Old-Fashioned Tips for Organic Gardening

This is the fourth part of a review of the Romanian translation of the Reader's Digest book Großmutters Hausmittel neu entdecked [Grandma's Secrets Rediscovered] (© 2001, 2000 Reader's Digest, Verlag Das Beste GmbH, Stuttgart, Zürich, Wien).

This is the final installment of my review, covering the Gardening section. Here are the links to the first three articles:

Part 1: Health Tips (Prevention and Healing) and Care Tips for the Body (Part 1)

Part 2: Care Tips for the Body (Part 2), and Tips for the Home (Part 1)

Part 3: Tips for the Home (Part 2) and Tips for the Kitchen



Hay and strawberries

The gardening section, which starts with a few observations for the novice regarding some types of soil (sandy soil, clay soil, sandy loam, clay loam, etc.) and the plants that favor them. It offers advice on how to best apply mulches of compost, and gives tips of what kind of mulch to use for particular plants. We learn, for instance, that hay works well with strawberries. Again, you may want to check the advice online. There are many gardeners who recommend straw over hay. (Then again, perhaps the word hay in the book is a mistranslation.) The book also includes some interesting advice for gardeners looking to make their compost for the first time.

Plant fertilizers

For those looking to learn tips on combating pests using plant fertilizers, the authors offer several recipes for success. You learn, for instance, that garlic tea helps strawberries fight mold, and that field horsetail (Equisetum arvense L.) helps plants resist several types of fungi. Anyone who’s grown plants has also most likely encountered aphids. There are plants that fight those as well. I wish this section had included many other pest-fighting solutions. Another old-fashioned garden remedy, for instance, tobacco spray, works well against some aphids.

Crop rotation and mixed cultures

The next chapter deals with crop rotation and mixed cultures, and about plants that make good neighbors in your garden. To give one example, they advise you to plant caraway next to potatoes: apparently it improves their aroma. Also, if you keep certain plants next to each other, one plant can help fight the pest that attacks the other. All in all, these pages are a great read if you have just moved to the countryside and are starting out (quickly) as a gardener. Speaking of the countryside, the authors also kept in mind the need to care for feathered companions well during harsh winters, so they offer a nice recipe for a nourishing grain, plant, nuts and raisins ball which attracts black-capped chickadees.  

Heirloom plants

A chapter of this book is devoted to heirloom plants, such as Dipsacus pilostis, for which I can’t even find the English name online, Cuban spinach, sunroot (Helianthus tuberosus), or more common ones, such as licorice, parsnip, or mountain spinach (Atriplex hortensis). There are quick descriptions of these plants, along with some tips regarding their cultivation and use in the kitchen.

Camembert with herbs

The next chapter is about herbs. I particularly enjoyed the included herb Camembert recipe, with dill, fennel leaves, lemon balm, and other herbs.

Fruits and fried elderflowers

Following is a chapter is about fruits. There are notes on several varieties of apples, pears, cherries and plums, and a great recipe for baked apples with blackcurrant jelly. Another interesting recipe is one for elderflowers dipped in a batter made with German dark lager beer (the recipe itself is from Bavaria).


Then the authors turn their attention to flowers. There are some interesting notes on several rose varieties but unfortunately only one photo (of Bourbon roses) to accompany them. There are some quick tips on how to care for roses, outdoor flowers such as peonies and irises, and a handful of flowers you can grow indoors, such as gardenia and jasmine. There’s also a note on St. Barbara’s branch referring to the German custom on cutting a cherry twig on December 4, St. Barbara’s feast day, and forcing it into bloom inside, in a warm room.

The last chapter lists important substances in alphabetical order, mentioning their properties and uses.

As you can see, this book is full of great ideas. It would make a great housewarming gift, I think.

First three installments

If you enjoyed this article, go to the top of the page for links to the first three installments.




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