‘The Organic Gardener’ by Christine and Michael Lavelle – Book Review


Often we hear the word ‘organic’ vegetable at grocery stores or wet markets but can you really tell the difference if it’s not labelled? It seems to be a trending commercial branding, so I sourced around for materials to get a head start on the topic. The book, ‘The Organic Gardener’ by Christine and Michael Lavelle grabbed my attention as it certainly answers my quest for the meaning of the word ‘organic’ within the context of gardening, an idea of growing your own food.

The Organic Gardener

Book Description

There is a growing interest in producing fresh, healthy and chemical-free flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit, and this book applies organic principles to the whole garden, from preparing the soil, weeding and watering through to controlling pests, pruning and propagation.

Organic principles are applied to different types of garden – ornamental, wildlife and kitchen – showing how to plant flower beds, borders and ponds, how to create woodland gardens and wildflower lawns, and how to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit. There is also a section on plant health that discuses the best ways of using natural methods to deal with any pests and diseases that may occur, for example by creating suitable habitats for beneficial predators such as lacewings, wasps, hoverflies and frogs.

Whether starting an organic garden from scratch or applying organic principles to an existing garden, this book is filled with step-by-step information that will help you achieve your goal. Written by award-winning authors, it is a comprehensive guide packed with inspirational photographs and well-informed gardening service.

– A practical guide to natural gardens, showing how to apply organic principles to all aspects of garden planning, design and maintenance.

– Contain over 600 photographs, including illustrated step-by-step sequences to show how to achieve the best results in ornamental, wildlife and kitchen gardens.

– Covers all the basic techniques, including soil care, weeding, watering, feeding, growing under glass, pruning and propagation.


It’s a book that sheds light on the fundamental question of what is ‘organic gardening’ and how it can create flower, vegetable, herb and fruit gardens using completely natural techniques. The content is comprised of 8 chapters – (1) introduction, (2) soil and soil management, (3) basic techniques, (4) plant health, (5) the ornament garden, (6) the wildlife garden, (7) the kitchen garden and (8) calendar of care.

As you go chapter by chapter, the book systematically guides you to a broad understanding of ‘organic’ gardening. The aim of the book is to show that organic gardening is the best model in coexisting with the natural world as gardening is a necessity act of man for the purpose of growing food. It can be a challenging book to continue reading if you have no interest in the topic as certain chapters can be dry for some.

The ‘introduction’ sets the definition of the terms ‘organic’ and ‘organic gardening’, covers a brief history of how organic gardening came about in the twenty first century, explains what are the organic standards and examines whether the same sets of standards are practised in the same manner worldwide, explores the elements of a typical garden – its microclimates and the natural cycles of the elements and nutrients within the environment, introduced the need for a proper assessment of the growing conditions prevailing in your garden in order for you to choose the right plants for the right place in which catapult you to the next chapter about soil.

‘Soil and soil management’ highlights the importance of knowing the soil structure and chemistry. Sustaining the soil’s life and keeping the soil healthy using manure, garden compost and other sources of organic matter is the key to developing a successful organic garden and it lies in the careful management of soil.

‘Basic techniques’ touches on gardening techniques from weeding and feeding to pruning and propagation, creation of greenhouse environment (applies to countries with four seasons) and suggests ways to handle seedlings of warm-weather vegetables or flowers effectively for colder countries.

‘Plant Health’ is a chapter that concerns any gardener as it explains why plants get sick, exposing ways of preventing problems, covering areas from plant pests, diseases, disorders and suggesting beneficial predators and other control methods.

For the rest of the chapters, it explores areas related to ‘ornamental garden’, the ‘wildlife garden’ and the ‘kitchen garden’, suggesting various methods of caring and maintaining these types gardens, while ‘calendar of care’ in the last part of the book is only applicable to countries with four seasons whereby the authors made a list of recommendations on how to handle a garden throughout the year in order to enjoy bountiful fruitful yields.

In summary, it’s a book sufficiently useful in getting to know what is ‘organic’ gardening but it’s definitely not a book for beginners in gardening as the content did not have a comprehensive coverage. You may need to refer to more books to complement your understanding about ‘organic gardening’.

Click here to learn more about the book.

Extraction of the Book

Defining the terms ‘organic’ and ‘organic gardening’:

The term ‘organic’ means of living origin. Put it simply, it is about finding environmentally friendly ways to cultivate the land, working with rather than against nature. ‘Organic gardening’ refers not just to a system of techniques, however, but also to a whole philosophy of life.

A brief historical facts on how organic gardening came about in the twenty first century:

From the point of view of gardening, the ‘modern’ organic movement began in the late 1940s as a reaction to the increased use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the years after the Second World War.


much of the current interest in organic gardening began in the 1960s, when there was increasing concern about the growing levels of environmental damage caused by pesticides and other agrochemicals.

With this logic at hand,

if they were causing so much damage to the natural world, then surely they must ultimately affect human beings?


Christine and Michael Lavelle. The Organic Gardener (Wigston: Anness Publishing Ltd, 2004, 2011), 8

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