Build a Better Vegetable Garden – Book Review

Build a Better Vegetable Garden - 30 DIY Projects to Improve Your Harvest

If there’s one thing I need right now (apart from about three weeks’ worth of solid sleep, of course), it’s inspiration. Dull, dank grey days and a sodden and sleepy vegetable garden have left me feeling somewhat indifferent about what’s going on outside at the moment.

So when publishers Frances Lincoln sent Joyce & Ben Russell’s Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve Your Harvest for review, I was keen to delve in and strike up some horticulturally-inspired fire in my postpartum belly.

So did it give me some ideas for projects ahead of the next growing season? Most certainly. But perhaps a lot of the projects will have to be added to Rich’s ever-growing list of things to do (finish the kitchen floor, finish the dining room, put up my polytunnel). So why Rich, and not me? Quite simply because right now, I don’t have the time to tend to a baby and learn some elementary skills. I just don’t. Rich, on the other hand, is ahead of the game and is pretty nifty wielding a hammer, chisel, drill and a whole host of power tools.

So I would say that if you’re a complete DIY novice with zero carpentry skills, are a little lean on the tools front, and like us lack a garage or workshop space, you may struggle a little with the projects laid out in this book. All of the projects featured involve working with timber and require a basic skill set for working with this material. For instance, I really love the bean support and apple/fruit storage trays, but it would take me a month of Sundays to make them, and even longer to make them well (I can’t even saw straight). But if Rich can find some time (and workspace) in the Spring, I’d love to hand over a couple of projects to help us improve our growing conditions and hopefully boost harvests next year.

Likewise, if you’re keen to learn some new skills or already have the knowledge to put together some relatively simple but effective pieces for the garden or allotment – think obelisk, raised veg beds, cloches and fruit cages, and more – then this book should definitely be on your Christmas list. Beautiful photography and clear instructions make each project a tempting prospect, and should inspire homegrowers to help make their little patches more attractive, productive and more secure.

You can purchase Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve Your Harvest through Amazon right here.

Kitchen Garden Experts Book Review

Kitchen Garden Experts

I was sent a copy of Kitchen Garden Experts to review, and happily took up the “challenge” of sitting down with a piece of (vegan) cake and a hot squash, with my feet up in the garden whilst I pored over the pages. It’s a hard life, sometimes.

Kitchen Garden Experts celebrates twenty chefs and their head gardeners. The book explores the working kitchens gardens of said chefs, and offers up a variety of special growing methods, signature dishes and growing tips to boot. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for pretty images. I could spend hours looking at grand kitchen gardens, potagers and little veg patches on Pinterest, so the very first pages seduced me somewhat.

Kitchen Garden Experts

The book is split into sections, with each section dedicated to a chef/restaurant, its’ kitchen garden, a focus a few choice vegetables or herbs, as well as a handy recipe. As a vegan, I will probably to struggle to make even half of the recipes in the book, but there are some such as the Uchiki Kuri Squash Soup in the Vallum Farm section that I will be able to adapt easily.

Kitchen Garden Experts

I also have to admit that although I’m an avid reader, I am also a very impatient person so rather than reading from cover to cover, I have a tendency to flick through gardening or foodie books until something catches my eye. Luckily, this book has lots of stunning pictures that serve as inspiration for my own modest backyard plots, and as such I have been inclined to keep the book for myself rather than offer it up for a competition (sorry!).

Kitchen Garden Experts Star Inn

I particularly loved The Star Inn section, detailing Jo and Andrew’s growing spaces – Rich and I are planning on rigging up some cooking apple espaliers and I would love to emanate the rambling-organised-chaos rustic appeal of The Star Inn plots.

The Felich Fach Griffin section has also been bookmarked (I couldn’t live without onions and garlic), and I am completely and utterly envious of Jack Stein and Ross Geach’s coastal Padstow kitchen garden. That’s the dream, right there. Kitchen Garden Experts also features a Wimpole Hall section, an historic estate which is not far from us at all (I pass it on my way to work in Cambridge each week) so a trip there is definitely on the cards now.

I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back to and referencing Kitchen Garden Experts lots in the coming months, and it will definitely be something I’ll pull out of the bookshelf (along with my John Seymour Self Sufficiency bible) on those long, dark winter nights to keep me inspired about the coming growing season.