Monday, September 20, 2010

Fresh reviews - Design your own orchard, by Kay Baxter

Growing food crops at home is a great way to get spray-free produce into your diet at a good price.

You can take the simple approach, by randomly planting fruit trees around the place and digging up a likely patch of soil for a vegetable garden. However, you'll get a much better result if you take the time to study your property and plan your garden out well, taking into account your soil, the elements, your climate and the types of plants you want to grow.

That's where books like Kay Baxter's Design your own orchard are invaluable. Kay is a tutor at New Zealand's Koanga Institute, where she takes workshops on everything from Biointensive Growing to Permaculture Design. She knows her stuff. So if you can't get down to one of her courses, reading a book by her is the next best thing.

If you've got a blank canvas to work with, Design your own orchard is an excellent resource to help you get started planning, preparing and planting your orchard and garden.

What I liked about it
  • Teaches you how to look at your property as a whole so you can plan a garden and orchard where all the parts work together rather than compete.
  • Explains how to prepare your ground for drainage.
  • Teaches you how to create an environment that plants and animals will thrive in, making the most of each plant's unique characteristics.
  • Explains how to organise your property to maximise your time and efficiencies.
  • Includes a fascinating chapter on the many uses for comfrey as well as many other helpful tips and hints for natural fertilisers and weed barriers.
  • Easy to read and concise.
  • Lots of examples from Kay's own experience setting up her property.
  • Comprehensive lists of plants that do well in New Zealand, including details on the type of environment they need.

What I didn't like about it
  • The pictures are black and white graphical drawings, so in some instances I couldn't understand them clearly. I would have loved to see some photographs of example gardens and orchards to really picture different planting techniques.
  • You'll probably get the most from this book if you have a large property, although there is still lots of information for the typical home gardener.

Where you can get it
The Koanga Institute's online shop sells all of Kay's books, as well as many other excellent resources. It is worth checking out.

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