Marginal Benefits
Gardens Illustrated|September 2017

A new books turns Frank’s ideas on turf fertility upside down. Could now be the time to rethink his plans on how to breathe life back into his neglected borders?

Frank Ronan

You get a slightly worthy book for Christmas and, because you are obliged to, read it, eventually. It is not well written, but it is from your youngest and most earnest brother, so scrupulous attention has to be paid for the review that must follow. Then, just as you are despairing that you might find anything positive to say, you perceive, through the fog of the prose, a meaningful idea: one that is not only worth knowing, but might change the way you are doing things.

The book, called Grass-Fed Nation, is an attack on modern farming methods, describing how they are destroying the soil. So far, so much preaching to the converted there. I have long avoided footpaths that cross arable land, because I get so depressed by the lifeless gunk that passes for earth where crops are grown. Assuming that the attack was about to turn on us meat-eaters, as most ecological arguments seem to, I braced myself for annoyance.

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