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Book Review: The Allotment Source Book
Author: Caroline Foley
Published by: New Holland, 2010
Price £20.00 | ISBN 9781847736642 | Hardback
The Allotment Source Book
by Caroline Foley is available from New Holland Publishers.
This is a beautifully presented and written book, full of useful information for anybody trying to start an allotment. The photographs are excellent and they give the book a "texture" that becomes almost a motivation to go out and start digging immediately

It is not a book that you can read in one go. It should be treated as an encyclopaedia, although there are chapters that I found truly inspiring and could not stop reading, like the one entitled "how will you garden" (p 50). This chapter is typical of the rest of the book. It looks at gardening from many points of view, starting with a historical perspective. It introduces you to the pioneers of different agricultural solutions that can be adapted to any plot. I really enjoyed reading about the people that developed the concepts of modern organic agriculture and gardening, permaculture, etc. The chapter then goes on to talk about real examples of people that keep allotments now; the "showman", the woman that has found inspiration in wartime gardening, and a very interesting community project: the peace garden. There is also a small section on gardening for the disabled that offers links to other relevant sites.

The book starts with a brief history of allotments in Britain and has a comprehensive section on how to go about getting a plot from the local authority. It ends with a summary on allotment law written by an expert and a page of useful addresses. In between, there are sections on preparing the ground, dividing the space, planning the planting, gathering the stock, looking after the plants, and the harvest and beyond. All these sections are only the first half of the book.

The second part is the allotment year, and, of course, the plants: vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers that you can grow and eat are all represented and beautifully illustrated. The pages on monthly advice provided in "the allotment year" are very interesting and informative.

The chapter on pests, diseases and other annoyances is also very good. Like the rest of the book, is full of practical advice. I particularly like the last sentence in the introduction: "Aim for a fair balance, not perfection." Sounds like an excellent motto in the quest for growing vegetables (and in many other aspects of life!).

I have truly enjoyed reading this book. I am full of admiration for the vast knowledge of the author and the simplicity of her writing style. Although not a complete novice in growing vegetables, I have never had an allotment. I can imagine that this book will be very useful to anybody that is planning to start one and, as a reference book, also to people with established allotments. It will be an endless source of information for people that want to grow vegetables in the garden, as many of us are trying to do now, especially in urban areas were the waiting list for allotments can extend into years.

I really cannot fault this book, although I think that photographs in the pests and diseases section would have been much more descriptive and helpful than words alone. This brings me neatly back to the photographs. I wish they had been printed in glossy paper. They would have looked truly amazing. I can imagine however that this would have doubled the price of the book and it would have defeated its object, which must be to reach to as many food growers as possible. And it deserves to do so: it is such a practical and enjoyable book.


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