I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns
review published on Permaculture magazine issue n.92
Charles and Steph have more than thirty years of experience in their hands and this book sums up the work of two exceptional No dig gardeners.
This book is informative, complete in the way it takes the reader form setting up a No dig garden, and on to harvesting, preserving, cooking and much more.
Charles and Steph have condensed and shared a lot of their personal experience achieved in thirty years of keeping their hands in the soil. Charles as a No dig expert has worked extensively in the UK and France on different soils, always with great results. He has been told off in the past for having dirty fingernails but what could a reader expect from a pioneer of No dig like Charles.
Steph has her own faceted story, being passionate about cooking and gardening, she has worked for years as a kitchen gardener for various restaurants, setting up their gardens to supply directly them all year round fresh vegetables, in the meantime she has been cooking what she grows and making potions from her harvests. You can’t say you’re a gardener if you don’t know what to do of your harvest.
The truth is gardening is not for the harvest but for the soil, and looking at our perspective it is for well-being and living a healthy life eating fresh, nutrient dense food. Steph sums up perfectly this perspective. In the years she has tried numerous recipes to make even the less interesting vegetable tasty and desired. She shares some of her best recipes in the book. But from a garden we don’t only harvest to eat but even to make potions from herbs, flowers or roots, that help us in the house and are treats for our bodies. Some maybe known others are more intriguing.
You can’t really garden if you don’t know what to do of your harvest.
Passion, commitment and responsibility, and lots of fun. This is what the reader will learn in this book.
Charles and Steph don’t put together a list of rules of what to do in the garden, but share their opinion on why we should take certain decisions. There is a big difference between what and why, the first is just an execution, the latter is instead a mind opener, that makes the reader ask questions and work by trial. Start small and build confidence. I have to know why I take a certain decision, may it be on mulch, compost or row covers for the winter garden.
The profound knowledge shared in the book is based on an 8/9 climate zone, but the advice they share is fully adaptable to other climates, because ultimately the reader will learn to understand climate and soil and work in context.
Charles and Steph are great communicators, they have each their site, their blog and Charles has a youtube channel that is a treasure of wisdom and experience. Their commitment to sharing their experience and practice has led them to be incredibly effective in taking photo’s of their work, documenting with precision and sharpness. This book is a masterpiece of this effectiveness, some of the photo’s while being inspiring made me hungry. My partner went through my review copy of the book and was struck by the photo’s colours, I assure you will be amused.
The reader will take a journey through twenty chapters that start from the beginning, preparing the plot and where to grow, to sowing and spacing, how to reduce water consumption effectively, deal with pests, grow in longer seasons, make potions of our harvests ideal for fertility of the soil, fertility of the mind, the house and well-being of our bodies. Getting then on to compost making, saving seeds, harvesting and preserving and of course some tasty recipes.
Another section is made of seven chapters that divide what we can grow in groups: perennials, roots and leaves, or pods and fruits, and of course salad leaves, and herbs, flowers and unusual plants. The plants listed are ones that repay the gardener incredibly in relation to the care they need.
The last chapter is on trading and selling the gardens yield. Homeacres, Charles and Steph’s house and garden is a half acre profitable business, and the reader will learn that it is possible to make something out of a small plot if in need or even just trade the harvest.
The layout of the chapters is great, the pages are full of tables that share information on different solutions we can implement. For example, what sort of row cover shall we choose for our garden, a specific table will help choose, keeping an eye on cost, life durability and effectiveness. The reader is put in the condition to make a decision, to think.
Practical boxed tips are dispersed numerously throughout the book and all the plants have a well defined data sheet, with all sorts of information, possible yields and propagation, etc.
If I was struck visually I must say even the content on specific topics is a real payoff.
For the first time Charles and Steph have brought together their writing and gardening skills, and the final result is great. Charles has more than seven books published as well as numerous articles. Steph signs her first book but has been writing for years in magazines. The idea of writing together could have not necessarily been a success, instead what the reader takes from this book is how gardening brings together people, may they be couples or simply friends, but sharing from garden to table is fertile for soil and for families and our communities. Charles and Steph have been able to bring together their personal experiences and differences and make them complete.
If you want to start simple and build confidence in gardening this is the book you should choose, if you’re an experienced dirty hand this is still the book you should choose, you will be surprised of how much you will learn from its pages.
Is this the usual or umpteenth book on gardening? I was asked by a friend that saw me reading it, I said not at all. This is much more, it is a treasure of information, it is a complete guide to fertility and healthiness from soil to body made clear through real life experience.