I like Alys Fowler’s writing, and while I am not enthusiastic about reading another vegetable gardening book right now–I’m writing my own, and I’m a bit tired of reading/writing about row covers–I love seeing Alys and her garden. That’s why I enjoyed her first book, Garden Anywhere. The publisher of Alys’ new-to-the-U.S. book, The Edible Garden: How to Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too, sent me a copy for review. The book was originally published as part of a BBC televsion series, but I guess, since Alys’ first book did well in the U.S., they thought they would send this one over here also. I must say I like the cover of the U.S. paperback better than the original UK one which seems kinda stuffy.
I also like how Alys opens The Edible Garden, “I want it all, the whole far-flung earth and everything in it.”
Yeah, me too, and I want to grow all of it in my space. However, we’ve both learned that’s quite impossible. You can grow a lot in a small garden though. It’s all about succession planting and incorporating the things you really like all together while giving each of them enough space. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, not really, but we can show you how.
I know if we ever met, Alys and I would be fast friends. However, she lives in Britain, doesn’t seem to have a blog except through the Guardian, and I’ve never met her online or in person. Although there is a blog that says it is from her, I’m not sure I believe it. I like Alys’ red hair for obvious reasons. Her funky sense of style is cool too. She has a nice shy smile like she doesn’t really love being photographed. If so, I know how she feels. I love the photographs of her garden, her working in it, and the produce that comes from it. I guess, you could say I’m a fan which is why I said yes to a blog party for her second U.S. release.
Alys gives good advice. She and I share a similar philosophy regarding the Earth and our place in it. “I cannot teach you about your local knowledge, or about local love and loyalty, except to say that in order to know your place, and where you belong, you need to understand that you are part of an ecosystem far bigger than your needs, and that you are responsible for its health and must be a good caretaker.” I say this differently in my book, but it’s basically the same thing. Spraying chemicals isn’t good for the Earth, and it’s not good for you. Bugs are part of a healthy garden and ecosystem. Growing some of your own food makes you realize how everything is connected, and that’s a wonderful thing. The next chapter talks about mixing things up in the garden. I’m all for that.
It’s when she gets to foraging that Alys really got my attention. I don’t forage. I’ll be honest, ‘m frightened of foraging unless we’re talking about wild blackberries, poke sallett, or black walnuts from a long forgotten tree of a former neighbor. I want to eat the morel mushrooms on my property, but I won’t unless I get an expert out here first. And, yes, poke can be dangerous too if you don’t know when to pick and how to prepare it. I would eat a dandelion green, but honestly, I still harbor the idea that these plants I know are good for us, are weeds. Such is my suburban upbringing. I’ve come a long way as a country girl, but I still, occasionally, have 1970s suburban leanings.
Alys is an urban gardener in England. Brits have different climatic conditions, and they don’t allow some herbicides the U.S. allows. Good for them. Maybe one day we’ll see things differently too. Because Alys lives in an urban environment, she has learned to use urban pet poo, like that of guinea pigs or bunnies, instead of farmyard manure. It’s more accessible where she lives. I enjoyed reading about her British urban garden concerns precisely because some of them are different an American urban gardener’s concerns and very different from mine.
Other things she writes about are very familiar, and while this book covers some beginner information, she never talks down to her readers. There’s plenty of info on starting seeds, growing vegetables and flowers together, being a little wild with things, etc. In the center of the book is a listing of her favorite plants. I was glad to see oriental greens in there as they are among my favorites.
However, what I loved most about The Edible Garden: How to Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too was its visual appeal. The photographs by Simon Wheeler were scrumptious, and whoever did the layouts is very skilled. Nice endpapers, chapter headings, etc. You consider these things a lot when you’re proofing your own book, and I don’t think photographers and art directors get enough credit. Frankly, editors don’t either.
If you’re wanting a beautiful, visually entertaining, vegetable garden book with plenty of meaty information, check out The Edible Garden: How to Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too. It would make a good Christmas gift. The publisher, Viva Editions, is also giving a copy away to one of my readers. So, if you’ll comment below, I’ll choose one comment with a random number generator. This contest is only open to U.S. residents. (Sorry Canadian friends and those across the world!) The giveaway opens now and continues through next Wednesday at Midnight. The winner will be announced by Noon on Thursday. Good luck!
UPDATE: Carol P. is our grand prize winner according to random.org. I shot her an email to get her copy of the book on the way, maybe in time for Christmas vacation reading. Congrats Carol!