My head is often buried in a book about gardening and specifically one about growing your own fruit and veg.
I buy a lot of grow-your-own related books and the shelf space required to accommodate them is constantly having to expand. I just can’t help myself.
I’m continually learning and many of these books provide inspiration for the allotment, garden and my writing. They fit the ethos of my blog and my ambitions to enable as many people as possible to embrace kitchen gardening, grow their own fruit and vegetables and to have the opportunity to enjoy the experiences it provides.
I want to share with you just a few of my favourite books. Some are not new to 2017, but they are books I’ve read during 2017. Some I’ve had for quite a while but they are ones I refer to frequently.
Hint: They would make very agreeable Christmas presents for an aspiring grower. Forget that, they would make a great Christmas present for you – and I have no problem with Christmas coming early neither!
(Note: There are some affiliate links in this post, which means you can click on them to buy. If you do, I may get a small fee. It doesn’t affect the price you pay.)
RHS Grow Your Own: Veg: In 2007, Carol Klein presented a 6 part series on the BBC – Grow your own veg. The series arrived at the right time. I was hooked. I put my name on the local allotment waiting list and bought the book accompanying the series. 10 years on it’s still my favourite guide. It is beautifully laid out and filled with a huge variety of vegetables and clear, practical instructions on how to cultivate them.
Practical Allotments: Managing a successful allotment or kitchen garden requires more than simply choosing and cultivating crops. There’s a multitude of tasks that make it all work. I bought this book in the early days of allotment gardening and it’s full of practical projects that make the whole experience of growing your own both a functional and a holistic one. Whether it’s creating a trench, planning crop rotation or building that seating area to relax and sip a beer mug of tea, Practical Allotments by Paul Wagland is a fantastic resource.
Gardening on a Shoestring: 100 ways to create a garden on a budget: Much of the ‘stuff’ many of us buy when we want to garden is a bit unnecessary. This book is right up my alley for both my own approach to allotment gardening and what I want to enable and inspire others through the blog. Gardening on a shoestring isn’t about skimping on style but rather an approach to not wasting your money. A great text that should help enable anyone with any budget to enjoy and benefit from the pleasure of gardening.
SowHow: A Modern Guide to Grow-Your-Own Veg: I was very lucky to be gifted this book by the authors earlier this year. I loved it so much I wrote a review on the blog. The A5 hardback is a character contrast to other grow-your-own texts. It’s portable and offers some fantastic graphics. Everything about SowHow is contemporary. The beautiful design and clever infographics that fill the book’s 200 pages are not only aesthetically modern, but the style of the book fulfils modern society’s craving for information in a resourceful and accessible format.
Fork to Fork: I’m a huge fan of Monty. Who isn’t? But what Monty offers, as well as his knowledge and experience, is his ability to write beautifully, passionately and authentically about gardening. I’d recommend any of Monty’s books but in keeping with the nature of my pleasure and this blog, then Fork to Fork is a must for anyone who loves or aspires to grow their own fruit and veg. As well as the practical elements to growing, Monty, as he always does writes poetically about the whole experience of growing food for the family table. If any writer can inspire an army of readers to pick up a spade and grow, then Monty has it nailed.
RHS Grow for Flavour: Tips & tricks to supercharge the flavour of homegrown harvests: I’d be surprised if you didn’t already know James Wong, but just in case, James is an ethnobotanist, television presenter and garden designer. He is most famous for his award-winning BBC 2 TV series Grow Your Own Drugs. As a scientist, James brings a marvellous, evidence-based clarity to growing fruit and veg. Grow for flavour is a recent addition to my library but it’s an absolute gem. If you want some brilliant advice and tips on getting the best flavour from the crops you grow, this book is a huge resource to add to your armoury. James provides recommendations for the best varieties to choose, some clever methods to use and some myths to debunk to make sure you get a huge taste from your home grown veg.
The City Grower: I stumbled across The City Grower while rummaging around in the gardening section of a bookshop. And what a great stumble! If you think you don’t have enough space to grow your own fruit and veg, then this is the book for you. Whatever size plot or pot you have, Matt Franks’ book provides you with all the apps, tutorials and ingenuity to transform the space to grow food. The book is split into a 5-step plan: the plot, the build, planting, maintenance and harvest and is chock-a-block with projects to help you build planters from pallets, tackling pests with household items and when and how to grow a huge variety of veg.
Herbs: River Cottage Handbook No.10: Every home should have a herb garden. They are just wonderful plants to look at and to enjoy in the kitchen. I want to make more effort to grow more of them on the allotment and in pots in the garden at home. Personally, I think herbs need to be close to the back door to enable you to cut them and use them absolutely fresh. I spent some time browsing for a book on herbs and found myself returning to Herbs – The River Cottage Handbook No’10. I love the feel of this hardback and the layout and narrative are beautiful. It’s full of information on a huge range of herbs and how to grow them successfully and cook with them in the kitchen.
Organic Gardening: The Natural No-dig Way: Having known of Charles Dowding and his inspiring work and commitment to no-dig methods for a long time, last winter I bought his books and devoured them one after another. I’d recommend all of his books as not only are the methods used by Charles simple, they bloomin’ well work magnificently too. Reading Charles’ books, you soon realise that no-dig is an approach to gardening that is much more than not using a spade to turn the soil each year. It is a wide-ranging methodology that utilises sustainability and natural processes that deliver both environmentally and resource-efficient practices to growing fruit and vegetables.
The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming: After reading Charles’ books, I was keen to learn more. One discovery was a book by Jean-Martin Fortier called The Market Gardener. Many claim it is the most influential farming book of the last decade. It has now sold over 70,000 copies as well as winning numerous awards including the 2015 American Horticultural Society Book Award. Jean-Martin and his wife Maude-Hélène are founders of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally recognised 10-acre micro-farm in Quebec, Canada. The focus at La Grelinette has been to grow better, not bigger, making it more lucrative and viable in the process. Their farming practices demonstrate how small-scale farms, using regenerative and economically efficient agricultural practices, can produce a higher nutritional quality of food and more profitable farms. The book and their website are targeted at micro-farmers who wish to adopt environmentally sustainable and financially viable businesses, however, the knowledge and techniques are universally practical – even for the ‘grow your own veg’ allotment holder.
These are just a handful of my favourite books that inspire and educate me in the world of grow-your-own. I hope they can do the same for you too.
Do you have a favourite book that has been instrumental in driving you to grow your own fruit and veg? I’d love to know. Drop me a recommendation in the comments below.
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