Book Review: Gardening in Urban India, DK Publishers

Most Indians keen on gardening buy gardening books, but they are authored by non-Indian authors, and meant for end-users in other countries. They are of little use, save for their visual appeal and adornment on a coffee table. I own some of these too, and I haven’t gleaned anything useful from them, because the plants they talk about are not native to India, and impossible to grow here. The soil conditions are different, as is the weather! If you’re still a keen gardener and you’re looking to expand, you might want to get a tool storage container to keep your dirty and dangerous tools secure and away.

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When I was approached by Dorling Kindersely (DK Publishers) I was pleasantly surprised to hear that here, finally was a book meant for the Indian gardener. I already knew that a gardening book is usually a decor accessory more than a useful addition to the library, but since I am a decor blogger, I did not mind another coffee table book! However, I was intrigued when I was told that the book is in fact useful, and written specifically for the Indian market; I now couldn’t wait for the book to arrive.

The basics are covered: A comprehensive book, starting with the basics – analysing your soil type, knowing which specific climatic zone your city or town falls under (India has 6 distinct climatic zones) and by that, identifying the plants that grow best in your climatic zone. The most interesting thing for me in Chapter 1 was learning how to identify your soil type! I found that my soil was alkaline, and it needed regular supplements of acidic nourishment. Never one to dally, I started nourishing my dull-looking flowering plants with used tea leaves, and sure enough they started to revive. For someone who didnt think they had green fingers, this was phenomenal encouragement. And so, I read on!

Practical tips: What tools does a newbie gardener need? What pots? How does one prepare beds and baskets, especially for urban gardens? What looks best in the patio, and what are the best ways to do up a balcony garden? All your questions regarding terrace gardening are addressed in the early chapters of this book. It also gives a handy checklist that helps you approach a new gardening project in a step-by-step manner.

Cactus plants on a shelf hung by ropes from the ceiling, beside a window

DIYs and Professional Projects: Have you heard of a beginner trying his hand at a tabletop water garden? Or making a trellis on their own, and planting a squash vine that can wind around it? Detailed advice will help you do all this more, such as a terrarium, a hanging pot mobile, a ball of succulents, or a bean archway? This book covers it all. Just to make sure that it is as India-centric as it claims, I walked into a nursery down the road from where I live, and sure enough all the tools and equipment were easily available. If you have the interest, all of this is possible.

A comprehensive plant directory: And what’s a book on gardening without a plant directory? This one is comprehensive, touching upon all the aspects of growing a plant – from the soil, to the features of the plant, and it’s sunlight, water and shade needs. The plants are classified by type, for example – annuals, cacti, climbers, bulbs, tubers, climbers, ferns, perennials, etc. The most common members of each group are then given focus, along with clear pictures of each plant. The plant directory spans more than 50 pages, and is packed with information.

Flower pots on balcony

Plant Care: Feeding, watering and mulching, homemade compost tutorials, and grooming your plants – the how’s and why’s of all this is clearly mentioned along with other topics such as pruning, staking, and identifying and getting rid of pests. I found this chapter really useful, because these are things that gardeners learn after years of experience, and much experimentation. But here was all of it beautifully detailed, with pictures that make one understand the topic better.

Hanging basket in doorway in house

What I loved about the book: The book is very comprehensive – and approaches gardening in a step-by-step manner, that reminds me of a well-planned syllabus. I also loved the way the book is organised – as it keeps the interest going. The colourful pictures add a great deal of visual appeal to the book. If you follow the steps, then you are sure to succeed, because everything is clearly mentioned in the book.

Window box on window ledge

What I would have liked to see in the book: As a beginner gardener, who got inspired to start my own terrace garden with the help of this book, I thought it could have talked a bit more about organic gardening, and traditional Indian gardening nutrients such a Jivamrut, that are economical as well as highly effective gardening. But this is a minor nitpick, as I discovered a few organic plant supplements that are brilliant for plant growth! I encourage readers to contact desi cow milk dealers, and get regular supplies of gomutra and jivamrut which are a pesticide and nutrition supplement for plants, respectively.

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Image credits: DK Books
Cover image: Sharon Colaco Dsouza
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  1. Thank you for sharing such amazing ideas of gardening

  2. Very good book, great deal of knowledge, great pictures and ideas. Seeming at first disorganized, but allows reader to just open book and start reading anywhere. covers a wide range of useful topics with sufficient detail to get any experience level gardener going in no time.

  3. Thanks, great article.

  4. These designs are great, i’m doing this to my home for the next week.. THank you so much.

  5. very helpful and informative blog, thanks for sharing and hope you will provide these information also ahead in future.

  6. Very Beautiful, Nice post