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Posts Tagged ‘organic gardening’

Beyond Organics is all about gardens and ecology – why we need to bring nature conservation into our gardening and how to do that. I wrote it because I felt that organic gardening needed to develop a more deeply ecological set of values which recognises that gardens are part of their local ecosystem and should be managed with that in mind. I realised that some organic gardening techniques can be environmentally damaging – for example, the run off from excessive use of organic fertilisers next to waterways or natural bush can encourage weed infestations. Inappropriate planting choices require high inputs of nutrient and water and may give little back to the environment – such as growing hybrid roses in a humid climate with poor soils.

The idea behind Beyond Organics is to minimise the inputs to a garden and maximise the positive contribution it makes to the environment – this might be about local biodiversity, planting for birds and insects, avoiding plants that have been harvested from the natural environment and growing your own food to reduce food miles.

There is a short history of gardening through the ages and in different cultures, bringing us to the question of what is appropriate gardening in these times of ecological crisis? Historical horticultural sins are exposed – the mass clearing of orchid populations in South America during the Victorian orchid craze and more recently, the decimation of Turkish hillsides by the harvesting of bulbs such as cyclamen for the European bulb markets and the taking of mature cacti and succulents from delicate desert ecosystems in North America for ‘instant’ gardens.

My highly respected friend and accomplice, Peter Cundall, wrote the foreword and did me the honour of launching the book at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart in 2005.

My beautiful book, Beyond Organic

Here’s what he thought of Beyond Organics

Extracted from foreword…

Beyond Organics is the book that had to be written and Helen Cushing has done a brilliant job. She goes outside the garden, yet still links our gardening activities with the natural environment. Every organic garden, although healthy, different and seemingly quite separate, is still a vital part of a world environment which is clearly deteriorating rapidly. In short, we can’t have one without the other and there is no such thing as a garden in isolation…

‘Beyond Organics’ is a powerful call to action. The message of this book is quite clear. We can no longer ignore the fact that our gardens are part of a natural world. The spread of organic growing methods has been inspiring. Now let’s take the next vital step and start gardening ecologically too.”

Beyond Organics launch. See anyone you know?

Here are some good bits from reviews:

From: The Weekend Australian 2/7/05 Review by Christopher  Bantick

“Those looking for a book that extols the virtues of gardening organically will find something here that goes much further: it is not so much about how to garden as one that asks why many people garden with environmentally compromising habits. She offers a philosophy of the primacy of working with the environment rather than gardening for fashionable effect by taking “caring gardeners beyond organics and into a deeper ecology of gardening.” Integral to this is the awareness that the kind of gardening we may do could be unhelpful for the wellbeing of the planet.”

From: Good Reading Magazine (print and online)

http://goodreadingmagazine.com.au/index.cfm?pg=BookDetail&ISBN=0733315755

The Good Reading Magazine gave Beyond Organics a five star (outstanding) rating in its June 2005 issue.

In the reviewers words, “This is a very generous book, infused with warmth and sense of purpose – it deserves a place on every bookshelf in the country.”

From: http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/ ecological-gardening.html

‘When we begin to think of the combined size of gardens, rather than individual size, new possibilities begin to emerge in terms of their ecological role.’

This is a quote from my new favourite book “Beyond Organics: Gardening for the Future” by Helen Cushing.

Cushing goes on to describe ways to do this by creating natural habitat for the birds, insects and small animals that are native to your area. Building up the soil to create a vibrant ecosystem that will naturally thrive and survive while natural habitats are being wiped out… the concepts really smacked me between the eyes. It’s worth considering gardening ecologically. (end extract)

in action giving a talk about choosing flowers that support biodiversity

So, if you want to read the whole thing, let me know! It costs AUD$25 from me ($29.95 RRP). Postage in Australia is another $5. Elsewhere it’s more. You can pay into my Helen Cushing Paypal account or ask for my banking info to pay that way. I’ll go away now and figure out how to put a paypal button on the blog…

Have tried and so far failed to put PayPal button into blog. Some technical hitch… So in the meantime, write to me if you want to buy the book and we’ll make a plan.

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Somehow it’s already the 1st of July and in Tasmania that means DEEP WINTER. The garden is mostly dozing, although some wonderful self-sown things are coming up in masses. Namely, some obscure greens I picked up from the herb lady at Salamanca market last spring. One is called Miner’s Lettuce, which our always helpful friend Wikipedia tells me  is Claytonia perfoliata, also known as winter purslane. It has most delightful round leaves and tastes green and earthy. I let it go to seed, as I do so often, and as autumn fell into winter, a million green dots came through. I left them of course, just in case they were friends and edible friends at that. Sure enough, I can now go with my scissors and snip masses of the wee cotyledon sprouts, like mowing a lawn with snippers. Elsewhere they are growing with more room, and so becoming shapely and wide armed, though tiny arms of course.

