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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.