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on 23 March 2006
All hail Robin Shelton for making gardening seem fun, witty and charming. Well, at least his book his!
I'm not a gardener myself, but you don't really need to be to read this. It's not a gardening manual. It is a year of someone's life - dealing with his family, his friends, his personal thoughts, and spending a year on an allottment trying to grow some veggies.
It's warm-hearted, funny and insightful. It's a pleasure to read, easy to read, and fun to read. Occasionally Shelton will ramble a bit, but that's what happens when you transfer your thoughts onto paper.
Nevertheless, this was enjoyable from start to finish, and might even get you int ogardening yourself. Robin was a non-gardener too before he decided to have a bash on his allottment. His caricatures detailing the people he met and how he gained gardening knowledge is amusing. Ken, the alarmingly real character with the walking stick is a hilarious part of the book.
And as with all men, there's even a whole chapter devoted to the shed!
Indispensible read, and you may even pick up some tips from it.
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on 9 April 2006
This is more than the ideal book if you're thinking about getting an allotment, or just doing something more purposeful with your garden. It is a must-read.
In this book you will find the truth about not only the joy an allotment can bring to even those who have given up trying to find anything worthwhile to care about, but also the hard toil that it demands. It won't fool you into thinking it is a journey of pure ease and happiness; Robin Shelton writes also of the tantrums involved in digging, digging and more digging, the fury in battle against bindweed - the most evil of all things that grow - and the devastation when not all your tender-loved seedlings survive.
Shelton and his best mate Steve begin with practically no knowledge at all of gardening and a non-existent budget. Tools and accessories are minimal and mostly come from the local dump. I don't think you ever needed more proof that anyone can do it if they put their mind to it. It is the honesty of this book that kept me giggling and chuckling throughout every page and despite the previously mentioned graphic detail of the struggles involved, I can't wait to do it myself!
Although Shelton does not necessarily provide factual information, i.e. what to do if this happens, etc, you learn far more by following his journey, learning from (and laughing at) his mistakes and being totally jealous because you don't have one of your own yet!
Cautionary note: This book will make owning a shed seem essential and non-negotiable and you will wonder how you ever lived without one before!
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on 17 March 2006
As soon as my husband mentioned this forthcoming book, I knew I had to have it as soon as it was on sale. As a newcomer to allotment holding myself, I couldn't wait to find out how these two friends would cope with their first plot. The book is as much about the developing friendship between Robin and Steve as it is about the healing power of allotments. Robin's struggle to emerge from the pit of depression whilst coping with divorce, joblessness and weekend parenting is evident but the book is written with a dry humour that made me laugh out loud. Both men discover that hard physical labour in the company of Mother Nature gives them purpose, peace and confidence. I was almost as excited as they were when they unearthed their first potatoes and the 'time stood still' type description of this event had me transfixed. If you have an allotment and a sense of humour you will love this book. If you have neither, you will at the very least, marvel at Robin's determination and be inspired to get an allotment for yourself.
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on 1 April 2007
You must read this book if you have or are thinking about getting a plot of your own. As an inexperienced fairly new plot holder myself it was great to read an honest account of another new plot holders experiences. We all have to start somewhere! You are guaranteed a good laugh reading this book and i doubt you will be able to put it down once you start reading it. Totally enjoyable and funny read i hope Robin Shelton writes a follow up to this one.
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on 14 August 2010
I borrowed this off a friend (thanks Wendy!) and finished it off in a couple of days. It is a wonderfully easy read, the gardening is not too extensive, so non-green fingered readers need not worry. I finished the last page and thought "if only". Was it fiction or non-fiction? Very difficult to tell, it was labelled as non-fiction, but several times I did wonder.

Perhaps it was too long (others have mentioned this) as it did seem to drag a bit over the last 50-70 pages, but there was a good lyrical flow to it, so this is perhaps a tad harsh.

The relationship between the writer and his sons was very good, as was the link with the other allotment "owners". However, the book did leave a lot undiscovered - perhaps that is why it was classed as non-fiction. His ex-wife & Steve's partner, in particular - they are mentioned, but no real further elaboration - so why mention them in the first place then? V. irritating.

The shed erection and the greenhouse were particularly good pieces, as was the cricket pavilion re-use.

One line will remain with me for some time - nature is analogue, not digital. Brilliant.

So overall, worth a read, but don't pay full price for it!
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on 19 January 2010
I picked up the hardcover edition of this book back in mid May 2009 from my local charity shop and a week later found myself purchasing bags of compost, pots, planters, seeds, drip trays, strawberry plants, bamboo canes and twine - and a few weeks after that marveling that I too could make things grow.

Robin Shelton, a diagnosed manic depressive, graduate jewelery designer, loving dad of two and some time art & design teacher - gently and entertainingly guides you through the year long journey that he and his neighbour Steve take to becoming fully fledged agriculturists. From thinking that an allotment might be a good idea after a few beers, to taking on a desolate disused plot, clearing it, planting it and eventually actually growing something on it.

This is not a how to guide, but rather a journal of one mans year on the allotment and as such features quite a lot of content on Robins relationships with his father (deceased), his two young sons, his mother (who is always right when he wants her to be!), his neighbour Steve, Charlie the Dog (wall eyed with bricks for brains) and his mental health - much more than just veg and as a result a more engaging and interesting read that any other gardening book I have read to date.

4/5 Thoroughly enjoyable for both those who enjoy being knee deep in a rich compost and their counterparts who couldn't give a fork.
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on 5 July 2007
Robin Shelton is living confirmation of the therapeutic benefits of activity.
This book is written in a very reader-friendly form and is more enjoyable than any number of academic research papers that evidence what Robin Shelton proved for himself.
If there weren't such a shortage of allotments in this country there would be fewer people suffering from depression!
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on 20 December 2008
I have been on my local allotment waiting list for 2 years,so you can imagine my delight in being offered half a plot last month (November 2008).
I had already purchased several second hand books on growing vegetables on an allotment and among them was this excellent read.
No it is not an informative text on how to plan, plant up or indeed grow vegetables, although it does contain a lot of tips. What this book does is transport the reader to an allotment site and tells the story of how complete novices take on an overgrown plot and turn it into something rewarding.
It is a heartwarming,true to life and insprirational human story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Robin Shelton who by his own admission suffers from depression tells us how it has helped him come to terms with his life and find a purpose. The wonderful characters that he meets during the year at the allotment site are so typical of ones that other authors have depicted in their story's. I can't wait to get out on my newly aquired plot and enjoy some of this work related therapy for myself.
I am sure I will also meet some similarly excentric characters during the coming year. All in all a highly recommended read for anyone who enjoys a good real life story.
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on 1 March 2008
If you want a 'how to' guide for your veg this isnt it - but if you want to laugh out loud every couple of pages (and perhaps indirectly learn a fair amount about allotment gardening) then this is the book for you. Funny first, heart warming and life affirming next and then informative, this is a great read and a book i will return to again and again.
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on 26 October 2008
I whizzed through this, devouring every detail, living every bramble pulled away and feeling every aching muscle afterwards. I have the urge to have an allottment you see, so it was a topical read for me.

Robin and Steve are two mates with time on their hands and little down at mouth, so they take on a new allottment.

The book is a diary of their efforts at clearing the plot, cultivating ready for sowing and deciding what to grow..........and sitting looking at their efforts a fair bit too.

I almost felt the mud under my nails as I went through their daily trials with them. Very inspiring to anyone who is thinking about it or on the brink - get the book, read it - do it!
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