19 April 2013

Review: Kitchen Gardening for Beginners

As a lone blogger I get the fun of deciding all the content on my blogs. The downside of not having to share is that I also get to do all the work by myself, which ends up limiting what I post. This means (among other things) that I can't review as many books as I'd like (a painful fact for a lifelong bookworm). That's why I love it whenever publisher DK sends me books to review. Their books are invariably good. They're enjoyable to read and look at, and they're full of useful information--definitely worth my limited time--and yours.

So, what's the latest worthy book? You can't turn around these days without hearing about eating locally, or its corollary--growing your own food. Whether you have acres or a small urban yard, you can grow food. The idea is the more you can feed yourself, the better for your tastebuds, your health, and the environment. Not bad for a small investment in seeds and time. But if you're new to growing a harvest, where do you start? If you're like me the first step to anything always involves consulting a book. That's where Kitchen Gardening for Beginners comes in.

This book takes you step by step through the process of starting a kitchen garden (which is simply a garden in which you grow edible plants for your household). The written instructions are accompanied by plenty of helpful photos, as well. And unlike some how-to books that are bogged down with theory and endless description (which is fine if you're into that sort of thing), this book delivers the relevant information in a succinct and interesting way. Kitchen Gardening for Beginners is actually fun to read--not something you can say of every gardening book. It gets you excited about gardening and helps you get into it right away.

The book also offers some great advice if you're dealing with less-than-ideal conditions. I've lost count of the number of gardening books I've read (particularly the ones on growing food) that assume you have (or need) massive amounts of sheltered space with full sun and an irrigation system in order to grow anything worthwhile. Kitchen Gardening for Beginners will help you figure out what you've got and help you work with it. Suddenly I'm looking at my north-facing yard in a whole new way.

The book will also help you design your garden--all of it, including areas for socializing and raising critters. There are plenty of projects too, including building paths, raised beds, cold frames, benches, and a herb parterre. In fact, the more I read through this book, the more I find to inspire me (I've noticed that a lot with DK books).

Once your garden is set up and ready to go, the book offers tons of info on what you can grow and how to do it--not just the typical beans and tomatoes, but also flowers, herbs, fruits, and unusual veggies. And once you've harvested your bounty, there's info on storing and using it (no recipes, though).

The book ends with a troubleshooting guide, including handy galleries of pests, diseases (might I just say, ew), and weeds. There's also info on pruning and propagation--necessary knowledge for anyone with a garden.

My only quibble with Kitchen Gardening for Beginners? The teeny tiny print in some of the sidebars--often in a light font against a non-white background. Come on, guys--are you trying to strain your readers' vision? I have 20/20 and I still feel like I need to break out the reading glasses to properly see some of this stuff.

Kitchen Gardening for Beginners is a fantastic resource. Whether you already have a garden and are looking to expand your knowledge, or are new to growing your own food, this book should be on your shelf. I'm already making plans for putting in some raised beds and trying new varieties of edibles.

If you hurry over to DK, you can catch the end of their Earth Day event (on until the 25th) and take advantage of discount prices...

Kitchen Gardening for Beginners by Simon Akeroyd. From DK.

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