Gardening is a relatively new hobby of mine, in that I’ve been growing plants in my house for about three years and last year moved outdoors and rented an allotment in London. In that time I’ve read more gardening books than I care to think about (some better than others) and I’m constantly talking up the benefits of being outdoors, growing things and the total joy of pulling your own carrots from the ground.
The books featured here should help set you and your family on the road to gardening life. All of them are authored by women, but there seems to be a persistent and niggling lack of people of colour in the annals of gardening books. I can only hope that in time this changes. Plants themselves are culturally resounding and depending on where they come from, can have real tangible worth for the communities that love them.
In Ireland, there is a longstanding history with the common potato, while plantains are a focal point of cooking in West and Central Africa. While I’m sure lots of countries produce their own gardening books, I long for a publishing world where stories of growing and cooking are shared across borders and boundaries, building communities from seed to harvest.
If you read these and fancy sharing some photos of what you’ve grown, please come back and show me!
RHS Step-by-Step Veg Patch by Lucy Halsall
The Royal Horticultural Society usually produces very good books for outdoor spaces, but this is one of my favourites. They suggest that this is foolproof and, well, I’m inclined to agree. Focusing on small spaces, including patios, the book teaches the reader how to grow 60 vegetables and 15 fruit crops, and also gives some guidance around what might grow well in your location. This one is quick, easy and should pay dividends quite fast.
How to Garden When You’re New to Gardening by Royal Horticultural Society
Ever looked at your garden and thought ‘man, that’s boring’? Fancy growing some carrots and herbs but have no idea where to even start? Are you the kind of person who’s killed every houseplant you’ve ever had? This is the book for you. Starting from scratch with easy to follow basic instructions, this book alone could help you to start and maintain a positively lovely garden.
How to Grow Stuff by Alice Vincent
Vincent is a self taught gardener, so f you’re a total beginner that should fill you with encouragement. Having taken over a balcony in the city, she set to work bringing the small space to life. Vincent helps the gardener to grow food, yes, including herbs, tomatoes, and courgettes, but she also focuses on some really lovely flowers, including tulips and oxalis – so your garden can thrive and not just be about what goes on your plate at the end of the experiment.
The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook: Plant, Cook, Eat by Caroline Craig
Lots of people like to get their kids involved in the garden, and though some children love it (as there are worms they can investigate), many small people might find gardening boring. Craig wrote this book that specifically focuses on growing and eating, and passes on a mine of information about insects (thrillingly called ‘minibeasts’!) as well as explaining how plants grow and what cooking utensils are for. It’s beautifully illustrated and definitely sure to catch the attention of your little one.
The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler
This one is all about growing in the city. Fowler throws all the rules out the window and it makes for a really lovely read – she’s a thrifty writer with Gardener’s World, so this book and its tip don’t cost much and there’s an opportunity to grow a small haven of a garden that’s chock full of food you can bring to your own table with just a small amount of effort. On top of that, Fowler has added in recipes for the food she’s grown – including pickles and jams.