The Elements of Organic Gardening by HRH The Prince of Wales

The ground is frozen, snow on top, not a lot to do but there are always books!!!!

This book caught my eye at the library. Gardening commentary, great photography and seemingly endless gardens at three of the Prince’s estates make this a perfect book to climb into bed with when you simply can’t bear to read another seed catalog.

Turns out HRH Prince Charles is an avid environmentalist and gardener. Despite semi-candid pix of the Prince hefting buckets of bird seed and leaning artlessly on a shovel (wearing some pretty fancy footgear more suited to the palace than the potting shed) it is clear that the Prince is the director and final arbiter of what goes into the garden and how it’s done.

The book is heavy on fab pictures of expertly designed gardens photographed to highlight the best features with lots of flowers, breathtaking hedges and topiary, and for us, a nice section about vegetable gardening.

Potatoes are a favorite vegetable of the Prince and I learned that Dennis, the man who really does the work in the garden first chits the potatoes which means to let them sprout in a frost-free place before planting to get them off to a faster start. In a useful photo, he is planting out the chitted potatoes and I notice that they are NOT cut. It’s the whole potato. About four of them to a man’s hand. Dennis, by the way, is wearing green wellies to the knee.

Favorite varieties are Pink Fir Apple and Anya. None of these sound familiar to me who reads the more common seed catalogs so it may be they are only available in England and the continent.

Leeks and Brussels sprouts are also well-liked by HRH and so, several varieties are included in the royal potager: Alcazar, Startrack and Swiss Giant-Zermatt are some of the leek varieties and Brilliant F1 and Trafalgar F1 are just two of the five varieties of Brussels sprouts planted.

To prevent the Brussels sprouts from toppling over, they are planted in a trench which is then earthed up as they grow. I’m not familiar with this technique and plan to try it myself.

I was also fascinated by the organic liquid feed made from a common home-grown herb. They use the Bocking 14 strain of comfrey. Leaves are picked and placed into a water bath and allowed to marinate for about two weeks. Apparently this brew is very smelly (not for the ‘faint-hearted’ as the book explains! and further research on the internet turns up such works as septic and sewage.) This mixture is used in a 10% solution or as the British so simply explain it, a jam jar full to a 1-gallon can of water.

Comfrey sends roots very deep – 10 feet according to some sources and this enables the plant to bring to the surface nutrients that other plants cannot access. It CAN be a pest if other varieties are used. But Bocking 14 is sterile so no wanton self-seeding can occur and the roots are supposedly more well-behaved than other varieties.

The liquid is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and particularly high in potash. Sounds interesting and what a great idea that you can grow your own! Move over compost tea!

It’s nice to know that we have something in common with the Prince.

One Comment on “The Elements of Organic Gardening by HRH The Prince of Wales

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