A good read and a potter

The most thumbed gardening book I own is Joy Larkcom’s Grow Your Own Vegetables. It is easily the best book I bought when I got my allotment and urgently needed great practical advice. And while I chat about that we can take a potter around the allotment and check up and see how things are growing.

It’s the book I turn to time and time again.

To remind myself of the dos and don’ts. To verify an insect or a disease. To check up on the practicalities of growing a certain vegetable.

A book to turn to when I have questions that need answering.

It’s plain and simple – a no frills approach to gardening.

Rainbow Chard

No big glossy photos or life-style statements, just a few simple hand drawings with easy to read directions.

And all the time you are reading it, you know she has grown the fruit and vegetables she’s writing about, she has tried the different techniques, she has built her soil up, she’s dealt with pests and diseases. Her words give you an understanding and a confidence.

Packed full of practical advice on how to set up a vegetable garden, to build and maintain a compost heap, pruning and propagation techniques, the tools you need and of course the how to sow, plant, care for and when to harvest.

So practical and yet so easy to read. I’m not blinded by science or bombarded with opinion. Gently but firmly is it written.

And now of course with blogging, if I want to understand something a bit better, or if a fellow blogger asks me a specific question I flick through the pages, many with highlighted passages others with sticky-notes attached. And there is the answer.

And then of course there is her fabulous book Oriental Vegetables, best we leave that for another day!

For more info on Joy Larkcom take a look at the Guardian and Waterstones, where I’ve discovered there is a new(ish) book out called Just Vegetating A Memoir…. credit card at the ready….

Do you have a favourite garden read?


    • That’s very kind, I keep looking at it thinking it’s looks a bit lack lustre – our weather is not being kind to us – I shoul djust appreciate what I’ve got, but that is easier said than done !

  • Looking good, looking good! I don´t have a favourite gardening book, we have a few Spanish ones here. I do like the H Fearnly Whittingstall (or however you spell it) Rover Cottage Year and Nigel Slater´s Taste books as they inspire me “seasonally”.

    • You know for a long time I avoided HFW and Slater’s books becuase I thought they were very meat based, and what the heck did they know about veggies! But maybe I should re-visit them. I like the seasonally thing to – I have a Sophie Grigson cook book that gives recipes for individual vegetables which I always find inspiring and useful

  • I too am a big Joy Larkcom fan. I have that veg book and the Oriental veg one . Both equally fab. Joy now lives in southern Ireland I do believe.

    • I think you are right about her being in S Ireland. She’s such a wonderful gardener, and that said in a world of “celebratory” where she definitely seems to have avoided taking that path!

  • I like Wendy Johnson’s Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate. There’s plenty of science in it, but lots of stories, too, and beautiful line-drawings by Davis Te Selle. I had not heard of Joy Larkcom. I saw beans, chard and beets in your allotment photos — did I miss something?

    • I’m going to go and have a look at your recommendation – the illustration tempts me too
      Well there are pea flowers (no peas yet), french beans and shelling beans have been planted but are probably out of shot, sweet peppers and their flowers, lots of salad leaves, and radishes.

  • What lovely, lovely garden photos! What a beautiful garden it must be! Thanks for sharing these images, and for the book recommendation…I’ll look for it. My current favorite is Designing the New Kitchen Garden by Jennifer R. Bartley, but the book I turn to most often is an old copy of A-Z of Popular Garden Plants. It’s a good reference for propagation, pruning and climate. Thanks for the walk around your allotment!

    • Hi Cindy, lovely to hear from you and thanks fo rthe compliments, as ever I look at the garden and think it could be better, so I need to accept where I am and enjoy it! And thanks for your suggestions I’m off to have a look, sometimes it’s the simple straight-forward ones that are the most appealling – particuarly when you have dirty hands already!!

  • The plot looks great, the splashes of red are lovely. I was given a present of Alan Buckingham’s ‘Allotment – Month by Month’ which is my go to book. I also dip into ‘The Vegetable Expert’ by Dr D.G. Hessayon, not very organic though when it comes to disease and pests.

    • Hessayon is excellent but as you say not exactly organic. But the whole series is superb, I know I have them and refer to them as well. I haven’t come across Alan Buckingham, so that’s anothe rone for me to look into – thanks!

  • That book sounds great, and your garden is looking fantastic! Everything looks so healthy, and I love your pea trellises. I don’t have one single go-to gardening book, but there are a few I really love. A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach is great, sort of half memoir, half how-to. (Her blog, awaytogarden.com is fantastic too!) A new one that has inspired me lately is The Year Round Vegetable Garden by Niki Jabbour. Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth is fantastic if you want to learn more about saving seed.

