Book Reviews

Growing Outback Gardens: Ideas for Waterwise Gardening


growingoutbackgardensBy Mike Chuk and Jeff Poole
Published by Desert Channels Queensland
116 pages  soft cover
Reviewed by Jan Sked

This little book is quite a surprise package. It doesn’t have detailed descriptions of a whole range of plants that will grow in the drier areas of our country, as I probably expected. In fact, there are only five pages of suggested species (all native plants) and these are not described in any great detail, just the barest information as to size, tolerances, flowering etc.

But don’t let that put you off. The other 111 pages are packed with so much information, ideas and suggestions about how to grow successful gardens with minimum water in this dry land of ours. In fact, for those of us who live in the more hospitable coastal fringes of Australia, there is much to learn from this book about gardening with less water use, as we experience hotter and drier conditions with less available water.

There is little on the subject of gardening in a dry climate that is not covered. Chapter 1 describes waterwise gardening and ideas on making an existing garden waterwise. Then the book follows on about how to cope with the harsh and variable climate of the Outback, covering when to plant, how to protect plants from sun, wind, frosts, etc.

The various types of soils are discussed and methods are detailed to help get the best results from these soils. This is the longest chapter in the book and could well be useful for any gardener anywhere. It covers soil structure and how to improve it, testing for pH, manures, composts, mulches and worm farms. There is just so much practical advice here. Of particular interest are the various methods of irrigation to get the most from the least amount of water available and how to design the garden to get the best results from whatever rainfall there is.

Another chapter is devoted to choosing and growing the right types of plants and, although this is not a book specifically about native plants, the advantages of using native plants, especially the local ones, is strongly promoted. Methods of propagating native plants are detailed in this chapter. Warning is also given about planting species that could become weeds.

Treatment of lawns is covered, with the recommendation that smaller areas be used and drought hardy grasses planted. Growing fruit and vegetables receives attention, with a lot of good information and lists of fruits and veges that grow well in the Outback.

Garden pests receive some attention and there are some good natural remedies given for dealing with them. I was very taken with these and I can’t wait to try them out. Ways of encouraging wildlife to the garden are mentioned and the benefits that they bring.

The final chapter deals with designing a waterwise garden and takes in mapping the sun and shade, creating focal points, using spaces, lighting, shape, colour, texture and fragrance in the design.

Finally, we are given a list of Internet sites to look up information on a range of subjects.

I think this book is a real gem, with so much practical advice on most aspects of gardening, not just for the gardeners in the Outback, but gardeners everywhere, particularly novices, who should find it very helpful.

Price: $20.00  + postage $8.00

Available from:

Commercial Services Manager, 

DC Solutions, 

PO Box 601, Longreach. Q. 4730

or phone Mark Kleinschmidt on 07 4652 7818 or mobile 0417 427 900,

or email:  admin@dcq,

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