Book review & Giveaway: 101 Organic Gardening Hacks

It’s spring (well, not quite officially, but almost…) and my mind is turning to gardening again. I had lots of plans for garden projects over the autumn and winter period, but unfortunately have managed to proceed with only one of them (to get a hotbin composting system up and running). So I definitely needed motivation to get out in the garden and feel enthusiastic rather than feeling like I am already behind! The sunny weather we had earlier in the week definitely helped, but browsing through 101 Organic Gardening Hacks – Eco-friendly Solutions to Improve any Garden by Shawna Coronado (published by Cool Springs Press at £12.99) has given me a much needed burst of enthusiasm, and also a reminder that there are lots of economical and simple ideas to put into practice whilst you save up for the more ambitious stuff!

In the introduction – Coronado describes her gardening motivation:

Hacking is the concept of breaking traditional rules to discover a creative way to accomplish something – a clever trick that saves cash for the thrifty or solves a problem elegantly. Whether the hack is for gardening, computing, cooking, or anything in between, ‘hacking’ your way through your daily challenges is fast becoming a new lifestyle choice because the best hacks are easy, smart and economical.

 

It all sounds very modern and zeitgeisty, but actually, there’s plenty of knowledge here that would be very familiar to an older gardening generation. Hacking is definitely an evolution of the Make Do and Mend philosophy, and interestingly, Coronado says that, when it comes to gardening, her grandmothers are her biggest influence.

So the book is a great mix of old-fashioned garden wisdom and thriftiness and fun, sometimes quirky, new ideas, and considering there’s 101 hacks, I didn’t find the ideas at all repetitive.

Practical and quirky – the sign says “Emergency Tools for Zombie Apocalypse”.

 

As with all kinds of hacking, there’s an open-minded approach to problem-solving. So we get veggie growing in the front garden for people who really want to max out on food growing, or don’t have the right conditions in their back gardens:

Then there’s growing a living wall for colour, insects and edible plants, making the most of the very small gardening spaces which many people are limited to:

And for those of us with a bit more space – how about growing a ground cover patio – this has got to be my favourite project in the whole book, it’s so beautiful:

 

There are ideas for veggie growing and for growing ornamental plants (not mutually exclusive obviously!) and also for supporting wildlife in your garden, there’s loads about saving water, gardening for the benefit of the community and gardening economically and ethically. There are tips for beginners (there’s lots about composting and also growing from seed etc.) but there’s also lots here for people who have been gardening for years who would appreciate some fresh ideas.

A reminder of the importance of planting spring flowering perennials to support insects early in the growing season.

Some hacks are quick and easy, others are more complex and involve some DIY skills, but all the projects seem to be clearly outlined with lists of the equipment that you need. I love this idea for making sure you can keep your seed packets organised. I can see how this can be adapted in all sorts of ways as a basis for a gardening diary:

I should say, if you are based outside the USA, a tiny proportion of the hacks won’t necessarily be relevant to you (I won’t be bothering to plant to attract hummingbirds to my garden, for example), but – I can count these on the fingers of one hand, pretty much, so don’t let that put you off, there is so much good stuff here.

Giveaway…

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment on this blog post before 10pm (GMT) tomorrow to be in with a chance of winning. As always, happy with a ‘pick me’ or you can tell me what you have been up to in your garden this weekend (I did some MUCH needed tidying up and weeding). Happy to post overseas!

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Foam stabiliser for structured sewing

I’ve had the opportunity, over the last week or so, to experiment with Bosal In-R-Form foam stabiliser. I’ve been working on a pattern for little boxes/baskets made from fabric and wanted something sturdy to ensure that the sides didn’t sag and bag. In the past I have used a combination of Vilene S320 and Vilene H640 to create structure whilst retaining softness, but because I had easy access to the Bosal product at my local fabric shop, I thought it was a time to give it a try.

DSCF8941

Bosal In-R-Form is a strange  looking thing – it reminds me of something medical.. but don’t let that put you off, because it is a dream to work with. It cuts very easily, is very easy to sew, and because it doesn’t have the fluffy edge you get when you use fusible fleece, it’s much easier to see where you are sewing. It’s probably a bit less than a quarter of an inch thick, and adds stability without lots of extra bulk.

Basket class 1

There are three kinds of Bosal In-R-Form available: sew-in, one-sided fusible and double sided fusible. I used the single-sided fusible, with the outer fabric fused to the Bosal. I am not a fan of double-sided fusibles full-stop, because I find it all too easy to accidentally fuse something at the wrong time. The single-sided was good, but after fusing, I found the fused fabric crinkles quite a lot if you bend or squish whatever you are making. For my basket project, this was absolutely fine, because once made and pressed, there’s no real reason for it to get squished. But I would be cautious about making a bag using quilting fabric fused to Bosal.

Basket class 2

I mentioned this issue of crinkling (it’s a bit hard to describe – it reminds me of when you put sticky back plastic onto books and get those annoying wrinkles…!) to sewing friends on Instagram and there was fairly widespread agreement that this can be a problem. The wise people there, were pretty much in agreement that sew-in Bosal In-R-Form is best for bag making. Other people also mentioned that the crinkling isn’t a problem if the Bosal is fused to heavier weight fabrics. This made me wonder about the possibility of using iron-on interfacing between the quilting fabric and the fusible Bosal, but this seems like a lot of hard work!

So I will stick with using the fusible for baskets like this, and invest in some sew-in to try with a bag.

By the way, if you are within striking distance of Newcastle-under-Lyme in north Staffs, I will be teaching how to make these little baskets at Hollies Haberdashery on April 22nd (a Saturday morning). It’s a great fun little project and will be a lovely way to spend a morning – would love to have you along.

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