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Organic gardening, from the ground up The Good Green GARden, By Peter Tonge. Brunswick, Maine: Harpswell Press. $4. 95.

Have you ever wished for a consumer's guide to growing fodd easily, sensibly, and organically? Well, here it is, a good-quality paperback based on Peter Tonge's columns in The Christian Science Monitor.

This book leaves you knowingm you know the best way to handle food plants in real life, in real gardens. It should hit the most- wanted list for gardeners fascinated with the idea of working within nature's own cycles to produce lush harvests. For those who must garden in unproductive soils and small spaces, "The Good Green Garden" is a lifesaver.

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The first half of the book is about soil imrovement -- where every good garden begins. It explains the methods the author has found successful. Included are explanations you can believe for pk and pH, the why and how-to of bringing in (and bringing up) earthworms, guides to quick and easy composting, from mini bins to maxi bags.

The approaches range from scientific -- how to take and read soil tests -- to improvisational -- how to grind food wastes without buying a new equipment.

The second half of "The Good Green Garden's tells how the author grows each of his favorite food plants. And it is pure bliss to find out, without lifting a finger, how to achieve such gardening miracles as summer-long harvests of broccoli (keep the soil cool), cabbages that deliver three and four heads (enrich the soil), bigger and sweeter beets (add wood ashes to the soil), and how to harvest carrots all winter long even from icy New England (mulch heavily).

From "The Good Green Garden" we learn how not to waste anything (who but Peter Tonge investigates making mini greenhouses from used auto tires?), but especially we learn how not to waste labor.

Tonge's investigations have extended far beyond backyard experimenting at his home near Boston. From trips to Holland's VAM, the world's largest composting plant, to the no-dig gardens at Arkley Manor, England, and the double-dig gardens at California's Ecology Action, he has brought well-tested information about new and old orgaic approaches likely to succeed in our gardens.

At the same time, writer Tonge is a typical among those who follow organic practices, in that he appears to be without prejudice regarding chemical fertilizers. His own garden, after years of experiments with additions of compost, flourishes without chemicals, but he appears to agree with the VAM official whom he quotes as saying: "We find the two [organic and chemical] work well together."

Written with quiet, warm humor that is Peter Tonge's special brand ("I think of mulch as a blanket, something you pull up around your neck but never over your head,") "The Good Green Garden" is, as its subtitle proclaims, "a common-sense guide to vegetable gardening for the modern homeowner." This makes it ideal for beginners as well as being the kind of book that collectors of garden books love to read.

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For fans of Tonge's syndicated columns, the book is a must-read!


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