The Organic Gardener


“The glory of gardening is hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” 

Alfred Austin 



Gardening became a soulful activity for me years ago.  One that connected me with the earth and kept me true to my principles of doing no harm.  And when I made a conscious effort to garden organically without chemicals, this idea of doing no harm was further solidified.  

And of course I needed to find lots of resources to learn how to effectively garden organically.  The book I am reviewing here was one of the first resources I bought to help me get started.  It was a couple of years later that I started to realize that gardening organically would bring in wildlife, and that was when I shifted a bit to focus more on wildlife gardening by adding more native plants.




The Organic Gardener: How to create vegetable, fruit and herb gardens using completely organic techniques


org gardener 


Author:  Christine Lavelle  and Michael Lavelle 

Paperback:  160 pages

Publisher:   Anness (October 16, 2011)

Amazon Price:  $15.97 (Hardcover)







In A Few Words

Besides an introduction to organic gardening, the authors detail the basics of organic soil management, organic gardening techniques such as weeding, watering, feeding, pruning and propagating as well as plant health.  Then they provide the steps for building an organic ornamental, wildlife and kitchen garden including a calendar to help the gardener know DSCN3926when to perform specific chores.

In the ornamental garden section the authors provide information on how to build and maintain an organic lawn.  I hope to test many of these techniques for the lawn we have left.  It needs a bit of extra care after being neglected the last couple of years.  The authors go into caring for the obvious woody plants and beds with a few planting plans, and they also include container gardening techniques and how to make your own organic container potting mix.  I can always use more help with my containers that seem to be less than stellar in their blooming performance.

Of even greater interest to me though is the wildlife garden section.  As I have already begun my own wildlife garden, I was interested to see what information they provided.  There are specifics for creating a woodland garden, sowing wildlflowers in your lawn, and how to create a wildlife pond.  I was pleased to see included here a section on providing wildlife shelter and how to attract wildlife with DSCN1851plants a detailed section of the top 20 plants to use to attract wildlife showing the wildlife the specific plant attracts and its benefit to the garden.

Finally the kitchen garden section provides a simple diamond shaped plan for planting a veg garden that can easily be adapted to crop rotation.  Companion planting, different growing methods, succession planting, different methods of sowing seed, aftercare of veggies, herb gardening and harvesting and growing fruit are included here.  This is a very comprehensive beginning guide to veg gardening.




What I Liked

I have begun to notice I am partial to concise, comprehensive garden books that give a plethora of information.  And this book easily fits that description.  It is perfect for many gardeners whether you are just starting as a gardener or you have just begun organic gardening.  Simple references in each section can help in a pinch too.  

For instance in the Kitchen garden section there is a handy chart for companion planting that helps when you are planning your DSCN3219garden.  And another chart showing which veggies are easy to use for succession planting throughout the season.  A chart I just recently discovered was the one on catch cropping or planting in spaces where a crop was recently harvested, and intercropping or planting faster growing crops between slow growing crops.  I only have so much space so I am always looking for ways to increase my harvest.

I have been gardening organically for a few years now, and I still refer to this book for an easy reference to basic information.  I especially like the Plant Health section as it provides loads of info all in one place on pests, diseases, disorders and beneficial/biological controls.  Again there are several charts with pictures of these pests, diseases and plants at risk for the problem, with the causes and treatments included. 




Not So Much

DSCN2597This book is written by authors from the UK.  While on the surface one might think that would limit parts of the book, it doesn’t.  This book was carefully written to be useful in the US, UK, Canada and Europe.  For instance the measurements used are in metric and US units, and vegetables that may have different names have both listed (ex:  Rocket or Arugula).

One word of caution is in the section on wildlife gardening.  One of the authors, Michael Lavelle, is an environmentalist and is trained in landscaping and environmental management which is one reason this section is very detailed with great information including best plants to plant.  Of course you will need to look at these plants carefully as some may not be hardy for your planting zone or they may not be native to your area.  Many though are native to a large majority of the US.