Meanwhile across the way in another bed the healthiest crop of corn salad is glowing from the soil, such deep green glossy and perfectly formed beautiful leaves, and next to it, land cress is taking over, no need for flowing streams of water cress, though of course, that would be divine. The rocket is also bursting out of the ground wherever it can, keeping me supplied with peppery sprigs. There are still dandelions to keep me extra healthy, and lo, the nasturtium rounds of course! All these kindly leaves are there for the picking, with no effort from me, just as the parsely, chives and other standbys are really finished. Sometimes it’s worth doing nothing much. Let the seeds fall, and let the seeds grow. Nature understands itself much better than we do.

The garlic is also spearing through the surface, as are old faithful broadbeans. I am having fun with new beds as I have a fab new fence which I neglected to tell you about. It’s amazing construction was one of the things that kept me preoccupied outside and away from this blog. My fab new fence means that I am inspired to keep its lovely boundary lines clear and the best way to do it is with gardens, so in they go. More landscaping is underway, with rocks and sleepers and helpers.

A  little Eucalpytus leuhmanii is planted just above Charlotte. Charlotte’s nest is now underground, she died in April. The tree is a special one, it was a birthday gift, and now it is a memory tree. She grows well, and Charlotte rests well. I posted photos of her on Facebook, so that’s where you’ll see her.

Another tree planted this winter is a fig – took the cutting from the other fig, which has had misfortunes but was also a gift a few years ago. And a new border is at the front of the property, edged with marvellous rustic bits of the old fence. Look out for bits of the old fence everywhere, including in the fire that burns us warm inside these winter days and nights. Will do photos that show these things shortly. The new border was a great effort of mine, a great frenzied effort of dividing and digging and watering the holes and planting the divisions, all the way along the street edge. The name of the plant escapes me, it’s one that always does. Gets a starry blue flower followed by blue berries arranged along an arching and slender stem, it’s a native plant with clumping abundant leaves and it’s name is… tell you next time.

Now it’s me that dozes, have had a long and productive day working up an idea that maybe one day I’ll be able to report to you happily about! It’s a garden thing, and a writing thing, so it’s allowed on this blog.

Subha ratri – that’s Nepali for good night xxx.

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Nasturtium peaking through the palings...

If you have nasturtiums in your garden, you will know what I mean when I say they are a plant requiring a relationship with their gardener.

I am a great fan of the nasturtium, but let’s just say they regularly test the friendship. They are a sort of teenage plant – lots of life, energy and beauty, but unsure of their boundaries. Or perhaps more accurately, uninterested in their boundaries.

It’s my fault, I know. I planted them in the first place. Just like I had babies in the first place, before I had teenagers. I wanted them (the nasturtiums that is) to fill empty corners with their brightness, to ramble eagerly and a little carelessly over edges and up bare walls, to spread, inhibition-free, under the canopy of fruit trees. They have done all that I wanted. But when my back is turned, they can’t resist a bit of creativity. As with teenagers, my back is turned too often.

On the move...

The garden shed for example. The gap under the door is a bit big. The long-armed, sun-loving nasturtiums like to explore (like teenagers, I hear you think). In under the door they slide, feel their way in the dark, careless now of the sun-loving label, and make their stealthy way up the bench to check out all the tools that need putting away. Higher and higher they reach, somehow finding support, somehow living on darkness, though they grow pale and dull in there, like teenagers on too much night-life. When finally found out, they look repentantly sick.

There is another patch by the veggie bed. As an organic gardener and nature conservationist I believe in having a ‘living mulch’, maximising the habitat, protecting the soil, growing biomass etc – I’m sure you know the reasons. But as with teenagers, so with living mulch/nasturtium. The relationship must be interactive to achieve best results. Neglect means loss of influence (otherwise known as control), blurred boundaries, the need for a firm hand at a later date. Recovering the veggie garden from the enthusiasm of nasturtiums is more an act of archaeology than gardening.

Perhaps under the fruit trees is the best place for our teenage nasturtiums. They can burst out zealously in all directions, lounge around, be a living mulch par excellence, attract the buzzing bees to their abundant nectar and be unceremoniously clipped by the passing blades of the buzzing lawnmower every so often. I can pick their flowers for salads, their leaves for chopping onto scrambled eggs and pull their soft stems back from the tree trunk as I pass.

Nasturtiums again... taking over....

It is a relationship I know I will never perfect but will continue to enjoy and indulge. There are so many charming things about this cheerful, easy-going plant. I couldn’t bear to grow them in a straitjacket. Better to let them take their own form, find their own way as you keep half a loving eye on them and administer occasional discipline. Just like… teenagers.

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