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~~ Allotment - Month by Month ~~
I have the most vivid and wonderful childhood memories where I would help my Dad in the garden where he would be working hard with planting and harvesting our family's vegetables. I absolutely loved owning my own veggie patch where I would scatter the seeds and wait rather impatiently for the first shoots to appear. My favourite part of all my childhood gardening was sitting on a sun lounger on the patio to remove the delicious peas from the pods. At Christmas time my Dad decided to remind me of my pea pod days when he showed me one of his cine films where a 5 year old Alyson could be seen placing one fresh pea in the colander and half a dozen or so in her mouth!
It was inevitable that I would want to follow in my Dad's footsteps as nothing beats home grown veggies and programmes such as the BBC 70's sitcom The Good Life added to my inspiration. Whilst I consider myself to be quite green fingered when it comes to growing vegetables my biggest problem was not knowing what to plant, when I should plant them and how to care for my seedlings. Despite the internet containing a wealth of knowledge I needed the information in one place where I could quickly refer to a particular vegetable, so several years ago I purchased the hard covered book named Allotment - Month by Month, which as far as I am concerned is a gardener's bible.
I was determined to learn to grow all of my own vegetables, particularly as those sold in the shops are often tasteless and ridiculously priced, so my first task was to write a list of the produce I wanted to grow. Whilst we have a good size front and back garden I still wanted to be able to keep a large amount of my plants and shrubs, so I needed to plan the amount of land that would be used solely for the growing of vegetables.
The 352 page book consists of high quality pages, good sized text and plenty of colourful images, which inspire me to try growing different types of produce. The first section of the book introduces us to the basics where I learned how to plan and to make use of every spare patch of ground. Problems I have encountered in my new home is that certain vegetables have been more successful than when I had grown them at my last property and vice versa. We learn about different types of soil and how to determine if it is acid, neutral or alkaline and there is considerable advice further on in the book on how to improve its condition. My home is situated considerably high up in the Welsh valleys and as a consequence, our garden is a wind trap, so I've learned what plants need to be sheltered and how to do this.
One of the most difficult things for me with home growing is that I have very limited space in which to rotate my crops. As a consequence, the soil was exhausted of nutrients with further crops being less successful. The book provides two different types of crop rotation where we are given information on a three year plan and a five year with each set of crops requiring different needs. This information has proved extremely valuable to me, particularly as this was an area where my knowledge was very limited. Of course, I could have simply picked up the telephoned and asked my Dad, but I am the type of person who always needs to find out for themselves as opposed to relying on others.
Another area where I previously had little knowledge was what I should be using to feed the soil and the book covers composts, manures and fertilizers. We are very fortunate that there is a large field housing several horses within a few minutes' walk from our home, so it's a case of taking a shovel and a bucket and returning with a load of s... thanks to the kind land owner! I have been disposing of food waste for the last couple of years to create my own compost and there is a section in the book that explains the various types of compost that can be created.
What I find extremely favourable about this book is that we are taken through each month of the year and given advice on what gardening jobs should be undertaken. Located on the lower section of the first page of each month is a list of "top tips" which are a brief run down of the entire chapter and enable me to take a quick glance at those necessary jobs. Pests are a gardener's nightmare and I don't mean the next door neighbours! Last year my runner beans were covered in hundreds upon hundreds of crawly things, which were eating my precious crops. In respect of each month of the year we are provided with a list of pests we should be aware of and how to eradicate them should they appear on our veggies. I made the silly mistake last year of not covering my cabbages and each and every one of them was pulled out and thrown on the compost heap as they were plastered in creepy crawlies of some description with their thousands of eggs.
I have gained much valuable knowledge from reading this book and can see why things have gone wrong in the past. The book provides several pages of every fruit and vegetable that you could possibly think of and I like the small 12 month chart that is located at the front of each section identical to what you would find on a packet of seeds. Consequently, at a glance I am able to see when I need to carry out different processes, such as planting my seeds, moving them into my greenhouse and harvesting the delicious crops. I am always confused at the different variety of vegetables available and find it very useful that the book provides a list of the best to grow. There is a wealth of tips to be found in each section as well as details of essential gardening tools and whilst I have considerable experience with gardening there was so much that I didn't know. Expert gardeners such as my Dad wouldn't need this book, but for anyone just starting out or for people like me it is perfect and extremely helpful to have all of the information stored in one place.