Final Thoughts

I really like this book as you can read just the sections that might interest you or those where you may be seeking assistance.  They are written in an easy to read manner even with some of the technical subject matter.  I also really enjoyed the detailed DSCN4119step-by-step instructions with some 600 wonderful garden images to help clarify methods and points of information.  And if you ever wanted to understand good gardening and good organic gardening methods this is a resource I would recommend.




Do you garden organically or have you considered it?  Do you have a favorite organic gardening book to recommend to others?


There is still time to join me in celebrating the new season coming soon to your part of the world.  

Just write a post between now and September 21st.   Leave a link with your comment on the kick-off post of Seasonal Celebrations-Autumn’s Blessings.  I will include your link in my summary post on September 22nd.  


I am collaborating with Beth@Plant Postings and her Lessons Learned meme at this same time.  What lessons have you learned this past season of summer here in the North and winter in the South.  Write a separate post or combine your lessons with your celebrations in one post.


Visit my new blog: 

new blog logo

I wanted to thank all the wonderful people who visited me last Thursday and this past Sunday as I continued to post at my new blog, Living From Happiness.  It is a blog to celebrate life, lessons, change, challenges and creativity.

I do hope you will join me there.  

There will be a new post again this Thursday.



Next up on the blog:  Monday brings another In A Vase On Monday post, and Wednesday I will have another profile of a favorite native plant/shrub.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.




  1. Julie says:

    An interesting review Donna, I have become quite frustrated by gardening books and some of the dumbed down text and beautiful photographs. Reviews are so helpful. An old book which I would recommend but its by an author over here is Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Bible – successful gardening the natural way. He is our Organic guru over here, and its aimed at the UK market but the principles are very transferable and his depth of knowledge and advice inspiring. He is very much connected to the earth.

    • Donna says:

      When I bought the book Julie I did not notice the authors were from the UK which I didn’t think would make a difference and it didn’t. And while we have many books and authors here dealing with organic gardening, you have to buy lots of books and search out info. That was why I really liked this book as they put the important info in one book to use, and I found them very knowledgeable.

      I will look into your recommendation Julie! I agree the advice and info is very transferable.

  2. Christina says:

    I can confirm Julie’s comment above. Bob Flowerdew (what an amazing name for a gardener and it is his real name) is a fantastic advocate for organic gardening. He writes and speaks from experience and has been an organic gardener long before it was fashionable to be so. I would suggest you try to read some of his books; there is also one on companion planting which I often refer to.

  3. Dorothy says:

    Thank you for recommending that book. It sounds like an excellent one to have in the home gardening library. One book that was very useful to me for understanding soil life was “Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis It was interesting to learn about all the life that makes up a healthy soil.

    • Donna says:

      I agree about Teaming With Microbes…it was one of the first books I read and I did a mini review about 3 years ago. I learned so much about my soil. Thanks for the reminder Dorothy.

  4. Beth @ PlantPostings says:

    I have that book, too. It’s a good one. I thought some of the sections were more geared toward new gardeners, but it’s a great resource for beginners and a good refresher for those who’ve been organic gardening for a while.

    • Donna says:

      Absolutely Jen…we grow some big bugs here too and there are but a couple of organic farmers in the whole central NY area which is why I grow my own organic veggies and flowers.

  5. nicole says:

    I would like to read this one! We use no chemicals in our space at all. Our lawn suffers a bit so I think I would benefit from the lawn section in this book. With young kids and one child with serious allergies I have read many books about organic gardening and have been very passionate about not using chemicals in our environment for us and for the wildlife. Thank you for passing this one along friend! Nicole xo

    • Donna says:

      Glad you enjoyed the book review Nicole. I also need to work on our lawn a bit. I have another organic lawn book I will look into and let you know if it is any good.

  6. Cathy says:

    That sounds like a good book Donna – thanks for the information. Organic gardening has not had much press here in Germany; it seems people separate in their minds the natural environment (which they respect and they buy a lot of organic produce here) from their own garden where they still use slug pellets or insecticides.

    • Donna says:

      Interesting Cathy. I suspect we have quite a bit of the same mentality here… and we are finally seeing more demand for organics and I think more who grow their own are turning to organic methods.

