Hells bells my shoddy compost making has been immortalised in print in my friend Dee’s new book – The 20-30 Something Garden Guide.
I met Dee last summer at the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling in San Francisco. We seemed to click with a similar sense of humour so when she put out a plea for photos of compost heaps for her new book I was happy to help – strangely not many people have photos of their compost heaps, I can’t understand why not.
This is Dee’s first book and an ambition she has had for a while. The premise is that Dee acts as a garden coach for the reader, coaching them through their first few years of creating a garden, mainly for edibles. I like the idea of a garden coach and I think it is something which is quite prevalent in the USA but to the best of my knowledge not here in the UK which is a real pity.
The tone of the book is chatty as if you are standing considering your plot with Dee by your side. The pages are full of asides and stories to illustrate Dee’s points. We learn that Dee’s grandparents survived the Great Depression in the Dust Bowl through growing their own food, the battles US gardeners have had to be allowed to keep chicken in an urban setting and to plant their front gardens with edibles rather than grass. These are of course all asides but they add colour and flavour to the text.
The book is basically divided into three garden plans. Starting with a balcony/patio garden with everything in pots, going on to a slightly larger space with raised beds and then ending up with a larger garden. This isn’t a book that has pages devoted to this veg or fruit but various plants are discussed in relation to different projects. There are sections on pests, diseases, deer, two-legged pests, watering, compost making etc. She covers all the topics that we encounter time and again in the garden media such as community gardens and heirloom v hybrids but in an easily digestible format.
Despite the book being written primarily for a US audience it is completely transferable to the UK. As the US has such a wide range of growing conditions, many far more extreme than anything we experience here in the UK, Dee hasn’t been very specific about timings of sowing etc but given more wide-ranging advice.
Throughout the book you are: encouraged; reassured that all gardeners have failures; given little projects and ideas to keep you inspired – everything a new gardener needs to hear. Unlike many How to Books this book does not take a superior tone, it does not use strange horticultural terms and lingo, it does not dictate rules about spacing, timing, planting etc, and most importantly it does not extol a council of perfection – hence the inclusion of my shoddy compost heaps! Instead it encourages you, not only the 20-30 something in the title, to have a go.
This is a book I would have liked to have had by my side when I first started trying to grow veg. Maybe instead of going for a large allotment straight away I would have followed Dee’s advice and started small and manageable with some pots on the patio. Despite giving up my allotment (which is in the book) two years ago I am now reconsidering the possibility of growing some veg in pots on the patio.
I would recommend Dee’s book to anyone toying with starting to grow their own or to anyone with a friend or relative who they think might appreciate some words of encouragement and good advice.