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Best of 2019: Gardening Books

NEW Vegetable Garden Techniques by Joyce Russell (White Lion, £18.99) is the best guide for the keen beginner that I’ve seen in a while.

Terrifically practical and full of money- and time-saving methods, it’s also attractively laid out, with exceptionally helpful photographs making it easy to follow.

Fans of the world-famous Haynes Workshop Manuals won’t be disappointed with Shed Manual by John Coupe and Alex Johnson (Haynes, £24.99). This meticulously detailed hardback on designing, building and fitting out your perfect shed is going to give a lot of readers happy dreams during their Boxing Day siesta.

50 Ways To Cook a Carrot by Peter Hertzmann (Prospect Books, £18) is an intriguing title for a very readable book in which the author, a professionally trained cook who has also taught cookery, uses carrots as an example to stand in for many other garden crops.

Although there are plenty of recipes in the book, Hertzmann's main intention is to teach us methods and scientific principles which we can then apply to different ingredients and dishes. Original and valuable, this is a book you'll return to many times.

An often over-complicated subject is efficiently simplified in The Kew Gardener’s Guide to Growing Fruit by Kay Maguire (White Lion, £12.99), which provides all the basic information you’re likely to need on 75 fruits and nuts in a clear and compact format.

Similarly, Perfect Pruning by Simon Akeroyd (National Trust, £6.99) is small enough to take into the garden with you and straightforward enough to give confidence in the essential techniques and aims of pruning.

The author insists that pruning is not a dark art unmasterable by mortals and that in reality there’s very little to worry about.

Growing Winter Food by Linda Gray (Fox Chapel, £14.99) is a lively handbook, complete with recipes, to ensure you’re eating your own produce even during the frozen months, while The Winter Garden by Emma Hardy (Cico Books, £12.99) is best explained by its subtitle: “Over 35 step-by-step projects for small spaces using foliage and flowers, berries and blooms, and herbs and produce.” Flat-dwellers and balcony-gardeners especially are sure to be inspired.

Another fine Christmas present for any gardenless friend, Container Vegetable Gardening – Growing Crops in Pots in Every Space by Liz Dobbs with Anne Halpin (CompanionHouse Books, £14.99) covers herbs, vegetables, salads and edible flowers in a cheerfully illustrated paperback.

Having something home-grown to eat every month of the year, from a raised bed just 10ft x 4ft (3 x 1.2m), is the aim of Veg in One Bed by Huw Richards (DK, £14.99). There still aren’t nearly enough books devoted either to small vegetable patches or more generally to the importance of abundance, so this one is very welcome.

Growing food in raised beds is particularly emphasised in A Garden Can Be Anywhere by professional garden designer Lauri Kranz (Abrams, £28.99), who started gardening as a volunteer at her local school in Los Angeles. In this lushly illustrated book, she shows how food can be grown in any space.

Of all the pleasures of gardening, I wonder if scent is the most overlooked. Scent Magic by Isabel Bannerman (Pimpernel Press, £30) is a luscious book in its prose, photography and quality of production. But it’s also perfectly practical — if you want a patch of garden, of any size, to please your nose all year round, Bannerman will show you how it’s done.

RSPB Garden Birds by Marianne Taylor (Bloomsbury, £25) is a lovely big hardback. Full of colour, it's probably the most complete and authoritative book available on encouraging and enjoying birds in your garden.

It would make a perfect pair with The Wildlife Pond Book by Jules Howard (Bloomsbury, £16.99), endorsed by The Wildlife Trusts, which gives crystal-clear instructions on every aspect of making and maintaining ponds.

An irresistible novelty is Tea Garden by Jodi Helmer (CompanionHouse Books, £13-99) — how to grow and brew your own teas from tea itself and from dozens of other plants.

Classroom assistants, parents, or anyone else who would like to introduce children to gardening without spending much money will be grateful for Plant, Sow, Make and Grow by Esther Coombs (Button Books, £12.99), an engaging and varied collection of projects and activities.

We Made a Wildflower Meadow by Yvette Verner (Green Books, £12.99) is the delightful, amusing memoir of a couple who, instead of mending their roof, decided to use the money to buy half an acre of land and turn it into a nature reserve.

The knowledge they gained in the process can be applied in many situations, on much smaller or larger pieces of ground, which gives this book an appeal to gardeners, non-gardeners and romantic dreamers alike.

Anyone who’s ever lived on a newly built estate will know that blank-canvas gardens present their own challenges, as well as opportunities. More comprehensive than its title suggests, Plant Combinations for an Abundant Garden by David Squire and Alan and Gill Bridgewater (Creative Homeowner, £14-99) is a thorough account of how to create an edible and ornamental garden from scratch.

How to use every edible part of a plant, and not just the bit it’s famous for, is the fascinating idea behind Root to Bloom by Mat Pember and Jocelyn Cross (Hardie Grant, £20).

Horseradish flowers, carrot leaves, sweet potato vines, pumpkin shoots and broad-bean tops feature, along with many others. For sheer originality of theme, I’m naming this my gardening book of the year.

Mat Coward’s new book Eat Your Front Garden will be published by Prospect Books in March 2020.

 

 

 

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