I particularly found the troubleshooting section of great benefit as we are provided with a comprehensive list of typical problems and the reasons why they may have occurred. We are given considerable advice and information on how to treat them, such as controlling pests and disease. Although I've owned this book for a few years I made a number of mistakes last year, but I'm still learning and gathering much knowledge. I have followed a lot of the advice provided in the book and feel inspired to do so much more in my garden as I aim to provide a year-round harvest for my husband and myself. My successes last year included tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, runner beans, broad beans, peas, carrots onions, spring onions, beetroot and potatoes and there is nothing more satisfying than tucking into a meal of veggies that you've grown yourself. Towards the end of the book we are provided with an A-Z list of pests and parasites which details the crops they attack as well as the damage they cause and what action needs to be taken.
The book was written by Alan Buckingham who has held a plot for many years at the Royal Paddocks Allotments. I own quite a few gardening books, but this is the best by far due to the colourful images and the easy explanations and advice. If you are considering growing your own vegetables and don't know where to start I would recommend this book to you and at the time of writing a brand new copy can be purchased on Amazon for £10.71 inclusive of P+P. I purchased mine from The Book People, but unfortunately, cannot remember how much I paid, but I am sure it was far less than the price quoted on Amazon.
Published by: Dorling Kindersley Limited, London, 2009
Written by Alan Buckingham
Growing our own vegetables has always been an ambition of ours but the outside space that we used to have never allowed us to produce anything more than a plate of salad, however, when we moved house a while back we finally had the space to grow something a bit more substantial. Unfortunately in our first year we quickly realised that there was an awful lot that we didn't know and we ended up with very little at which point the Allotment month by month book entered our lives and things have been a lot simpler since!
Printed by Dorling Kindersley the book entitled Allotment Month by Month is written by Alan Buckingham and it has been an absolute bible for us in the last few months. The front cover has changed since above photo was taken and it now boasts simple salad vegetables and a strap line of "how to grow your own vegetables" which says it all really! This is not a run of the mill hardback book - the sturdy cover contains a spiral binder and the pages are made from thin card and the months of the year are tabbed on each section.
The introduction of the book lays out the reasons why growing your own is so popular, and all of these reasons resonate with me - fresh, seasonal and local are important yet subsidiary reasons that make me want to do it - my main reason has got to be economic and also the pure satisfaction of pulling something out of the ground that I have grown and nurtured. The introduction runs you through plot layouts within your space and bed systems, crop rotation, composts and fertilisers, tools and equipment, and climate and seasons. After reading the introduction, this alone pointed out some of the places that I had been going wrong in the past - it is laid out in such a way that the information is easy to digest and photographs alongside make it even easier to understand, for instance I knew what a cloche was, but to a complete novice gardener the picture makes it obvious. The photographs throughout the book are generally close up and of a good quality and scattered enough on the pages to draw your interest.
This book is divided up into the twelve months and as stated, the pages are tabbed for quick reference. At the start of each month it states which crop is in season and then moves onto which crops should be sown - the book says how the crop should be planted (outdoors, indoors, greenhouse...) and in what form (seed, plant, bulb etc) and it also reminds you to keep an eye on the weather, for example, broad beans can be sown in January so long as the ground is not frozen. Each crop has its own page of instructions and tips but at the bottom of the page there is an at-a-glance box which lists the crops which is useful if you know what you are doing but just want a quick reminder. Next within the month is the jobs that need doing - weeding, watering, hardening off seedlings, potting on, and many many more but most importantly of all, harvesting - the list is seemingly endless and there are obviously more jobs in some months than others. Spring and summer is a busy time in the garden so these sections of the book get bigger, but the information is still not overwhelming and if some jobs are not applicable to you, it is easy to skim over them and move onto the next section as there are large sub headings.
