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I own a vast amount of books on a variety of subjects and over the last few months I have been gradually sorting through them all and giving away those that I no longer use. I am a keen gardener and have enjoyed growing my own fruit and vegetables since I was a child; a hobby that I learned from my father. In amongst my collection is a hard covered book slightly smaller than A4 size named Creating Your Backyard Farm - How to Grow Fruit and Vegetables and Raise Chickens and Bees and this review discusses my thoughts.
The book consists of 192 pages of high quality thick paper beginning on the contents page, which provides a breakdown of each of the four chapters. I favour the fact that a considerable amount of text throughout the book is supported by large colourful images, which inspires me to be more creative with the produce that I grow. Whilst I do not have a huge garden I have been able to maximise the space by carefully researching and planning the items that I grow with the rear garden being used for vegetables and a few fruits. The introduction takes us through the planning stages and offers extremely helpful advice on using both space and time wisely and discusses the smallest of areas such as patios and pots to large gardens. It's often a misconception that if people have a small growing space then they cannot grow vegetables. However, I've often grown many of my produce in ordinary patio pots such as runner beans and carrots and they have proven to be extremely successful.
I have never considered gardening to be a chore although I cannot admit that it's not hard work, but the rewards are most definitely worth it, as my husband and I can enjoy our home grown vegetables throughout the year and as a consequence, save ourselves an absolute fortune. Chapter One provides a wealth of information in relation to starting off and whilst I am not a novice gardener I would not consider myself as expert, as I'm learning all of the time. This is particularly useful for those who've never gardened before, as we are provided with details of the items needed to begin our new hobby. The section on planning is of huge benefit, particularly as it discusses what to plant, space, water and weather. Unfortunately, this year has so far proved to be a gardener's nightmare due to the atrocious weather conditions, which has affected many of my vegetables.
Despite the fact that I've been gardening for many years I found the section on "companion planting" extremely useful, particularly as it provides details of certain plants that can be grown near to others to assist with pest control. For example, rosemary and sweetcorn repel insects from beans with garlic helping to keep aphids away from raspberries. We are provided with considerable information in relation to soil composition and testing for pH levels although I must admit this is not something I've ever done and the produce I grow is based solely on trial and error and by learning from my previous mistakes. We are provided with ways in which to improve the soil and I'm a believer or recycling any vegetable peelings where I make my own compost. The book offers a rich resource on how to create a composter and details the organic matter that can be used. As a result of creating my own compost I have very little garden and vegetable waste.
The book is particularly useful for beginners as we are provided with details of the equipment needed when starting out. The entire book has been written in an easy to understand language without the use of jargon and the text is clear and well presented and a handy inclusion are the many useful tips that are scattered throughout. The book offers a valuable source of information for anyone who wishes to take up gardening or the more experienced with considerable information on how to plant seeds, transplanting and what vegetables to plant and when. For those who are not interested in growing their own vegetables and simply want to produce their own herbs, there are several pages covering the most common; the majority of which are easy to grow in small containers. An extremely handy section for me is the storing of produce, particularly as I choose to grow a large amount of certain vegetables and keep them for the months to come.
In my previous property I was fortunate enough to have a large back garden where I had several matured apple, plum and pears trees, but space will not allow in my new home, so my growing of fruit is now restricted to just raspberries and strawberries. The book covers several types of more commonly known fruits such as those that are tree bearing and soft fruits. Concise advice is provided on how to choose the fruits that are most suitable for your soil type together with information on how to grow and maintain the plants/trees.
The last section of the book covers the keeping of animals and if I had sufficient land this is something I would love to do although I would end up keeping them as pets as I wouldn't want to harm them! We are provided with information on how to keep pigs, goats, chickens and bees. My father was previously a keen bee keeper for many years and as I was so fascinated in the hobby, I would regularly help him out by collecting the honey from his hives. However, a series of bee stings over a period of time caused me to develop a rather serious allergy and as a result, I was no longer able to help him. Consequently, this section of the book is no longer for practical use although I will often flick through the pages and reminisce over our buzzing days.
I had a few reasons for purchasing this book; one of which was the information in relation to growing fruit and vegetables and the other was that I wanted to learn about keeping chickens. I pondered with the idea for quite some time and the book provided me with real inspiration, but I finally made a decision that I was unable to proceed due to lack of outdoor space. There is a helpful list of useful addresses and websites together with a full A-Z index, which enables easy reference. I have found this book an extremely helpful resource and in combination with a couple of other books I own it has enabled me to gain further knowledge to make the most out of my outdoor space. It comes with my full recommendation and for the reasons discussed above it receives five stars from me.
At the time of writing a brand new copy of How to Grow Fruit and Vegetables and Raise Chickens and Bees can be purchased from Amazon at £14.48 inclusive of postage and packing.
Written by Nicki Trench 2010
Published by CICO Books and imprint of Ryland Peters and Small Ltd, London
ISBN - 10: 1907030115
ISBN - 978 - 1907030116