Sunday, October 16, 2016

Growing Vegetables South of Australia

Under the tittle Growing Vegetables South of Australia Steve Solomon self-published in 2002 a book for Tasmanian food gardeners. Fourteen years later I very much recommend the 6th edition of this book if you are (what the writer calls) a serious gardener who is keen to produce healthy nutrient-dense food, or like to give a great present to someone who is.

Growing Vegetables South of Australia is quite unique for two reasons:

  1. It is a food-gardening book written for Tasmanian soil and climate conditions, which is rare. 
  2. It is updated every time it is reprinted to reflect the writer’s latest knowledge and expertise, which is even rarer. 
I was given the first edition of the book in 2002. For this review I read the 4th printing of the 6th edition, released in May 2015. It covers the same subjects as the first edition, but has been so extensively re-written and re-arranged since then that it is almost a different book. This reflects Steve Solomon’s keenness to forever provide the reader with his latest thinking and knowledge.

On page 5 Steve says Tassie depends on imports, including gardening books. Tasmanians need their own gardening book because climate and soil are so different from the rest of Australia. 

In the book he tries to reach all Tasmanian food gardeners: those with a farm, large food gardens, or small suburban plots.

If you are hoping for a glossy easy-to-read colourful book with great photos of sumptuous produce you will be disappointed.  The book is written for ‘people who want to know’ and many pages contain just text with the odd black-and-white diagram or drawing.

Compared to many food gardening books the quality and quantity of the information provided is high.  This is an information-dense book that shows how to grow nutrient-dense food.

Following an introduction, all aspects of food gardening are covered.  Basics, Soil, Composting, Garden Planning, Water, Seed, Raising Seedlings, Pests, and How To Grow are all given a chapter.  Individual vegetables and vegetable groups are also covered.

I particularly liked chapter 3 on Soil. I have used Steve's recipe for Complete Organic Fertiliser (COF), explained in this chapter, for many years.  In Tasmania the book has made Steve's COF the standard by which all COFs are measured.  You can buy ready-to-use COF at Hobart Kitchen Gardens (at Coles New Town on Saturdays Oct - Feb).  For more info click here.

A few years ago Steve gave permission to publish the COF recipe discussed in his book on the Food Garden Group blog.  You can find it here.

Steve Solomon has a lifetime of food gardening experience, both as a professional and home gardener, and it is great that he is happy to share his expertise with us.  Here and there in the book my emphasis would have been different.  For instance, in chapter 5 on water, my main focus would have been on using drip lines, not overhead irrigation.  I would also have mentioned wicking beds.

Chapter 6 is about seed: buying it, sowing it and saving it. Steve was a seed merchant before coming to Tasmania and his expertise on the subject is evident.  He praises and recommends two Tasmanian seed business: Southern Harvest in Hobart and Inspirations Garden Centre in Exeter.  

This book will be incredibly useful for food gardeners who take the time to study it.  Every chapter contains many helpful suggestions on many subjects.  In some cases Steve’s approach is non main-stream and thought provoking.

Growing Vegetables South of Australia can be purchased from Southern Harvest (Salamanca Market  opposite the Supreme Court on Saturdays) at a 25% discounted price of $20. You can also purchase it online from them here.  Hobart Book Shop (Salamanca Square) sells it for $25.

Thank you, Steve, for writing this book, and showing such dedication to making it even better every time it is reprinted!

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