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4.7 out of 5 stars73
4.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2010
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.
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on 23 April 2010
I loved this book. Beautifully put together and encapsulating Fowler's quirky hippy charm it inspires you to get out there and make the most of whatever outdoor space you have. It opens your mind to a new approach towards growing your own and brings the notion of polyculture to a mainstream audience. Fowler's enthusiasm for fresh, home grown veg is clear, and infectious, and will have you reaching for your wellies and gardening gloves in no time.
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on 29 April 2010
Alys' book is very pretty, and there are some useful bits; but I find the chapters very awkward to follow, it jumps around quite a lot, and nothing is dealt with in great detail. I was expecting more information than we got in the TV programme, and I felt a little let down. Very good section on the various types of compost for container planting; but her chapter on foraging almost seems an afterthought - I am hoping she is planning a whole book dedicated to the subject, which may explain why her advice amounted to 'buy a good reference book'.

Definitely one to depress those of us who need somewhere to dry clothes and house a slide and a sandpit (or, heaven forbid, a deckchair), because her garden is stunning, but what most of us (or our neighbours) would probably despair of outside the summer months - I definitely think the fact she is a professional horticulturalist puts her on a bit of a pedestal - if my garden looked like that my neighbours would probably complain to the council that it 'needs seeing to'! The explanations of permaculture / polyculture were very good, she has a lovely, approachable way of writing that explains things really well for beginners, and there's a nice chapter on edible flowers. I wish, ruefully, that I'd bought 'The Thrifty Gardener' instead.

In all, a pretty, easy to read and inspirational book more suited to the coffee table than a resource for growing healthy crops as easily as possible. If that's what you want, look to John Harrison instead.
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on 22 June 2010
A beautiful book, which covers growing a more unusual range of plants than most vegetable gardening books. However, the poor punctuation and sentence structure is very distracting. Maybe it's a reflection of Ms Fowler's relaxed style of gardening in which plants are allowed to rub up against each other, but the use of strings of sentences separated by commas is tiresome.
And what is a 'chicken coup' (page 133)?
Is it a) a rebellion carried out by hens
b) a misspelled poultry house?
Surely BBC Books could stretch to a decent proofreader?
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on 20 March 2010
This book was really helpful - and also really beautiful and accessible. It is arranged so I will be able to refer to it through out the growing season, which is useful because this is my first year to grow my own food in my back garden.
Well worth it.
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on 14 April 2010
Absolutely stunning book, loads of useful ideas and tips. I have gardened like this for a number of years but she still managed to provide some new hints and tips. Beautiful photography too
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on 19 May 2012
I bought this book after borrowing it from the local library and not wanting to give it back. Lots of ideas here to copy. Don't think it is for new gardeners though unless you are just looking for inspiration. Money well spent.
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on 31 August 2011
I watched Alys Fowler's TV programme last year but didn't get around to buying the book till only recently...what a great gardening book this is! If asked what this book is about I'd say: sustainable self-sufficiency, permaculture, empowering oneself through the study of one's local environment, some bits of herbal medicine, interesting recipes...and much more!! Lovely, lovely book, I'm reading as I would a novel, it's that well written and flowing...not to talk about the cute drawings made by Fowler's husband...;-)
If you're into growing your own veggies and you're looking for something new and down-to-earth, in tune with what's happening with the world right now, then this book is for you!!
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on 29 July 2010
Following watching the TV series, and now reading the book, I now have an edible garden! Lawn & shrubs gone, now have purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, french/runner & broad beans, peas, tomatoes, leeks, beetroot, radishes & cougettes to name afew nestled amoung rudbeckias, helianthus, lavenders, lupins, cranesbill & herbs! Kids love it and I send them out foraging for bits to add to the evening dinner (keeps them quiet and they really enjoy bringing veggies & herbs for Mum to put into the risotto etc!) Planning fruit bushes to add to this happy colourful mixture to plant in the autumn - possibily red & blackcurrants, gooseberries etc?!! It's great fun, give it a go!
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on 14 April 2010
This book is one of those that on a wet day you can curl up and dream of time in your garden.Beautifully set out with practical advice and written by someone with passion in her gardening and a wish to impart knowledge and courage to the novice gardener- definitely to be recommended.
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