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The Self-Sustaining Garden Hardcover – 1 Jul 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; Revised edition edition (1 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711227187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711227187
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 2.2 x 25.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 785,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A fresh approach to planting and garden design. (Amateur Gardener)

An intelligent manifesto for naturalistic garden planting and management. (Garden)

Peter Thompson has written a book that we can read and try to assimilate to help us to avoid heartache and backache. I'm all for that. (Hardy Plant)

About the Author

Peter Thompson headed the Physiology Section at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where he established the Seed Bank. He has taught and lectured widely on gardening, has written numerous books and run nurseries.

Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am planning my garden, quite a big space, and was contemplating not only the work required now in order to get it going but the ongoing maintenance, my physical ability to do it (I am getting on a bit) and the tools and chemicals that would be required. Here in a nutshell is my solution: I set out my garden now and over the next few years, but then ultimately it will look after itself. More importantly it will look good. Brilliant! Great advice from Peter Thompson in his Self-Sustaining Garden.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant Book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x919e7a5c) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91c8efc0) out of 5 stars Helpful book, good information 12 Oct. 2007
By Cate - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Although Peter Thompson considers matrix planting an "unorthodox" way of gardening, the concept has been around for awhile. Ann Lovejoy devoted about 20 pages to it in her book, Ann Lovejoy's Organic Garden Design School (2001), and she covers it briefly in The Ann Lovejoy Handbook of Northwest Gardening (2003). She called it sandwich planting, but it's the same as matrix planting.

Peter Thompson's book provides more depth, guidance, and rationale on the topic. I use his book to complement and enhance Ann's books. The practice of layering or intermingling site-adaptive plants really makes a lot of sense.

In response to reviewer, MuffieNH, below: I didn't notice the size of the font until I read her(?) review. The font is a bit smaller than some other books, but it didn't bother me. She denied herself all the helpful information in this book...
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91c9f2c4) out of 5 stars For the Erudite Gardener 23 Mar. 2011
By allanbecker-gardenguru - Published on
Format: Hardcover
We are in the midst of a multi-faceted historical development in gardening that has been propelled by social change. In our era, time available to maintain a garden has become as precious as water in the desert. Consequently, alternative styles of landscaping are evolving; styles that require fewer resources. In one way or the other, all of the alternatives politely ignore traditional gardening philosophies. The self sustaining garden is one option.

The author submits that a self sustaining garden requires less effort because the plants do the work. The key to success is not to attempt to grow ones favorite plants. Instead, one must select those that are best matched to local ecological conditions. In such situations, what goes on in the garden will be controlled not by the gardener but by the relationship between the plants that are happy growing together.

The author refers to this kind of self-sustaining landscape as matrix planting and offers wildflower gardens as an example: Wildflowers grow all over the world with no help from humans. They survive by forming self-sustaining communities-broadly know as vegetation- which shelter and protect the plants within them, while excluding outsiders. They are successful because the plants within each community have established a balance with one another which enables each to obtain a share of resources, living space and opportunities to reproduce...Matrix planting is based on this natural model...

Matrix planting requires less energy and resources as it contradicts traditional garden maintenance methods. For example, tilling and amending the soil is no longer required. Regular use of fertilizer is unnecessary; weeding of self seeding plants is discouraged. Pesticides and slug pellets are never used and irrigation becomes irrelevant. The objective is not to grow bigger and better looking plants, simply healthy ones that can survive without too much intervention from the gardener.

The author establishes the basic steps to creating a sustainable garden. They begin with proper soil preparation and an understanding of the concept of planting in patterns and rhythms. He continues with dedicated chapters that discuss the variety of sustainable gardens based on specific growing conditions, such as ornamental grass meadows and pools and wetlands. One chapter is devoted to the function of shrubbery while another deals with gardening in shade. Within each chapter, inspiring case studies are included and lists of plants appropriate for very specific growing conditions are supplied. From cover to cover, over 1000 plants are recommended.

Readers who are mostly concerned with water conservation will find this book helpful. Mr. Thompson points out that, even though it was not specifically devised to address problems of water shortages, matrix planting has much in common with water conservation. He reminds the reader that traditional, generous irrigation encourages unbalanced growth of those plants best able to take advantage of additional water. Matrix planting of self sustainable gardens reduces the amount of water required for a garden's survival.

Mr. Thompson is a scientist. As a botanist, he headed the Physiology Department of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, where he initiated research of seed germination, seedling nutrition and the long term conservation of plant genetic resources. His book targets the scholarly, erudite gardener who appreciates a traditional style of garden writing almost as much as the science of gardening itself. In that regard, this publication is not a how-to manual, even though step by step instructions are given. This is a book for reference and consultation whenever sustainable gardens need to be considered.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91d2b1a4) out of 5 stars Don't waste your time with this book. 30 Dec. 2012
By RedBoa - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Don't waste your time with this book. Being the green-minded person I am I checked it out form my local library becuase I thought it would have some useful insite into establishing a stable sustainable garden. The premis is alluring promising an alternative to the usual backbreaking gardening style we are use to. Wrong. After sifting through 5 Chapters of Mr. Thompson's pontifications on things he sees us all doing wrong of not noticing in nature he still has not let us in on what exactly a matrix garden should be or end up as. He does give lists of plants and a number of case models of gardens others have established but in the end he blows his own premis for the book away by recomemding the use of herbicides, fertilizers and black poly sheeting to control weeds. He gives no hints as to how to control weeds or other undesirables in the garden without the usual tools chemical or otherwise and ferquently recomends the usual tools and chemicals. One might learn something about matrix gardening from the case studies in the book, they are on nice green pages within it's flods but the bottom line is one will have to do some work to establish their desired garden. I can sum this review up by giving you the secret, not contained with this book, to sustainable gardening. Plant what grows in your area, match your plantings to the seasons/weather for your climate, look for creative ways to not use chemicals and over-watering and finaly observe what works in your garden and what doesn't. I for one use weeds against weeds becuase some are nice flowering plants and crowd out others. This lets me go back and remove sections of those same weeks in favor of other things I want later. Also remember weeds are weeds only in definition. They may be temporay if you can get some succession established they may very well disappear in short order. Use them as fertilzer and mulch for your garden. If you want good soil get some bagged top soil and mulch, mix them up some native stuff and most plants will be happy with that then just wait for the dead stuff of the previous year to rot into the ground. To end this I repeat my first statement. "Don't waste your time with this book."
13 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x919ee99c) out of 5 stars Maybe I'd like it if I could READ it! Very fine print 6 Sept. 2007
By MuffieNH - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sounds like a good idea; plants that are right for your area will want to thrive and grow. But talk about your fine print! Very tiny fonts were used throughout this book. Even if you look at the photos, you can barely read the captions. My guess - this book was supposed to be larger than 8" x 10" but the publisher cheaped out.
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