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The Edible Backyard by Kath Irvine


A practical guide to growing organic fruit and vegetables all year round.


I’ve always been a great believer in the ability to grow a productive fruit and veg garden in a small space. Kath Irvine has been doing this for more than 20 years and she really does know what she’s talking about.


This is a New Zealand book for New Zealand conditions. It’s important to say that because how often have you read a gardening book only to find the seasons are all back to front? Kath grows her garden using the principles of organics and permaculture, where sustainability and self-sufficiency are key. Permaculture is becoming more widely respected lately, and it all makes a whole lot of sense.


The basis of a productive garden starts with a good initial design. This is covered at the beginning of the book. Take time to get to know the layout of your land, noting where the sun shines, and where it doesn’t, look at where the water flows. It’s all about taking the time to observe and learn. Don’t stress about your garden, but let it evolve over time. You will learn from your mistakes.


The book is written in a very chatty, friendly style, a bit like talking to your neighbour over the garden fence. There are plenty of handy tips on how to build up healthy soil, how to propagate seeds (and the best ones to use), dealing with pests (effectively) and diseases naturally (raw milk is great for fungal problems).


The month by month planner is very useful as it covers the veggie patch, the greenhouse and fruit trees. There is a great resource section at the end of the book which points readers in the right direction to get hold of the natural sprays, plants, and other useful advise for growing their own organic garden. Check out the ‘no-dig’ garden champion, Charles Dowding, for inspiration.


While the idea of a garden on this scale may seem daunting, the book is very inspiring for anyone wanting to become more self sufficient in terms of growing their own healthy food, knowing it is free of pesticides and herbicides.


In Kath’s words: “Life has you and your garden in its hands. Trust in it and it will steer you to Eden”


Reviewer: Rachel White

Published by Godwit