Cleaning out my parents’ bookshelves, I came across the most beautiful set of gardening books. Rodale Press, Rockwell and Grayson, the BBC – these are the gardening greats! I dove in, eager for tips and tricks on the best tomatoes, the most delicious carrots, and the biggest pumpkins (Halloween is a big deal in this house).
What I found, though, was not lists of best practices, or graphs and charts. There were not even that many illustrations. Instead, I found pure and inspirational prose dedicated to the love of gardening. These authors are fearless in their battlecry for everyone to pick up a spade, specifically for organic gardening. In this excerpt, from a chapter called Life After Picking, if feels very much like the fruits of the garden are characters in a novel:
If it seems odd to you to talk about how vegetables breath, you probably have plenty of company. It’s commonly assumed, after all, that fruits and vegetables are no longer alive when they’re removed from the plant that produced them. Vegetables and fruits continue to live, however, even after they’re picked. The foods you bring in from the garden are still breathing while you hold them in your hands. If you’re counting on those foods to nourish you over the winter, then, it might be a good idea to consider how their continued respiration affects their keeping and eating qualities, and what you can do to control their life processes. – Mike and Nancy Bubel, Root Cellaring, 1979
Others are more direct, willing every gardener in the country to abide by the organic way of gardening. Here, from 1955, is an except from Rodale. Feel his enthusiasm as he writes!
Organiculture is a vigorous and growing movement, in that is destined to alter our concepts of the garden and the farm and to revolutionize our methods of operating them in order to secure for ourselves more abundant and more perfect food. The seed sown by Sir Albert Howard, the great pioneer in organic farming, is beginning to bloom lustily and with such vim that it is already thriving and propagating by its own strength. J.I. Rodale, Organic Gardening, 1953
Reading these books, they read like stories. Each vegetable, each garden plot, even the tools, are given names and character traits. I can see when so many of the paragraphs are underlined – my parents must have read these books before they went to bed at night, flipping each page enthusiastically instead of going to sleep. And they are inspiring! We have had thriving organic gardens since I can remember. No wonder, with these magnificent tomes!
Rodale, in his book Organic Gardening, closed by saying “there are infinite pleasures awaiting you if you have never gardened organically.” I would add to this: there are infinite pleasures in reading about it too!