The reluctant gardener

By | September 27, 2010

This is the title of probably my favourite book on gardening.  I was fortunate to inherit it from my mother-in-law.  It’s sadly out of print but it can be bought second hand via the good offices of Amazon. Follow this link.

Ethelind Fearon was a farmer’s wife in essex and ran a 4.5 acre Market Garden in the 1950s. She is of course not reluctant at all but she revels in how to garden with nature instead of against it. How to do less and accomplish more. She would probably never have heard of the principle of least action – but the whole book could be a sermon on it. There’s more wisdom in its 120 pages than in most of the other books in my study. And she writes so beautifully. Here she is on natural predators vs Spraying.

“In any case I personally am not one for strife and alot of warfare with sprayguns and insecticides – sprays which poison good and bad insects indiscriminately and a special new and very good kind that is toxic to humans as well.

Which all sounds very up-to-date and suitable for an atomic age, but I prefer to stand aside and on seeing a pest introduce it to another pest and leave them to fight it out.

It is also an unfortunate fact that insects are developing a resistance to the popular DDT. But I never yet knew an aphis which was resistant to a ladybird.

She covers all the bases of mulching, minimum digging, and growing the right crop in the right place – all written from the perspective of an intelligent middle class woman of 1954.

She is so much in the spirit of what I wanted to do with the Intelligent Garden that I have really only one thing to say.

Beg steal borrow or buy this book. You won’t regret it.

3 thoughts on “The reluctant gardener

  1. Gregory L. Smith

    I have seen this book in my Mother’s home. We used to buy Mantis Eggcases so that they could feed on the Aphids and other bettle problems we have had. Squash bettles are a particularly damaging group, and you have to be fast at getting in from of that group, as they can deforrest a cucumber vine within a few hours or at least within a day or two. I do not raise many vegetables, but I do resent the red mites and the tree drill experts, the borer bettles! They have killed some of my favorite trees and the evidence of their presence as larve is obvious by the round holes drilled and babies deposited in those holes! It is a hard group to kill except by attracting Woodpeckers in the spring with seed and with good options for nesting…I wish we knew more about bacterial aides, since they also work well in eliminating some pests in just a day or two, themselves! Some are fungi, that can be dusted onto their backs and that is all it takes. Just as long as the fungi isn’t too undescriminating and then proceeds to eat green plants! Thanks for the link and for the advice!
    I honestly think we should create the same idea for humans, an Intelligent Garden restaurant, where smart people could congregate and talk about their passions and share tips about their past problems that were solved…In so doing, we advance the efforts of many generations and have good food together as well!

  2. Rodney Keeble

    I find it odd that Ethelind Fear on was running a market garden in the 1950s as I get the impression that in the 1950s she was running her guesthouse in Cannes then. One gets the impression from the fact that she is there when the fifth republic came about in the mid 1950s. She also wrote a very good book called’The Making of a Garden’ published in 1948 by Macdonald, London. 383pp.

  3. James Kynge

    I just discovered this book, also left to us via my mother-in-law. I am in awe of how “modern” Ethelind was in her thinking, especially in that she treats the garden as a self-regulating eco-system. She would never use such mumbo-jumbo to describe her thinking, but this is what it amounts to. Her writing is superb – by turns hilarious, brisk, self-depreciating and always elegant. I do not know much about her, but my view is that this book is a mini-classic.

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