Preface

In 1992, my first book: Complete Organic Gardening was published to wide acclaim. There were some problems with this: it wasn't quite the book I had wanted to write, it was far from "complete" (no book ever can be), and my 50% share of the profits seemed a lot smaller than the 50% claimed by the publisher. So it goes... This book promises to be much closer to what I wanted to write, though that too has changed over the intervening years. Mainly it's content is stuff that The Git found useful, but scattered through many books. Having it all in the one place is useful.

Characters in this book

One of the difficulties of writing about personal experiences and thoughts is the perpendicular pronoun: "I". Allan Moult, the editor who guided my early writing efforts was quite fierce about eliminating every possible occurrence of the perpendicular pronoun and my gratitude to him on this account is immense. On the other hand, it can be quite difficult to achieve. One way out of the difficulty is to invent an alter ego, hence The Pompous Git.

The original Pompous Git was Stuart Littlemore, an Australian lawyer/journalist who started a weekly broadcast on ABC Television called Media Watch. The program revealed examples of blatant media bias, plagiarism and outright dishonesty and became a must-see while Stuart remained at the helm. Sadly, it's but a shadow of its former glory and nowhere near as compulsive. Like Stuart Littlemore, I have a passion for honesty, accuracy and attribution.

Another passionate advocate, this time of justice, is John Mortimer's character: Rumpole of the Bailey. Culturally impoverished Americans be aware that John Mortimer's books should be available to you, even if the excellent TV series starring the Australian actor, Leo McKern are not. Rumpole refers to his wife as She Who Must Be Obeyed, pronounced in a suitably reverential tone. Hence, my good wife, Marguerite, makes her appearances here under the acronym SWMBO and occasionally Mrs Git.

About this book

It's a fact of the writer's life that the enjoyable part is everything that comes before writing down one's thoughts. Some trains of thought compel one to write -- it's almost as if the piece writes itself. The hard part is writing all the bits in between to knit everything together into a coherent whole. Hardest of all is the reading and rereading to eliminate as far as possible misunderstanding and if at all possible simplify the language to ease understanding.

This book undoubtedly suffers from various parts having been written at different times and for different reasons. To a degree, I have quite given up on making it a coherent whole and beg your forgiveness for that. It seemed to me that the final stage, polishing for clarity, was more important. That is a task that can never be complete, so if you have any suggestions in that regard, please feel free to contact me. One of the advantages of a book in electronic form is that it can be quickly adapted to incorporate improvements and additions.

Mostly, I write about my personal experiences, rather than at second hand. Where I do write about others, it's generally because it relates to thoughts I have had, or am having. In a word, this book is intensely personal. It also tends to ramble because topics that seem quite unrelated to the specialist seem to me quite the opposite. This will either annoy the hell out of you, in which case be grateful you didn't waste your money, or you will find it entertaining and challenging, as do the regular readers of my Internet website.

Jonathan Sturm 24 December 2002.

Introduction

In 1983, Boney, the local publican offered The Git as much beer as he cared to drink while Boney ate a nine-litre bucket of The Git's fresh garden peas. Now Boney is a connoisseur of peas. He pointed out that not only were they the finest peas he had ever tasted, the pods were all full, with every pea full size. Not only that, there were an extra two peas in every pod.

Consumed with curiosity, The Git visited the next-door neighbour's garden, some 50 metres from his first ever garden. The neighbour and his farm workers were harvesting peas. While chatting to them, The Git grabbed a few pods and ate the peas. Sure enough, Boney was right. My neighbour's peas were bland compared to mine. They were starchier and less sweet. The Git enquired as to the variety; they were the same as The Git was growing. He then asked where the pea seed had been bought; the same store. Finally came the crucial question; what had they been manured with?

The reply was 8:4:10 - orchard fertiliser. The peas Boney liked so much had been grown with the neighbour's cow manure!

In two decades of farming and gardening, the only material The Git has used not permitted under the official organic guidelines is the herbicide, glyphosate. The reason for growing organically has nothing to do with fear of chemicals. Rather, it was initially poverty and later, because organics was working so much better than conventional.

There is a myth that organic production levels are necessarily much lower than when using artificial fertilisers and that organic fertilisers are more expensive. The Git's experience and that of many other growers frequently do not support these assertions.

It is important to realise that the two systems are 95% the same. Most of the remaining 5% of differences are in the grower's attitude toward the soil. Organics is not merely the substitution of a natural material where a synthetic material is usually used. Plants use several methods of providing for their nutritional needs. One is to obtain them from water-soluble minerals, (usually chemically processed commercial fertiliser). Another is to obtain them from insoluble minerals -- soil microbes render the nutrients available to plants. The minerals may already be there, usually in the form of silt, or may have been placed there as crushed rocks by the gardener, or farmer. Yet another source of plant nutrients are the decaying remains of plants, and/or animal manure.

It is worth pointing out that it is not only organic proponents who believe avoiding excessive amounts of water-soluble mineral fertilisers is superior. Water-soluble fertilisers generally lead to increased pest and disease problems requiring ever more potent biocides for their control, along with increased soil erosion as soil organic matter declines. Reducing their use, or avoiding them altogether increases the plants' natural resistance to pests and disease. Eliminating water-soluble fertiliser only works in soil with an abundance of organic matter and living organisms. Such a soil is easier to till, drains better, holds more moisture and is less prone to erosion.

The purpose of this book is to provide the practical information to be a successful organic gardener. To be a successful small-scale market gardener requires not just hard manual labour, but also a sound grasp of management principles, economics, marketing, organisation, decision-making and biology. You also need enthusiasm, self-discipline and a high level of motivation. The Git will attempt to touch on all these topics at various points throughout the book.

Using this Book

Electronic books have one huge advantage over conventional books -- hypertext. Wherever you see coloured, underlined text, clicking on it with the mouse will take you to the reference. Clicking a chapter, or subsection title in the Table of Contents for instance, will take you to the named Chapter, or subsection.

The HTML version of this book is written to comply with the HTML 4.01 standard and will therefore render in a wide variety of Internet web browsers.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am extremely grateful to a number of people for making this book possible:

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Jonathan Sturm 2003 - 2011

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