Esther Deans’ Gardening Book

Deans, Esther

Original publication date: 1977
Original publisher: Angus & Robertson North Ryde, NSW
Publication status: Out of print

Esther Deans, poet, writer, gardener, conservationist, became famous in the 1970-1980s for her books which developed a no dig method of gardening in Sydney Australia.

Esther tells the story of the transformation of her backyard garden. “You couldn’t dig the ground – it was just clay. I suggested to Tom ( her husband ) that we make a concrete edge and build a garden above the ground. On the first garden it was only lucerne hay and then compost. Then, after building a frame, I put a layer of paper, about ¼ inch thick; on top of the paper, padded lucerne hay as it came from the bale and then on top of the lucerne hay a little fertiliser. That was chicken manure. On top of that, about 8 inches of loose straw, a little fertiliser again and on top of that about 4 inches of compost. I planted the seeds and it was just like something magic. The zucchini just grew and grew and the beans just grew – it was incredible what happened.”

Her book opened doors for her. “Garden clubs wanted me and then television wanted me and then interstate wanted me.’ Then came overseas appearances. Much later, Esther was awarded an OAM for her services to people with disabilities, who receive most of the royalties from her books. Recently she was included in the 10th Royal Edition Who’s Who. ‘I’ve never been trained in any of this sort of thing but it all just came naturally.”

While Esther acknowledges that ‘all these tremendous things have happened’, it is the response from her readers that is most important to her. “The letters are from everywhere – from Africa, America. I correspond with a lot of people overseas and it’s beautiful correspondence.”

One aspect of her success that Esther does take credit for is her attitude. “Whatever I do, I apply myself, whether I like it or not. And I think that is a number one lesson we should all learn.”

She influenced the work of Bill Mollison and A Sampson-Kelly in Permaculture.

Her original book, Esther Dean’s Gardening Book: Growing Without Digging has sold over 130,000 copies.

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