Gardeners World presenter Alys Fowler has created a gorgeous book. Alys takes the sort of approach I like - no rigid planning, no particular rules to abide by, simply recommendations to help you along. As she says, your own experience is far more valuable to you than reading things in a book. She is an experienced and accomplished gardener and her recommendations are very good - trees that will rob your garden of productivity vs trees that give you beauty, scent and marvellous fruit. She also covers how to make the most of the space you have and how to exploit the unique aspects of your garden. Divided into 3 simple parts:
Things to know: In order to reap the rewards of your garden you have to know a few things about it, such as soil type and how to keep your plants happy. This also includes foraging, growing in pots, recommendations of deorative edible vegetables - making the most of your pot garden. She also takes you through fertility and compost, including how to make your own. The book then goes on to getting the garden started - seed sowing (including when and where), pricking out, hardening off, weeds (and what to do with them), watering and pests and diseases - including the pesky slug (Alys squishes them). Recommendations for speedy crops and plant protection (this includes an innovative picture of a greenhouse constructed using old windows, including stained glass. I'll be keeping my eyes open in the local scrap yard!). A good overview of how to give yourself a stable start for your edible garden.
Things to grow: In this section Alys gives us the lowdown on her favourite fruit, vegetables and flowers to grow - because they taste good, provide a plentiful harvest and look good. This is a brilliant section - I'm always flummoxed when I stand in front of the seed racks to know what is really good. Getting the answer from someone who has tried numerous varieties and come up with a lovely list is so handy. This section also covers seed saving for the next year, including a germination test.
Reaping your harvest: Includes bottling and preserving - recipes for a number of things including jams (raspberry), jellies (blackberry and apple), pickles, chutneys, brews etc. Alys also covers freezing and apple drying. She includes recipes for a number of other bits and pieces - nettle soup, japanese knotweed spears (!) - make sure no-one has sprayed it with herbicide before you try, scafata (an Umbrian stew m,ade with broad beans, tomatoes and a late winter green), her own version of salad nicoise, raspberry icecream and blackcurrant and chestnut icecream. Alys's recipes are divided up by season (I've covered Spring and Summer for a taste), the recipes are simple and sound nice and I will be trying some. This isn't a recipe book though, some don't expect pages and pages of them.
Non-gloss pages all add to wholesome effect, the book is littered throughout with simple drawings and inspiring photos. Alys's book has renewed my enthusiasm to try some different varieties and persist with growing my own.