There was nothing that Allan couldn’t grow and like many I lived in awe of his brilliance. In 1985 he published his Complete Guide to Australian Gardening, a hefty tome that I referenced over and over as I morphed from home-unit dwelling city boy, to weatherboard cottage country lad.
Over the years though Allan’s book has been superseded by websites, magazines and gardening books that are more selective in their subject matter. Recently I found Allan’s book jammed between a road atlas and a guide to 35mm photography, that in itself shows how long it’s been since I’ve dragged that book out off the shelf.
I flicked open Allan’s book expecting to find myself immersed in a warm nostalgic glow that an old photo album or a vinyl record can give you.
Instead, however, I was horrified to find that Allan was almost as much a chemist as he was a gardener. Allan’s first port of call whenever a problem arises is the chemical cupboard. The chemical fertiliser Thrive is actually one of Allan’s creations.
Diazinon, Carbaryl, Malathion, Zineb, Mancozeb, Lebaycid, Rogor, Benlate, Captan, Endosulphan, the list goes on. Your average garden shed would be a toxic cocktail of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. These chemicals are not for your ornamentals, oh no, I gleaned these chemicals from the fruit and vegetable section.
Now, thankfully, things have changed. I purchased a copy of Vegetable and Fruit Gardening in Australia the other day and what a difference three decades, and an author not tied to the chemical manufacturers, makes.
This book encourages people to grow healthy plants that will thrive and survive under any insect or pest attack and gives you low, or non toxic methods of controlling them. Instead of using carbaryl to kill caterpillars you squash them or use, if you must, a bt spray. Sure if all these natural techniques fail you’ll have to resort to a spray of some kind, but many of the sprays for garden use are a lot less toxic now than what Allan would have had us splashing about.