Garden Anywhere Paperback – Jan 30 2009
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About the Author
Alys Fowler trained at the New York Botanical Garden. Currently, Alys is the head gardener at Berryfields, the location for BBC's Gardener's World and resides in the United Kingdom.
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Garden Anywhere takes you from garden design to seed saving and is loaded with advice on scoring materials cheaply. I'm a do-it-yourselfer but I've never felt the urge to snoop in other's trash until I read Alys Fowler's book. The formally trained Ms. Fowler is rather fond of dumpster diving. She encourages rummaging for goods first instead of purchasing them. It may take a while to compile but you'll be saving your pocketbook some bucks while keeping items out of landfills.
I've dug soil since adolescence so I know a thing or two about gardening. Uhem, I grow 7 foot tall heirloom tomato plants (from seed) that produce well into December. The most seasoned of gardeners will surely learn from Garden Anywhere.
Alys Fowler loves compost. She dedicates almost an entire chapter to it and talks about the benefits of making your own compost throughout the book. If I had read this earlier I would have followed her instructions on building my own compost bin instead of purchasing an expensive Tumbleweed. If red wigglers are your thing, instructions on how to build a worm box are also included. Weeds are forbidden in my compost bin. That is until now. Fowler unequivocally states your compost can't live without them. Concocting what she calls "perennial weed soup."
I do have a different opinion on a couple of statements. Of course I would. Seed sowing is the way to my heart. Fowler's method for choosing which vegetables to grow is to "choose vegetables with your stomach and purse in mind." If you have limited gardening space I would agree but I also like to grow unusual vegetables like Cauliflower-Purple of Sicily. I highly encourage you to walk on the wild side of Broccoli-Romanesco.
Onions are mentioned as a crop "not worth growing" since they are "cheap to buy and not a huge difference in taste." I could not disagree more. Onions are my most favorite crop to grow. When the tops of onions are stroked the smell permeates and lingers. I have even caught my dog licking the tops as he walks past them. Besides I've never seen Onion-Rossa Lunga di Firenze available in any supermarket.
I was fascinated by some of the author's fertilizer choices. She approaches feeding your plants with caution and careful thought. Again, emphasizing the use of homemade compost first, discusses green manures, my favorite method of plant nourishment and introduces readers to comfrey, a hardy perennial with the capacity to feed other plants. She does caution this potent potash packed tea smells funky when rotting. "I know that what most offends my nose will please the plants."
As a person that has ruined 160 soil blocks because of improper growing conditions Fowler confirms my aversion to "light boxes" and makes an excellent point for not using them. "I personally don't think this is a good plan for seedlings or the environment." Gardening should reduce our carbon footprint not increase it by using these get-ups. "The most likely cause of leggy seedlings is that you started your seeds too soon and nature can't catch up." Aha! So that's what I did wrong? Don't fret about your rangy seedlings. Just bury them deep.
There are countless gems throughout the book and topics I could go on and on about. Many I loved reading and rereading. Garden Anywhere is a beautifully written and photographed book that any gardener would take joy in reading. The valuable tips will certainly make this book a source of reference. "Slow gardening, like slow food, is taking time to savor."
Take the time to do the same with Alys Fowler's book.
The photography is lovely, although not always helpful. Her personality is wonderful and her writing style is a breeze to read - I plowed through the book in a day. She touched base on some very helpful "101" topics, like determining soil type, making compost, raising worms and organic pest control. However, I could have really used some diagrams about the anatomy of a plant/seed/cutting, photographs of plant problems (yellow leaves, mold, pests, etc) and better step-by-step photographs. I didn't finish this book with any more confidence in my first attempt at gardening than before it was started.
Also, although she advocates organic growing (and I do too!) and thrifty gardening, I was surprised that she recommended using random scraps of wood from who knows where for container gardening. Dumpster diving from construction areas could lead to using materials with toxins that could be leached into the soil and thus your vegetables. Scraping the old paint off of something doesn't necessarily make it safe.
Lastly, on page 18, the last sentence is never finished - it cuts off at "a plant that needs sun will..." and the next page is a completely different topic. Where did the rest of this paragraph go??
Great book though. Sorry I can't give any deeper review other than how it looks. It hasn't been read yet, but the book is loved for how pretty it is, so even if the content turns out to be useless (which is unlikely) it'll still be a good book to keep. :)
Its a great book for someone who's hesitant to give
gardening a try because she basically says....if it can
hold dirt, you can grow something in it. I like that.
I've given a lot of things a try because of this book.
I've also given it as gifts to my friends.
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