Days of Manure and Roses

Stuart Robertson’s Tips on Organic Gardening

By Andrea Belcham

A review of Stuart Robertson’s Tips On Organic Gardening by Stuart Robertson

Published on June 1, 2010

Stuart Robertson’s Tips On Organic Gardening
Stuart Robertson

Véhicule Press
$17.95
paperback
215pp
9781550652352

For over 25 years Stuart Robertson was an invaluable resource for Montreal’s gardeners, fielding questions from the public on CBC Radio, lending advice in a weekly Gazette column, and lecturing at community events. His book, Stuart Robertson’s Tips on Organic Gardening, continues in the tradition by presenting his solutions to common gardening dilemmas, using methods as respectful to the environment as possible. His aim, as professed in the introduction, is not to pen a gardening bible: “I’m just trying to help people muddle through the gardening year, equipped with a certain amount of gardening skills, and hoping for great results,” he says.

Robertson covers a wide spectrum: from building good soil to lawn care, planting and dividing perennials, keeping a thriving vegetable garden, the best procedures for tackling weeds and pests, and protecting beds over the winter. He includes simple pen-and-ink sketches to illuminate finer details such as planting patterns and compost bin structures. Because he assumes no prior horticultural knowledge in his reader, Tips on Organic Gardening is an excellent foundation for someone building or inheriting a garden for the first time. Robertson stresses technique over expensive trends in technology and takes the time to explain why organic techniques, in particular, are the most beneficial to home gardens and wallets. (In a province still coming to terms with new pesticide regulations, Robertson’s emphasis on prevention is particularly valuable.) Yet as gardening is a never-ending pursuit, more experienced gardeners will likely glean some useful bits from Tips too, like any old hat conversing with another veteran.

Although he tries not to allude to conditions in specific gardening zones, his own experience is rooted in a particular place, Southern Quebec, which makes his tips most applicable to gardeners working in a very similar landscape and climate. Robertson’s tone is an endearing mix of sympathy, pragmatics, and just the right measure of dry wit (his suggestions for dealing with hungry deer are particularly amusing). This was to be the first in a series of gardening books by Robertson, who died in 2009; Tips on Organic Gardening is some measure of balm to locals who miss hearing his elegant voice talk roses, manure, and orange worms across the airwaves. mRb

Andrea Belcham lives in Saint-Lazare, where many of her best neighbours are trees.

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