    I’ll have to look for a copy of Grow Your Own Vegetables. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • I love Seed to Seed as well- really practical. The Margaret Roach book sounds interesting – not just a memoir or just a how-to book, and thanks for mentioning her blog another must read by the sounds of it 🙂

  • I am inspired to garden whenever I pick up either of the Nigel Slater “Tender” cookbooks, as they are as much about gardening and the seasons as they are about food. Nice garden by the way!

  • Your garden look better and better, Claire, and your beautiful photos do a good job of showing it to us. Thanks for the book recommendation and for taking us along on your walk. 🙂

    • To be honest John the garden is looking fairly patchy – those bean canes should be covered in peas by now. But it’s such a slow season, I’m having to practice patience….. apparently it’s a virtue 😉

  • The allotment is looking glorious, Claire! Our favourite gardening book has been by Linda Woodrow, and it’s the plan on which our chicken-powered permaculture backyard garden has been set up. The best thing about it is that it really is written for Australian conditions, which means that most of her planting suggestions work well in our Sydney climate. Plus, it takes a reasonably laid back approach – one of the most important things it has taught us is not to fret over setting up a “perfect” garden, but rather to enjoy and accept the garden as it grows…

    • That sounds a very inspiring book, I love the idea of chicken power! But seriously it makes so much sense, friends have chickens in their back garden and all the veggie peelings and bits get munched up, and around the loop it goes.
      And what a great message to impart – so often we are looking for perfection and I know a lot of people struggle with making mistakes or getting things wrong, so it’s good to hear about enjoying it instead! hope you have a super week Celia 🙂

  • The allotment is looking very good. I enjoyed seeing the cane cages that you have made…art in your garden.

    • I hoe so Noodle, I just wish it was a bit warmer and then there would be real progress – i.e. the kind of progress you get to eat 🙂

  • I love seeing how your allotment is springing to life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and th eoutstanding photos.

    • Very kind of you. The garden has been slow to take off this year, I know I’m repeating myself here but we need WARMTH and we need it soon!!

  • So much to learn, how does one ever know it all! Thought of you today when I went to a fabulous nursery and came home with edibles and flowering plants. So fun!

    • I don’t think we will ever know it all, and just to confound us every year is slightly different – weather, bugs you name it!
      I’m sure you chose some beautiful plants for us to all enjoy Lulu 🙂

  • That’s quite the garden you’ve got going.. must be all that useful information in your book;) and a little elbow grease I think! I want to grow peas.. could I plant a simple circular trellis like yours and pop in a few seeds??

    • Hi Smdige, and thank you – there is quite alot of elbow grease, I know this weekend I need to shift a load of manure, not the most pleasant of jobs but the veggies love it 🙂
      Peas are fab to grow, the flowers are so pretty. I grow climbing peas – they get to about 5-7ft tall (in a good year) so I prop them up with the canes, so far it works. Normal peas only grow to about 3ft so you don’t need the cane structure. And yes, what have you got to lose by popping a few in the ground? Beware of mice though they like pea seeds, well they do on this side of the water 😉

  • Love the garden photos – everything so fresh and green! I grew up with Organic Gardening magazine; my father moved us to a small farm when I was 13 so that he and my mother could try out all of those new ideas at the time. I still have a few of the early issues and the books by Rodale, and I still phone my mother for advice 🙂

    • I bet your mum’s advice is the best and most practical. And what a great gardening background you have had. My mum was a very keen gardener but didn’t grow fruit and veg, my brother is a gardener and I’ve persuaded him to get an allotment too, so now we can share ideas and advice!

  • I have been looking for a good vegetable gardening guide–thank you!

    • You are welcome, but having written it I realise it might be a bit English, but the actual details on plants and how to grow them still remains the same wherever you are. 🙂

  • It’s so exciting to see your garden flourish! Very much enjoyed the intimate photos of the of the vegetables reaching for the sun. Thanks for sharing some of your magical garden.

    • Deb you are so kind. They are reaching for the sun because it has been doing it’s best at hiding! I could do with some of your Californian heat 🙂

  • It would seem that Claire has two hands full of green thumbs! I love how your garden grows – and though I hear you say it’s “patchy” it looks quite wondrous to me! I’ve got “space” for a garden and perhaps when the work crews have left here, I’ll get some cold weather crops in. Sadly, I’ve missed beans this year, but that means I get to support some local farmers which isn’t half bad either. Thanks for the inspirational tour of your garden Claire!

    • I think supporting your local farmers is a fantatsic thing to do on all sorts of levels – from great fresh food, to creating jobs.
      I’m sure after your building work you will need a break, but yes to cool weather crops of kale and chards – yum! And then the potential for next year……
      Ooops I forgot to say thank you for the thank you 🙂 Hope you have a super week!

  • I’m new here – this is the first post I’ve read but it won’t be the last. Thanks for the tour round your productive plot.

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