So we’re sitting at the kitchen table, planning our market garden with Joyce and Mike from Allsun Farm, and Joyce suddenly looks at me sharply: “you’ve seen our vegetable growing CD ROM, haven’t you?” Erm, no?
With forewords by Eliot Coleman (international edition) and Peter Cundall (Australian edition), I’m not quite sure why I’ve only just come across this comprehensive resource. It’s Allsun’s self-published guide to growing vegetables, covering everything from tools and planning through vegetable varieties and harvesting. Wow.
Growing Annual Vegetables is a great example of truly and deeply useful information. I think it’s the only CD-ROM I own, but it will be getting a workout at Milkwood this year, that I know.
It’s also nice to have a really comprehensive resource I can use on my computer (where I’m doing most of my garden planning) that does not rely on an internet connection. Best of all, the information within is extremely good, honest, plainly laid out and understandable, and blisteringly comprehensive.
As it uses html, there’s plenty of live links in the manual and you can scoot around putting the pieces together that you need, to get the comprehension you require on, say, cabbages. Or irrigation. Or pest management.
The manual has comprehensively layered entries on planing / tools / feeding the soil / preparing the ground / irrigation / planting / weed and pest management / covered cropping / harvesting / marketing and of course vegetables by variety A-Z. Whew.
Within each vegetable variety there is a drop-down containing introduction (with everything you need to know about that vegetable) followed by planting / growing / harvesting. For crops with more steps in the chain (tomatoes need stringing, for example), all stages are clearly explained with lots of photographic examples and thorough text.
And if that’s not enough, you can click to re-organise the whole thing via index view, if you want to just straight to chooks as a tool / source of manure, for example.
Once you’re growing vegetables on a community scale, there’s a lot to think about. Especially if you’re trying to grow ALL your vegetables. Every variety needs a separate plan with many steps, and each variety has different needs in terms of nutrients, management and everything else.
This CD-ROM is also a great resource because it allows you to get creative with your plantings, trying out intercropping, undercropping and other complimentary techniques, because what each variety needs is defined. The elements are there. Go forth and design a rockin’ permaculture market garden, full of complex interrelationships.
This is the sort of manual that could easily get very confusing (or turn into a less than sharp object) very quickly. Happily both Joyce and Michael have backgrounds in earth sciences and they are highly organized people when it comes to sharing information. Lucky for the rest of us.
What I like best about this CD-ROM though is that it reflects Allsun’s campesina organic attitude. They’re managing and regenerating their soil’s nutrients with animals, biodiversity and compost – there’s no alliances with commercial inputs or larger bodies. It’s just growing good food, for real, for their community, for all the right reasons.
And the way they share their knowledge in this manual reflects that. But hey, don’t take it from me – take it away, Peter:
Joyce Wilkie and Michael Plane are Australian pioneers of organic growing using modern techniques. They do it because they have long recognised the need to grow things, especially food crops, without the use of poisons and harsh, disruptive chemical fertilisers. This makes them idealists, but not the unreal, starry-eyed idealists once so common during the early days of the organic growing movement. Joyce and Michael have learned things the hard way, by practical, down-to-earth experience, experimentation and years of hard work. They have learned how to manage, enrich and work difficult soils in a climate that fluctuates between a bitterly cold winter and a hot, extremely dry summer.
In this remarkable and valuable CD-ROM they go into great detail, by means of extensive photographs and graphics, to describe their methods of feeding the soil, the tools they use and how they have overcome major obstacles to achieve outstanding success in their large commercial, organic market garden. This is a perfect guide to action to anyone just starting to create their own organic garden, to any of the rapidly increasing community gardeners or to anyone wanting to set up community supported agriculture in most parts of Australia. – Peter Cundall, 2004
>> Growing Annual Vegetables – a photographic growing manual for gardeners – includes a preview, and an option to give a kick-back if you burn yourself a copy from someone else’s CD-ROM also.
This CD-ROM is also an included classroom resource for the organic market garden workshops we’re running with Joyce and Michael at Milkwood Farm.