The pests and diseases that might affect your crops are listed for the month, but you have to flip through to the back to find the trouble shooting guide on how to deal with them. The guide is listed in alphabetical order and again, very easy to use and I have found this section very helpful as I have identified several issues that I have had from the use of this book (flipping leek moth will be the death of me!) - It states the name of the pest/disease, the crops affected, symptoms and tell tale signs and how to deal with it. There are photos alongside this section also which show the issues and so it is easy to cross reference to see if you have the same problem. The index at the end of the book makes all of the information easily accessible and I especially like that the main page for the subject that you want is written in bold so you can go straight there rather than leafing through pages that only have that specific word on them.
Overall this book has been a godsend to me in the garden and really has given me a great beginner's crash course in growing my own fruit and vegetables. I have referred back to this book on countless occasions and is has always given me the answers that I need. At the last count we have nineteen varieties growing and I hope to push up this count during the coming years. This book has given me a new found enthusiasm for cultivating my own crops so I would highly recommend it, it shows that you do not have to have a massive plot to ensure that you have fresh food all year round and even though it is entitled "allotment" this could easily be changed to garden if you have sufficient space. The information is well laid out, easy to understand and not at all overwhelming and you don't have to have green finger in order to read it!
My copy came via The Book People who leave their books in offices and clubs and I paid £8 for it which I think is a bargain considering the quality and the wealth of information that it offers, but I see that it is even cheaper on their website now at £6.99. On Amazon it is currently £11.21 with free delivery which is still a good reduction on the RRP of £19.99. ISBN 978-1-4053-9136-8
Also posted on Ciao under my username chilcott1
Continuing my one man protest against the amount of beauty care products on here, please find below my thoughts on a book which has proved invaluable for me in my garden - Allotment Month by Month. However, to keep the Lush product's fan club members happy, may I add that there are many plants grown in the garden that can be used for making soaps!
The book is split into various sections, some giving a background to growing fruit and veg (soil preparation etc) rather than just jumping straight in with an assumption that the reader has already set up their growing space. The comprehensiveness of the sections ensures that the book can be used by novice gardeners or more experienced allotmenteers.
The sections are:
Allotment Know-how: Covers site aspects (sunshine, shade, soil type etc) and offers advice on how to utilise best what you've got. As with all sections of the book, this is packed with colourful, appealing and enticing pictures of vegetables in the growing position - encouraging you to grow your own. Also covers crop rotation (very useful for stopping the build up of diseases and nutrient depletion), composting and recommended tools / equipment.)
Allotment Calendar: Starting at January, each month tells you what you should be harvesting, planting and sowing, what diseases and pests are about at what time of year and also what essential jobs should be done at your growing space. Some of the jobs covered include - pruning (what, when and how), digging (not as straight forward as it sounds!), wiring and ties of fruit trees, which crops need covering over or cloching, hand pollination etc. In fact, this section of the book is extremely useful and helps to dispel some of the mystery involved with growing veg that puts many people off.
Crop Planner: Each vegetable and fruit is detailed here - when to plant it, special growing tips, care, requirements etc. I have found this section to be invaluable as each vegetable's pages has more information than you would normally find on the back of a seed packet.
Trouble Shooter: Again, a very useful section of the book. The book itself opens this chapter with the words - "It's an unfortunate fact that most allotments are a battleground". I don't think that the author means "battleground" in the sense that you could be strafed by a Fokker Wulf whilst watering in your carrot seeds, but in the sense that there are many natural enemies to the growth of healthy, edible crops. These are mainly either pests or diseases, and the section gives plenty of advice how to identify, manage and prevent their occurrence. Worthwhile paying this chapter some attention as it can prevent your crop being ruined sometimes literally overnight by taking a few simple precautions - for example growing carrots in a bin will raise them off the floor and out of reach of the dreaded carrot fly.
Closing Sections: After the obligatory index, there is one side of contact information for seed and plant suppliers in the UK and one side detailing how to go about getting an allotment plot from your local council.
My Final Thoughts: An easy to follow, easy to apply book full of gems of wisdom which have helped me immensely in my garden and maximised the size of harvests I get from my very modest back yard. Well recommended, 5 stars out of 5.