Reviews The Veg Plot

Three new gardening books reviewed

Gardening Book Spines

2017 already looks like being a great year for gardening books if the standard of review copies coming our way is anything to go by. Spring has barely begun and we’ve already picked out three that deserve a space on your shelves, and here’s why…

Joyce Russell gardening book

Build a Better Vegetable Garden

By Joyce Russell, photography by Ben Russell
Published by Frances Lincoln, £16.99

The clue to the contents of this book come in its subtitle, ’30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest’, and anyone with a liking for the practical-building aspect of gardening will be charging up their cordless drill within minutes of opening it. Joyce Russell guides the reader through 30 projects, including raised beds, bean frames and boot cleaners, every stage of construction matched with an instructive photograph.

Each one of the projects is presented with such down-to-earth clarity that even the toughest ‘five dot’ builds – such as a natty looking garden caddy – look easy enough for anyone able to unroll a tape measure. For those less sure of the items in their tool box, the book opens with a guide to the basic tools required followed by handy tips on some of the drilling and cutting actions required.

Within each project you’ll also find useful gardening advice. So following on from the photograh of Joyce proudly putting her A-shaped bean frame in place we have a page of sowing and growing tips for the beans that will swarm around its timbers. And it’s this combination of building and growing advice that makes this book so special – you know that each one of these projects has been conceived by a proper gardener with the aim of making the vegetable growing experience more rewarding.

Kendra Wilson gardening book review

My Garden is a Car Park and other Design Dilemmas

By Kendra Wilson
Published by Laurence King Publishing, £12.99

Is your garden too long and narrow? Does it have high walls and railings? Or are you considering keeping chickens but are worried they’ll destroy everything in sight? Most of us have at least one gardening obstacle or anxiety to overcome, and Kendra Wilson has addressed some of the most common in this new book.

Given the book’s premise, you might think not many of the 144 pages are going to apply to any one garden, but you would be surprised. Besides design concerns of garden shape and situation, the book also answers questions related to specific plants (“are roses complicated”) and troublesome tasks (“I don’t like mowing around trees”). Each topic is given a full page of advice facing a page of photography, with related topics cross referenced, making this a dip-in-and-of book, rather than a cover-to-cover affair.

Wilson’s writing is as neat and tidy as the book’s presentation, dispatching various considerations to each subject with a confident and reassuring purpose. Even if you’re so laid back about your own garden that you can’t possibly think of a problem that needs overcoming, a quick flick through this book might just open you up to new ideas to get even more from your cherished outdoor space.

Medicinal Plants Book Kew Botanical gardens

The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants

By Monique Simmonds, Melanie-Jayne Howes and Jason Irving
Published by Frances Lincoln, £14.99

We all know that plants are grown to provide beauty for an outdoor space, sustenance for the vegetable gardener or, in our case, ingredients for booze. But one of the most fascinating, yet under appreciated benefits to nurturing some plants is for their medicinal qualities.

This book delves into the vast banks of knowledge available from over 250 years of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and shares an understanding of the medicinal properties of more than 270 plants. Each one comes with brief botanical knowledge and medicinal uses, accompanied with clear illustration to aid identification. You’ll also find 24 practical projects for preparing tinctures, teas and oils from some of the book’s star subjects.

It’s a lovely reference tool for anyone who wants an informative overview on the subject of medicinal plants. You’ll find growing and picking advice, potential cures for ailments you’ve never heard of, and plenty of fascinating facts and insights that makes each passage of copy an educational and enjoyable read.

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