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Steven Carruthers of Practical Hydroponics wrote:

BOOK REVIEW

Home Hydroponic Gardens


by Peggy Bradley & Cesar Marulanda

Among the most potent images to come out of less fortunate Third World countries are images of emaciated children - starving in the wake of war, famine, pestilence, natural disaster, or abject poverty. Itís with some thankfulness then to see a simple Ďhow toí book written for poor communities, that teaches basic hydroponic techniques to grow food on the poorest of land, using the barest of materials, and with no energy other than human labour.

The text begins by recounting success stories of simple hydroponic gardens used in Latin America and Africa. Although these gardens were initially designed to conserve land and water, and to fight hunger, many have expanded into thriving small businesses, selling fresh food to their neighbours and through village markets. And of course, nutritious food for all means better health among poor people, and the opportunity to improve oneís life.

The format chosen by the authors is simple. A chapter on human nutrition details the nutritional requirements for people, based on age and sex, to maintain good health. Subsequent chapters detail a range of simple food recipes that meet these nutritional requirements. The writers also explain how to combine a vegetarian diet with staple foods to make a complete meal. They then describe how to build simple hydroponic gardens to grow the different food groups that meet these nutritional requirements. For temperate zones, they illustrate a simple greenhouse shelter to raise food year round for small communities or family groups.

Another chapter describes how to convert various materials into productive growing containers. These range from vertical grow tubes made from bamboo to discarded plastic cups, margarine containers, and plastic icecream tubs. The many illustrations show how to construct growing beds from wooden shipping pallets, with legs added to the bottom to raise the bed. Even the humble cleaning sponge is re-used, dissected into cubes to begin a new life as plant holders for lettuce in a simple floating garden.

For those who can afford them, a chapter on plant nutrients describes how to mix inorganic fertilisers together - several basic formulae are outlined, including one used in United Nations hydroponic projects. For those who canít afford or donít have access to inorganic minerals, the chapter on organic nutrients describes how to: use fish water to grow plants; build a worm farm to make worm casting nutrient water; and mix other organic materials together to make an organic nutrient, including animal manures, wood-ash, bone-ash, bat guano, and seaweed.

Other practical chapters cover pollination; pruning and trimming plants; hand-watering and hand-aerating growing beds; pest and disease control using companion plants and organic sprays; and a description of plant nutrient deficiencies. The book also describes a wide range of common medicinal herbs, salad vegetables, root vegetables, and table vegetables that can be grown hydroponically.

The authors of Hydroponic Home Gardens are frontline combatants in the war against global hunger, and they have applied many years of hands-on experience to write and comprehensively illustrate a practical guide to assist poor families, community leaders, teachers, field assistants, and international aid workers. From the least well off to the well off, this book offers many ideas on how to build and manage simple home hydroponic gardens using readily available materials and wastes.

A book of this type is not before time. Although written in English, the many simple illustrations make it a universal book for all languages. Each copy is lovingly printed to a high standard, and its practical spiral binding suggests each copy is likely to be used by more than one reader at a time. #

Revised: 1 January 2008
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