When I was asked if I would like to review this book at first I thought maybe not for a few reasons. Number 1 has to be that I do not have an allotment or indeed a wish to have one. I am also not the world's greatest vegetable gardener and lastly and probably most importantly: I have that cynical 'I don't like garden in a hurry/shortcut' type approach. So why did I decide to review it? Well, going in reverse order: I think it is useful at times to look at the things I am immediately suspicious of as for all I know it might be making a good point. I also would like to be a bit better at vegetable gardening, but no, I am still not going to get an allotment.
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and published by Frances Lincoln. RHS books have a reputation for being thorough and spot on with their advice and guidance and this book does not let that reputation down. This is a revised edition, the original book was published in 2006. It is written by Lia Leendertz and it tells us early on that the half-hour principle was 'dreamt up' by Will Sibley. Pretty quickly the book deals with one of the my concerns mentioned above: yes this book is about dealing with your allotment a half-hour at a time; but it is not about only half an hour a month, or even a week. No, what is being talked about here is keeping your allotment under control in half-hour slots totalling up to around two and half hours a week. So you could do your half-hour every week day and then have the weekends off, or any other combination that works for you. In reality how could you do anything of lasting value gardening-wise in just 30 minutes a week never mind a month?
After that I settled into the book and what a wealth of knowledge it is. The book talks about vegetables worth the space and those not so worth the space. Having said at the start of this that I am not a brilliant vegetable gardener, I do like to grow some. I have struggled with thoughts about what I grow as my space is limited and so is the amount of time I want to spend on vegetables. I was fascinated by the discussion about potatoes as the book does say that they are relatively cheap to buy and also take up a lot of space to grow. Two good reasons not to waste space on them, however, Lia goes on to say that nothing can beat the taste of home-grown new potatoes. This I cannot disagree with, so Lia says that growing new potatoes is very worthwhile and if you are short of space then maybe think twice about main crop. This is great advice. There is also a discussion about purple sprouting broccoli. This is one of my favourite vegetables to grow as I think it is well-mannered, not too expensive in space and tastes wonderful. Lia pretty much agrees though she does see it as expensive in time, it is something you have to keep in the ground quite a long time and if you are limited in space then this might not be a good thing. This is all worth considering.
The book discusses seeds vs plugs, seeing some things as good to grow from seeds but others when time and space is short as reasonable to grow from plugs. Again this struck a chord with conclusions I have reached that growing lots from seed is not always the best thing for me to do. This year I have grown cabbages, calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli from plugs. I know I could have grown them from seed but I end up with usually too many or not enough and it is a faff. To have my plug buying habits verified through the book was rather comforting.
We then have a large section on the best varieties to buy. If not persuaded already that this book has merit, this section alone makes the book buyable. For vegetable growers like myself, who are not that good and not that knowledgeable, it would have saved me a lot of trial and error if I had had this book.
The book talks us through basic jobs and it does mean basic. It talks of digging and hoeing. There is advice on getting organised and what needs to be done what time of year. There is also advice on pest control from biological controls to companion planting. I liked the section on wildlife gardening and also the chapter on allotment gardening for children.
This is not the biggest book you will ever buy and yet it covers a huge amount of information. I can happily recommend it and not just to people who either have or who are thinking about having an allotment. If you are the slightly rubbish half-hearted vegetable gardener that I am, then this book will help. It might not make you any less half-hearted but you might feel happier about some of the choices you make when deciding what to grow.