Our Town Books Reviews: Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic GardeningRodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener
Edited by: Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara Ellis, and Ellen Phillips
Rodale Press. 707 pp. $24.95

We had a swing in our backyard maple tree when I was a child. I used to swing as high as I could and then leap off. I loved those moments of flying untethered through the air. Even more, though, I loved landing in my dad’s strawberry patch. I would eat a few sun-warmed ripe strawberries and hurry back to take off on another flight.

Childhood has changed. Happily, home-grown strawberries haven’t.

The strawberry patch was part of my father’s World War II Victory Garden. Throughout the 1940s, he studied his monthly issues of J.I. Rodale’s then-controversial Organic Farming and Gardening and planned his garden accordingly. I wish I still had those copies.

I do have the modern-day equivalent, however: a paperback copy of Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener. The name says it all. Well, almost all. Here are a few additional reasons to love this sturdy 700-page book:

  1. The print is large. Who wants to wear reading glasses while working in the garden?
  2. It’s thorough, yet readable and practical. It’s even conversational at times—“Galls can stump even the snappiest gardener.” I like the assumption that I’m a snappy gardener.
  3. Everything is alphabetized: B for Beans; K for Kohlrabi–my favorite vegetable; C for Composting. All very logical.
  4. Almost every page has lovely, accurate line drawings. The “Bean” section illustrates not just one but three staking methods for pole and runner beans. It includes bean “teepees” for children to play in.
  5. The author occasionally takes on the no-nonsense tone of someone who has been giving advice for a long time and does not expect to be argued with. In the Strawberry section, we are directed to be merciless with our plants and “Ruthlessly remove every runner…”

My father probably removed the runners from his strawberry plants.

Fortunately for me, he tolerated flying children.


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