  7. Chloris says:

    This certainly sounds like a book to look out for. Thank you for a great book review. I hadn’ t heard about this one. As other people have mentioned, Bob Flowerdew is the organic veg growing guru here. But it is always useful to learn about other books on the subject.

    • Donna says:

      So glad you enjoyed it Chloris. I agree I love to learn about other books so I did purchase a couple of Flowerdew’s books thanks to all of you who recommended him. I am sure I will be reviewing those in the near future.

  8. Jane Scorer says:

    I know what you mean about the seasonal connection Donna. It is so timeless, and I love that feeling of being part of the annual cycle that our ancestors followed too. I try to garden organically, but occasionally fall off the wagon! 🙁
    Bob Flowerdew truly is the uk uncrowned Prince of Organics , as others have said!!

    • Donna says:

      It is marvelous Jane to feel part of that cycle. And we can only just keep trying to garden organically. I did buy a couple of Flowerdew’s books based on so many of the recommendations here so thanks!

  9. Villroses hage says:

    A beautiful picture! It is important to (try to) contribute to a healthy gardening. We can buy oganic seeds, use organic fertilizer etc. I love to grow tomatoes, beans and everything possible to know what we eat…

  10. Helene says:

    Thanks for the review Donna, I try my best to garden as organically as I can and the last few years I have been especially into companion planting. My container tomatoes grow together with basil and chives, which has meant I have not seen a single unwelcome insect on them. But there is always more to learn so I appreciate all useful tips and tricks.

    • Donna says:

      You are a treasure Helene. I love learning so much more about your garden and gardening techniques. I also do a lot of companion planting. My veg garden thrives on it. I plant marigolds, basil and this year dill volunteered in the bed too.

  11. Pam's English Garden says:

    Another excellent review, Donna! As an organic gardener I have two books I refer to: “Organic Gardening: An Essential Guide to Natural Gardening” by Christine and Michael Lavelle and “Organic Gardening: The Natural No-dig Way” by Charles Dowding. Both books are from England where Dowding is a very respected vegetable grower. As you say, some parts don’t apply to the American gardener, such as my favorite piece of advice under “supporting beneficial wildlife” which is to encourage hedgehogs into the garden. Oh, how I miss hedgehogs! My go-to source for essential information is Rodale’s “Organic Gardener” magazine. I am devastated that this will no longer exist after March, 2015 … very nervous about the content of its replacement. P. x

    • Donna says:

      Pam, I have heard of both and it is great to know of a couple more sources. I adore seeing pictures of hedgehogs. I would love them in my garden, and I would replace the voles and squirrels with hedgehogs.

      I had not heard about the magazine that I also subscribe to…will have to see if the new one will fill my needs. I hope they will offer some free issues.

  12. Nadezda says:

    Interesting book, Donna and I think it’s very useful for organic gardeners. I’m not fan of organic but when I see some plant diseases in my garden I prefer use some natural treatments and not chemistry.

  13. Jason says:

    I garden almost organically, I do occasionally use a herbicide or chemical fertilizer, but that is pretty rare. This looks like a good book.

  14. Hannah says:

    I’ve been a organic gardener for most of my gardening experience, it can be tough to find solutions to some pest problems. Lately I’ve been into glacial rock dust or ground lava dust. Good book review.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks and I agree Hannah it is hard sometimes to find solutions. Lava dust and glacial rock dust both sound interesting… I have not heard much about these so I will need to look them up.

  15. Hannah says:

    I get Glacial Rock Dust from a natural feed and agricultural suppy store, but I get Lava Rock dust from Azure Standard, a natural foods and stuff store in Oregon that ships to drops up and down the West coast by truck. I suppose lots of store must carry them.

  16. Hannah says:

    My vegetables grow bigger with the rock dust. One tomato variety that had been a wimpy little 3′ vine turned into a 6′ hefty vine with lots of fruits after I used the lava/ rock dust on it. I also use it when transplanting ornamental seedlings and it seems to usually have a good impact on them. I haven’t done side by side comparisons.

  17. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Sounds like a good resource Donna, I particularly like the sound of the charts, I have several excellent veg growing books, mostly organic, but I sometimes find it hard to quickly find the information I need.

Comments are closed.