The Tao of Vegetable Gardening

Rozie Apps | Monday, 27th July 2015
A useful guide to vegetable gardening focussing on tomatoes, beans & peas, interspersed with Tao wisdom.
Author: Carol Deppe
Publisher: Chelsea Green
Publication year: 2014
RRP: £16.99

The Tao of Vegetable Gardening explores the practical methods as well as the deeper essence of gardening.” The perfect explanation for Carol Deppe’s latest guide to vegetable growing.

Carol Deppe is a genius. After starting a career as a scientist, Carol fell in love with gardening through the urge to grow her own food. She began with three citrus plants in her windowless lab, needing to bring a bit of colour and greenery to her daily life. Now Carol has three growing plots, her home garden and two larger areas for big vegetables like squash and corn.

This is both a how-to on several favourite-to-grow veggies, like beans, peas and tomatoes, whilst also reminding the reader why they are growing in the first place.

Carol’s extensive knowledge through breeding her own is evident throughout, sharing her favourite flavoursome heritage varieties, her tips on sowing, planting, weeding and polycultures. Instead of a wide range of vegetables and fruits, Carol has selected a handful of popular foods, ones that are easy to grow but are also adored, meaning Carol can share her in-depth knowledge for each. 

Amongst the polyculture tests and ‘fruitful accidents’ are Taoist wisdoms. Maybe not to everyone’s taste, but I found these beautiful and uplifting. The messages throughout explore the gardener’s touch and shadow in the garden, expressing our need to make only small changes, to let nature unfold before us and accept it, to have faith and to enjoy our garden and our gardening.

Although Carol is based in Oregon, USA, her cooler climate is fairly similar to the UK, which means the majority of her advice and examples are UK relevant. My main reason for picking up this book was its focus on tomatoes, my favourite crop to grow and especially eat. The extensive chapter ranges from sowing and watering to blight, heirlooms and polycultures. I was especially pleased to find advice on ‘Stuppice’, a variety I’ve chosen this year.

There is plenty of advice for the beginner gardener, but the focus is more on how to grow a few specific vegetables, interspersed with the wisdom of the Tao. A beautiful and engaging book.

Rozie Apps is assistant editor at Permaculture magazine. You can read a digital copy free of charge hereAll print and digital subscribers can read 20 years of back issues totally for free.

Further resources

How much food can you grow in a polyculture?

Top 10 perennial/ornamental vegetables

Watch: How to set up an urban permaculture garden