more seasoned ones seeking to learn more about some of the environmentally sustainable ideas that have come into vogue in recent times - which can prevent many problems occurring in our gardens in the first place.

A compost heap to recycle garden waste is important in an organic garden

Good gardening practices are essential for a flourishing garden as well as for coping with particular problems. Mary is an organic gardener and one of her basic premises is that improving our soil is key to success. Ongoing incorporation of organic matter into the soil is vital to retain moisture, add nutrients and encourage the millions of life forms that exist in healthy soil. Choosing the right plant for the right spot in the garden is also a very important consideration, and Mary looks at issues such as pH, soil type, sun exposure and frost occurrence in determining which plants will do best where, giving plant lists that could be helpful for beginning gardeners. However, I felt that one oversight here was that different climate zones in Australia weren't really emphasised, which could lead to disappointment for people who plant some of these suggested specimens if their climate isn't suitable (eg lily-of-the-valley is given as a perennial to plant in shaded areas, without noting that this plant won't do well in areas with mild winters - as many of us in Sydney have found to our chagrin!).

Mary then examines a variety of major issues that affect gardeners (and which may become more frequent in the future) - heatwaves, drought, frost, floods, cyclones and bushfires - and gives very practical advice on how we can cope with these problems. The chapters on drought-proofing the garden are relevant to us all, and there are lots of great ideas, such as the use of wicking beds, rainwater gardens and simple irrigation systems.

Regenerating bushland in an area previously burnt by fire, Yengo National Park, NSW

The sections covering cyclones, floods and bushfires are sobering in conveying the catastrophic effect these natural disasters can have on gardens, yet Mary provides some great strategies that will give hope to anyone who has been through one of these ordeals. Having recently visited a garden that is being wonderfully restored after a major bushfire last year, it is heartening to see how some of the shrubs and trees do regenerate back after time, and how resilient gardeners can be in recreating a garden after utter devastation.

The book ends with chapters dealing with non-chemical ways of coping with large and small pests, diseases and weeds, which are useful for any gardener, whether or not they are facing other immediate gardening challenges. I enjoyed reading about Mary's tried-and-tested strategies, and I felt as if she were a kind gardening friend giving me the benefits of her long experience. She even carries out little experiments to compare the effectiveness of different methods (for example, on the use of vinegar as a weedkiller), which I found intriguing - I think we should all do this occasionally in our own gardens too!

The book concludes with a chapter celebrating the importance of gardening and gardens in our lives and for society, and reiterates the necessity for gardeners to be adaptable to change in all its forms. The hints given in the book will certainly assist us in this. I finished the book with a feeling of optimism, and plenty of ideas in my head for my own garden.

Reader Comments

  • By Sue 2073 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Thank you Deirdre for all your wonderful blogs during the year. The book looks like a great present for any gardener. I will try vinegar ar a weed killer as I have a week problem in my paths. Have a very happy Christmas and I look forward to your blogs next year. Sue

  • By Evelyn 2117 Monday, 15 December 2014

    I always look forward to your columns on a Monday morning and I have learnt a lot from them. Thank you! This sounds like an interesting book. I think ABC/Gardening Australia also have a new garden book out, though I haven"t seen it yet. All the best for Christmas and the new year. Evelyn.

  • By Ruth 4034 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Ruth 4034 Your Monday morning letter is always like a breath of fresh air, so helpful and optimistic, I have learnt so much, Thank you Deirdre. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and may 2015 be full of laughter and joy. Ruth

  • By Lynne 2479 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Happy Christmas to you and your family Deirdre. Many thanks for your blogs. They are a pleasure to read and the knowledge you share with us all is a real help and sometimes, a revelation. May your New Year be full of gardening joy. Lynne

  • By Chris 4034 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Thanks Deirdre for a year of helpful hints. I choose to use no pesticides in my garden and it needs patience to succeed. With recent rains, my garden has changed colour. I am hoping Santa will give me a couple of live chooks for Christmas, to help with my gardening. Your blogs are like letters to each of us. Have a nice break this Christmas and enjoy. Christa

  • By Pam 3216 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Best wishes for the season to you and your family Deirdre. Many thanks for the wonderful website and blogs. Pam.

  • By Helen 7256 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Thanks Deirdre for your blog and webpage - its a very valuable & inspiring resource for a;; keen gardeners. The book sounds very interesting. I"m particularly interested in matching plants to particular microclimates - would make a great read Helen

  • By Helen 2159 Monday, 15 December 2014

    I"ll add my name to the Seasons greetings to you and your family Deidre. Thank you so much for your blog every week. It"s so nice to sit and read it at breakfast every Monday morning and learn so much, even if it doesn"t apply to me. I will look forward to it returning. Happy Christmas. Helen

  • By Carole 2230 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Deidre, Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2015 for you and yours. May your garden grow just as you would wish :-) Cheers and kind regards Carole.

  • By Georgina 2076 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Happy Christmas Deidre to you and all your family. Thank you for all the enjoyable reads with stacks of great information each week. Look forward to reading your blog in 2015. Best wishes Georgina

  • By Sharyn 4341 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Happy Xmas Deidre. Have always looked forward to your blogs throughout the year and I really appreciate the information and knowledge you have on gardens. Hope you have a lovely holiday and I"ll be looking forward to more of your blogs in 2015. Best, Sharyn

  • By Carmel 2219 Monday, 15 December 2014

    Merry Christmas Deidre. And thank you so much for your wonderful blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading every post. So much wonderful information. Best wishes for 2015. Carmel

  • By Sue 2074 Tuesday, 16 December 2014

    Thanks for your thought provoking blogs and for providing the sharing plants site - wishing you and your family a happy Christmas and good gardening in 2015.Sue

  • By Ambra 2010 Monday, 02 February 2015

    Thanks for these suggestions. I"m a first-time tomato growing and have some challenges. Felt I had to write a blog post about it. Here it is: https://ambradambra.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/home-groan-tomatoes-a-labour-of-love/ 

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