As 2016 draws to a close, my garden looks a lot different than it did last year. For starters, it has 12 raised beds now, instead of 6. There’s a small shed for storage, and a log store. There are gardener’s paths, an improved fence with fruit-training wires and small raised beds in the extra garden strip. I would not have got this far without Ryan’s endless energy and enthusiasm, his practical skills. And his dad. Whilst I am Head Gardener, Ryan is the garden’s Chief Engineer.

When I was writing the dissertation for my Master’s, I mused that for a kitchen garden to be really successful (and certainly, for unusual crops to be successful), both a gardener and a cook were needed. Now I know that someone with DIY skills is required as well 🙂 It would be possible for all those skills to be combined in one person, but I suspect it is more common for there to be a team behind a good kitchen garden, even if what most members contribute is a willingness to eat their veggies!


Cover of Build a Better Vegetable Garden

So it’s nice to see a new book from husband and wife team Joyce and Ben Russell. Joyce, it seems, is both the gardener and the DIYer. Ben takes the photos 🙂 Their work will already be familiar to people who read Kitchen Garden magazine, or who (like me) were fans of the much mourned Organic Gardening Magazine. Joyce’s articles are always extremely practical, looking into features you can add to your garden without spending too much money.

That expertise has now made it into book form, in Build a better vegetable garden: 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest. I, of course, love the focus on the kitchen garden, and it’s probably true that dreams of self-sufficiency mean that kitchen gardeners are more willing to have a go and try and build things.


Contents of Build a Better Vegetable Garden

Each of the 30 projects is given both a difficulty rating and an expected timescale, so you know what you’re letting yourself in for. They range from simple things like cloches and supports for broad beans, to planters, raised beds and an elegant obelisk support.

The first section includes advice on buying tools and choosing materials. Then there are tips on DIY techniques, from marking out straight lines and drawing curves, right through to drilling and assembling.


Raised bed from Build a Better Vegetable Garden

Several pages are devoted to each of the 30 projects, nicely laid out and amply illustrated with good photos. There’s a list of all the materials and tools you’ll need, and then step-by-step instructions on how to complete the project. The broad bean support section comes complete with instructions on how to grow your beans, once you’ve made the support. In fact, each project comes with a page or two on how to make the best use of it, once it’s built.

I handed the book over to Ryan (perhaps with a suggestion or two for next year – I do like the look of the basket planters…), and he was impressed by the quality of the instructions, with everything laid out, easy to follow, and photographed. There’s a clever, hinged tool storage system for a shed that caught his eye, which would almost instantly treble the space available for hanging tools.


Basket Planter from Build a Better Vegetable Garden

There’s something in the book for everyone, although you’d need a large garden (or an allotment) if you wanted to build them all. There’s even some projects that I could complete on my own, despite the woeful DIY skills that are a result of a girls’ grammar school education and having a dad who is not in the least bit handy. But if your gardening team includes DIY skills then this is a great book that will really help you to up your garden game next year.

Build a better vegetable garden: 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest is a paperback book with 192 pages and an RRP of £16.99, but if you shop around you can get it cheaper (try socialbookco for price comparisons).




This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.

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