Book review: Gardening Myths and Misconceptions By Charles Dowding

A Charles Dowding book is always good value, so it was a pleasure to pick up a copy of his latest publication Gardening Myths and Misconceptions.



Far too many gardening books appear to be written by people with only a basic grasp of biology and gardening principles, most contain very few original ideas, and too many give unreliable, or even misleading, advice.

You don;t grow veg like this unless you know what you are talking about.

You don’t grow veg like this unless you know what you are talking about.

Unless a gardening author has many years of experience, ideally in a commercial garden, I regard any book they write as suspect. Commercial gardening forces you to really think about what you are doing. If you get it wrong, the consequences can be very serious indeed.

amazing veg

Abundant Dowding salad leaves

Charles Dowding has run commercial market gardens for many years. Not only that, his inquisitive intelligence leads him to ask the most basic questions and, more often than not, his conclusions are genuinely surprising.

I attended a gardening course with him towards the end of my honeymoon a few years ago. I ran the The Oak Tree Farm on my own at the time and I hadn’t had a holiday in several years: some volunteer members generously took over the harvesting for a week to give Richard and I a break. It was an opportunity not to be missed, we went to Wales in October and I called in for a day-long course with Charles Dowding on the return journey.  It was well worth it. He confirmed many unconventional gardening truths I had suspected for some time, and revealed more things I hadn’t thought of at all. Beginners and experienced gardeners alike can only benefit from Charles’ enthusiastic and deep understanding of what plants really need. Feel free to ignore your allotment neighbour’s advice if Charles says so (that’s a relief, eh?)

Charles Dowding among his abundant veg

Charles Dowding among his abundant veg

Out goes the universally accepted rule, “never water your plants in bright sunlight”. Charles has tracked down the scientific research that shows water droplets cannot scorch leaves.  Similarly the generally accepted truth that the regular use of natural animal manure makes soil acidic turns out to be false. Which would (finally) explain why the pH of my vegetable beds hasn’t budged in years.  The book goes on in that vein for an entertaining hundred or so pages.

The book is a delighful small hardback complete with red ribbon bookmark. I confess it has now found a permanent home in the Mudhar toilet, but that really has to be the highest praise possible for a book owned by a busy gardener.

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