Published: 13 September 2013
Two Blades of Grass
We review Two Blades of Grass: The Story of the Cultivation of Plants, by Peter Thoday.
This book has been written by someone who not only has an extensive knowledge of the subject but can also put the material into the correct context, whether this is at a local, regional or a global perspective.

To start writing a book about the cultivation of plants is a mammoth undertaking, not only the extreme diversity of the plant kingdom and the many variations of production methods but also the geographical and climatic requirements. In addition to this Peter Thoday has added the historical aspects to make it even more interesting reading.
In the introduction there is a chart giving key discoveries in chronological order of the cultivation of crops, starting with the first stone tools from around five hundred thousand years ago, the first crops at around eleven thousand leading to the domestication of horses around four and a half thousand years ago.  It is these sorts of facts that help put the rest of the book into the right time line of human existence and their need for ever greater volumes of food.
Throughout the book there are reverence to the great and the good people of plant cultivation and production, scientific research, pioneering propagation or crop harvesting as well as references to the hard working labourers out in the fields. Reading the names of people that are still practicing their craft, or recently retired is quite thought provoking. It is easy to read an historical account and assume the people mentioned are long deceased, but by including these practitioners Peter Thoday brings many stories as up to date as possible in a hard copy publication.  

Origins of Cultivation

Chapter three looks at the origins of cultivation from the early beginnings and investigates the impact of agriculture on mankind’s ongoing social development through history.
The importance of good drainage and the key developments for improving field systems are written about in chapter eight followed in chapter fourteen with much detail on the essential need for irrigation at all stages of a plants growth. The historical facts quoted are equally relevant for today’s gardeners and growers.  
In chapter fifteen, titled Plant Manipulation by Pruning and Training Peter Thoday gives a fascinating insight into the key principles of the effect of mans intervention with an axe, knife or secateurs, a real back to basics read with great historical references.
The final chapter gives balanced views for possible future land use and highlights the need for enhanced crop cultivation, the effects of supply and demand alongside the value placed on the land to satisfy the amenity and social needs of human beings. 
This book contains a wealth of information with further reference sources in the extensive Bibliography and an Appendix with many facts and figures relating to both ancient and modern weights and measures, many having been referred to in the main text. 
Peter Thoday writes in a manner that is both pleasurable and highly informative and will be of great interest to horticulturists, agriculturists and all related professions plus all amateur gardeners.
Title Two Blades of Grass – the story of cultivation
Author Peter Thoday
Published by Thoday Associates
ISBN 978-0-9557033-0-0
Price £15.00 inc. P&P
Availability email:
Peter Thoday’s second book ‘Cultivar, The story of man-made plants’ will be reviewed in the coming weeks. For more thoughts from Peter, be sure to read his recent article in The Gardening Times, The Cultivation of Today's Plants.
Reported by Chris Allen  

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