In case you missed the exciting news last week, my latest book – The Small Harvest Notebook: Vol. 1 – is now available in paperback from Amazon. I’m working on a Kindle version, which will be out in due course (more news on that when I have it).
The idea behind the Small Harvest Notebook is that whilst gardens are getting smaller and houses and households are getting smaller, conventional advice on growing your own isn’t keeping pace. Although we may all hanker after self-sufficiency, and a smallholding with chickens – or at least an allotment that supplies all of our veggies – the truth is that just doesn’t fit into modern life for most of us. Kitchen garden advice is aimed at producing the largest possible harvest, but we can’t use big gluts of fruit and vegetables; we don’t have the time and space to preserve it for later use.
Gardening advice can also be complicated, particularly when it comes to hot composting, rotation plans and fruit tree pruning, and it gives the impression that gardening is technical and that it’s hard, where in reality most of it is easy. Plants want to grow.
Over the last two years I have been building a new garden from scratch. It’s a process that’s still ongoing – the raised beds are all finished in the back garden now, and the perennials have put down roots in the front garden, but there’s still the extra bit (the Sunset Strip) to sort out. Gardens are never ‘finished’, but the structure is in place for ours. We designed it to be multipurpose, an outdoor space that would entice us out of the house. We don’t have kids, or even a dog, so we don’t need a play space, but we cook and eat outdoors (and would like to do so more regularly), and I just love it when the weather cooperates and I can dry my laundry outside.
Our design minimises weeding and watering, two gardening tasks that I find burdensome (merely a personal preference – I know there are people who love the ‘zen’ nature of weeding, and watering is a good opportunity to get a good look at your plants). It isn’t a low maintenance garden – I love to potter and play with my plants – but it maximises the things I find fun and minimises the rest, so I can enjoy the garden more. It can take care of itself for a while if there are times when I can’t garden, making it easier for me to venture outside again when I feel better.
So… all of this has come together in The Small Harvest Notebook: Vol. 1. As the name implies, there’s more to follow, this is just the start of a journey I hope you will join me on. Now that the garden is in place, I’m concentrating on making it somewhere we enjoy spending time, and which provides us with tasty and healthy food on pretty much every day of the year, without overwhelming us with gluts. It’s a space for wildlife as much as us; we love watching bees, butterflies, birds, even the acrobatic squirrel. Time spent outside with plants and greenery is good for us; gardening organically and peat-free is good for the planet.
It’s a lot to ask from a small space, and there’s no roadmap for gardening this way. As I say in the introduction to the book, the key is going to be diversity. I’m going to be growing as many different crops as possible in my space (and my definition of ‘possible’ takes into account not burning out in the spring rush!). Choosing different varieties of key crops will spread the harvest, as will various gardening techniques such as cut-and-come-again (currently in use on the ISS!) and successional sowing.
I’ll be looking at ways to harvest crops at different stages of maturity, to eat parts you would normally discard, and some fruits and vegetables you won’t find on supermarket shelves.
If that sounds like a journey you’d be interested in, then The Small Harvest Notebook: Vol. 1 awaits your reading pleasure 🙂
Want to know more? If you take a look at the book on your local Amazon website, you’ll find that you can sneak a peek inside, at the Contents, the first few pages, and the Index. Happy reading, everyone!
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.