Out of the Scientist's Garden

eBook - January 2010 - eRetailers

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The garden is the lens through which we can explore how the world can manage water and feed itself.

Out of the Scientist's Garden is written for anyone who wants to understand food and water a little better - for those growing vegetables in a garden, food in a subsistence plot or crops on vast irrigated plains. It is also for anyone who has never grown anything before but has wondered how we will feed a growing population in a world of shrinking resources. + Full description

Although a practicing scientist in the field of water and agriculture, the author has written, in story form accessible to a wide audience, about the drama of how the world feeds itself. The book starts in his own fruit and vegetable garden, exploring the 'how and why' questions about the way things grow, before moving on to stories about soil, rivers, aquifers and irrigation. The book closes with a brief history of agriculture, how the world feeds itself today and how to think through some of the big conundrums of modern food production.

- Short description


No longer available in a print edition.


"From his experiments using clover as a cover crop to putting grey water on his garden, Stirzaker takes a methodical scientific approach, but writes in a way that makes his findings accessible. Stirzaker is not strictly organic (he finds it "too restrictive"), but with essays on agroforestry, no-till farming, pest and disease management and the difficulties of measuring exactly how much water plants need to be given, this is fascinating reading for anyone interested in growing food."
Simon Webster, Organic Gardener, November/December 2010

"Discover how the ‘big picture’ can be applied at home, and learn how to be a more successful – and scientific – productive gardner."
Jerry Coleby-Williams, Park Watch, June 2010

Listen to an insightful and positive review by Andrew Campbell on the 666 ABC Canberra Morning Show about Out of the Scientist's Garden.

"He will give every beginner and experienced gardener an appreciation for the earth beneath our feet."
Reader’s Feast, Autumn 2010

"Richard Stirzaker has written a fascinating exploration of the realities of turning water, sunlight and nutrients into food. Out of the Scientist’s Garden is a pleasure to read – free of jargon and spare in its use of statistics – without in any way dumbing down very complex issues. It connects food and water in a manner that is all too rare. This is an incredibly important book that deserves to become a classic of Australian agricultural and environmental literature."
Andrew Campbell, www.triplehelix.com.au


ePDF | January 2010
ISBN: 9780643100145
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • Gives an in-depth understanding on how plants and soil work using stories more than the language of science. It is not a ‘how to’ book, but a framework over which to lay your own experience, to learn and reflect.
  • Information for gardeners on the challenge of growing food and feeding a family in the city
  • Covers plants, soil and rivers and the journey from hunter-gatherer to modern agriculture
  • Reflects on the way scientists conduct their craft
  • A book for anyone interested in food, how it is grown and how the world feeds itself


Prologue: Entering the scientist’s garden


Part 1: The view from our garden
1. The colour of water; 2. A year in the vegetable garden; 3. Intrigue in the orchard; 4. Feathered thieves, 5. The lapsed organic gardener; 6. Outsmarting pests and disease; 7. Flavour

Part 2: A journey through soil
8. The tale of Clever Clover; 9. Soil and soil scientists; 10. The Machingalana is talking to me; 11. Watering grass; 12. Grey water and the washing machine; 13. At the end of the river; 14. The Goldilocks principle

Part 3: Feeding ourselves
15. A short history of agriculture; 16. What we eat; 17. To till or not to till; 18. Permaculture to agroforestry; 19. The road to Tompi Seleka; 20. Simplicity; 21. Saving water

Epilogue: Reflections in the scientist’s garden

Chapter notes


Richard Stirzaker studied Agricultural Science and then completed his PhD at the University of Sydney. He joined CSIRO in 1990 and is currently a Principal Research Scientist based in Canberra working on irrigation, water productivity and the ecological footprint of agriculture. He is also an honorary professor in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Richard maintains a blog to accompany this book called The Scientist's Garden