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Book Review: Practical Organic Gardening

Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally

Written by Mark Highland

Published by Cool Springs Press, 2017

Reviewed by Rie Macchiarolo

Practical Organic Gardening is a great book for gardeners, farmers, and horticulturalists of all skill levels. In the first chapter author Mark Highland notes that while organic farming and organic gardening share many of the same concepts and principles, the scale is often quite different. This book is aimed at the backyard gardener who is interested in applying organic horticultural practices in a small-scale garden. Whether you’ve been gardening for years or just beginning to get your hands in the soil you’ll find great value in this 234-page colorful, information-packed, hardcover book.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is the way the author shows how many applications and techniques of organic gardening help to maintain healthy ecosystems. Most people drawn to this book are likely interested in growing and consuming organic fruits and vegetables but may not have a robust understanding of how organic practices do more than just create safer and healthier food. Highland talks about how growing with an organic framework in mind allows backyard gardeners to improve not only the quality of the food they consume, but also the quality of their yard, their home, their neighborhood, their region. Highland says, “Being organically minded means taking a whole-systems approach to everything in your life.” Shifting our thoughts and understanding to a whole-systems framework is necessary if we want to heal and regenerate our environment.

Highland organized this book into clear and distinct chapters, each with useful titles. Readers could certainly start at the beginning of the book and work their way through it from beginning to end. Because Highland identifies the chapters and sections well, it’s just as easy to search for something in particular. Do you want to learn more about how to maintain a healthy, organic lawn? Go straight to Chapter 11: “You CAN Have a Lawn…Organically.” Did you identify a garden pest and are you looking for an organic control solution? Check out the helpful chart in Chapter 7: “Fighting Pests and Diseases Naturally.” You’ll find an easy-to-digest explanation of the soil’s Cation Exchange Capacity in Chapter 2: “It All Begins with Soil.”

This book would make a great gift for a garden enthusiast and it would also be an excellent reference addition to any professional’s library. Each chapter offers an overview and contextual information to orient the reader to the chapter’s contents.  Whether novice or expert, you’ll find plenty of specific tips and best practices for how to plant a tree, set up an irrigation system, plan your garden, start seeds indoors, diagnose a disease, identify a pest, maintain a compost pile, and manage your lawn. If you are looking for a book that covers a range of organic growing topics in detail – this is an excellent choice.

About the Reviewer

Rie Macchiarolo’s enthusiasm for local food and native plants fuels their work as the landscape designer for Green City Growers, a Somerville-based urban farming company. Rie loves the work of designing, installing, and maintaining productive landscapes that incorporate vegetables, perennials, and native plants. Rie earned a Master of Science in Ecological Design from the Conway School and serves on the board of directors for the ELA.


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