The Healthy Vegetable Garden
by Sally Morgan
Chelsea Green Publishing Co, £22
Books on growing your own produce often focus on vegetable and fruit cultivars, cultivation techniques and harvesting, but this title champions resilient and stable environments where vegetables thrive with minimal threat from pests, disease and climate change.
Morgan is editor of the Soil Association’s Organic Farming magazine, and her key to success is the creation of diverse habitats. She advocates healthy soils where nutrients are maximised using a chemical- free approach, and encourages growing vegetables alongside flowering plants to attract beneficial natural predators.
The first third of the book is devoted to garden soil. Morgan scrutinises soil content, from minerals and organic matter to the fascinating rhizosphere – an ecosystem where plant roots and organic matter create an environment to support soil life. There is information on soil pH, and a full chapter on soil regeneration. She champions the no-dig
technique, noting that although slower to warm up in spring, by summer no-dig soil is cooler and holds water better than soil that has been dug.
Chapters on pests and diseases touch on the impact of climate change. Temperature changes stress plants, making them susceptible to disease and pests. As an antidote to the latter, Morgan recommends techniques such as using beetle banks to encourage natural predators, and advises creating shelter for insects in winter. There is also advice on planting for diversity: choose the right plants to attract the predators, employ companion planting, or use barrier crops to reduce the number of airborne pests.
Manual-like in approach, this book makes up for a relative lack of glamour with rich, accessible information. It sends an important and inspiring message; if our gardens become diverse, healthy ecosystems, we are contributing to a healthier environment. And that has to benefit us all.