One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein

One Magic Square provides a starting point for creating a small home garden. By starting with just a 3 foot square, a sustainable garden can be created and then slowly expanded upon over time. The book is comprehensive and easy to follow, with all the information needed to start a small plot. Note that there aren’t many pictures or illustrations, so this is a do-by-reading experience. But Houbein is friendly, encouraging, and doesn’t mince words and the layout is clean and friendly. At 350+ pages, this is a comprehensive one-stop resource.

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The book breaks down as follows: Part 1: Towards Sustainable and Self-Sufficient Food Growing (The terrifying importance of growing food, How to get started, how to find time to grow food, Gardening with attitude, Ten green rules); Part 2: Growing and Enjoying Your Magic Square (Starting and maintaining, Soil secrets, Compost compositions, Seeds and seedlings, Easy-care fruit trees, Companion planting and intercropping, Water and watering, Plant food and soil food, The Message of mulch, Pruning, Pinching, and thinning, Crop rotation and green crops, Problem solving, What to do about weeds, Pests and predators, An A-Z of pests and problems, Livestock, birds, bees, and frogs, Hardware in the food garden, Thinking outside the magic square, The seasons, Climate, weather and micro climates, Permaculture, Saving seed, From garden to table, Essential utensils, Cupboard self sufficiency); Part 3: The Magic Square Plots (Salad plots, Fava bean plot, Omega-3 plot, Antioxidants plot, Beans plot, Stir-fry plots, Root crop plot, Pasta/pizza plots, Wild greens plot, Aztec plot, Pea plot, Melon plot, Herb plot, Soup plot, Pick and come again plot, Starchy staples plot, Rotating mono-crops plot, Onion and garlic plot, Anti-cancer plots, Barry plots and hedges, The spice companions); Part 4: Descriptions of Food Plants (An A-Z of vegetable groups, Summer, winter and all season vegetables, common vegetables how to grow and use them, List of common herbs, Easy care fruit trees and berries, List of easy care fruit trees and berries. Notes, References and further reading, useful addresses, acknowledgements, Index.

As can be seen above, the book is thorough. There is a strong emphasis on sustainability and organic methods – especially dealing with fertilizing and pest control. Most useful are all the different types of plots – created and designed for synergy in mind. Like salads? There are some great choices. Rather have an herb plot for cooking? Covered here. Those plots take up a large chunk of the book and provide endless inspiration for different gardens.

One magic Square provides everything the novice gardener needs to get started. Of note is that the book draws upon the author’s experience of decades of making gardens in Australia; as such, there isn’t as much about Winterizing, snow, or growing in extremely short seasons (e.g., North America or Europe/England). But in all, there is a lot here to love. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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