No dig organic gardening saves time and work. It requires an annual dressing of compost to help accelerate the improvement in soil structure and leads to higher fertility and less weeds. No dig experts, Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty, explain how to set up a no dig garden. They describe how to:
• make compost and enrich soil
• learn skills you need to sow and grow annual and perennial veg
• harvest and prepare food year round
• make natural cosmetics, cleaning products and garden preparations
These approaches work as well in small spaces as in large gardens. The authors’ combined experience gives you ways of growing, preparing and storing the plants you grow for many uses, including delicious vegetable feasts and many recipes and ideas for increasing self reliance, saving money, living sustainably and enjoying the pleasure of growing your own food, year round.
Charles’ advice is distilled from 35 years of growing vegetables intensively and efficiently; he is the acknowledged no dig guru and salad expert both in the UK and internationally. Stephanie, a kitchen gardener, grows in her small, productive home garden and allotment, and creates no dig gardens for restaurants and private estates. She creates delicious seasonal recipes made from the vegetables anyone can grow. She also explains how to use common plants you can grow and forage for to make handmade preparations for the home and garden.
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 acreprofitable 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.
This is the book on no dig gardening that we have all been waiting for. Not only does it have over 200 pages with all the information you were hoping to find, it is also one of the best presented books I have handled in a long time. The writing is clear with no hype or waffle and is laid out beautifully making full use of the photographs to create an easy to follow instruction guide that you will come back to again and again.
The authors have a wealth of experience in various climates and will guide you to the most appropriate techniques to use in your own garden. They also took almost all the photographs themselves, in their own gardens and homes, ensuring that the words and pictures work together in perfect balance and harmony.
Here is a sample page to show you what I mean.
For a slightly higher resolution image that you can actually read click here
This book will inspire and enable anyone with a garden or access to enough land to create a no dig organic vegetable garden that will supply abundant produce to their homes.
But I think one of the best things about it is that having taught you how to create your garden and grow your produce, it then switches to how to store and use it, not only in the kitchen but all around your home, making this a book that will become a firm favourite that is likely to spend its time living on the kitchen table rather than on the bookshelf.
Here's the contents list to give you an idea of the book's scope.
1 Growing Skills
2 Where to Grow, Size of Plot, Deciding Inputs
3 No Dig, Clearing Weeds and Ongoing Soil Care
4 Sow, Plant, Space, Water
5 Prevent, Deal with Pests and Diseases
6 DIY Potions for your Garden, Home and Body
7 Transforming Waste into Compost
8 Longer Seasons
9 Storing Produce after Harvest
10 Storing and Preserving your Harvest
11 Saving Seeds
12 Food and Recipes
13 Top Perennial Vegetables
14 Top Vegetables for Roots and Leaves
15 Top Vegetables for Pods and Fruit 16 Salad Leaves all Year
17 Growing and using Herbs
18 Growing and using Edible Flowers
19 Some Different Plants to Grow
20 Selling, Trading
So who is this book for?
As a wonderful guide to tested and proven no-dig techniques it would be the perfect choice for experienced gardeners who wish to broaden their horizons and experiment with the no dig concept. It would also be the right choice for those of us who have physical health problems and want to find ways to continue to raise our own produce without having to dig.
But I think the main audience for this book is new gardeners. If I was just setting up my first garden, this is the book I would want by my side. If friends of mine were moving into their first property with a garden, this is the book I would buy for them as a house-warming gift. I can see it becoming my go-to wedding gift.
In short, this is a superb book and is as beautiful as it is practical. It an absolute credit to the publishers and authors who have worked together to create a book that is a pleasure to read and a joy to behold.
In the time it's taken me to write this review, this book has become the best selling book about organic gardening at amazon.co.uk and it deserves to stay that way for a long time and reach the hands of a whole new generation of budding gardeners.