The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z

When I first became a freelance writer, I had no thoughts of writing a book. It wasn’t that it was daunting, but rather that there were a lot of gardening books on the market and I couldn’t see how there needed to be any more. My garden had been slowly growing for a few years, the grow dome was just about finished and in use, and I had started to become interested in unusual edibles, but I wasn’t a gardening expert – just an enthusiastic amateur. I knew that I didn’t want to add to the army of books that tell you exactly what you need to do in your vegetable patch every month in the year.

I was in the bath, not thinking about much at all, when then idea for The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z came to me. I thought that an alphabetical structure would allow me to cover a lot of disparate topics that I had been learning about, trying out, and writing about, over my first few years of being a gardener.


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I had already had a couple of articles published in Permaculture Magazine (they pay in kind, not in cash), and knew that they also published books. So I sent a book synopsis to the editor, who rapidly replied to say that she liked the idea and would like some time to discuss it with the rest of the team, and politely asked me not to offer it to anyone else in the meantime.

I remember there being a bit of a lag before my proposal was formally accepted and I was signed on as a Permanent Publications author. It can’t have been too long, however, since by September of 2008 I had finished the first draft of the book – 90,000 words! I had to do some serious trimming in places…. Writing it was a remarkably smooth process, the only challenges being presented by the self-imposed alphabetical format. The sections for Q, X, Y and Z involved some creative thinking!


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With the bookazine, the process was quick – from signing a contract in December it was on shelves the following March. Getting my first book published was more drawn out.

In the end it was ‘rushed’ out in time for the Big Green Gathering in July 2009. I was going to attend, complete with a hundred or so copies of the book, and do some workshops. If I remember correctly, we had to buy a tent. But the gathering was cancelled at the last minute, and so my triumphant book launch didn’t happen.


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The feedback I got for the book was that people enjoyed the honesty with which I portrayed being a gardener – talking about failures as well as successes! The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z is the story of how my garden grew, and how I developed as a gardener in the early years. It’s about being embedded in the online gardening community, and in his foreword Mark Diacono wrote “as you’d expect if you’re familiar with Emma’s work, it’s a generous book, linking people, organisations and the reader throughout, joining the dots as it goes.” It’s also about growing edible and useful plants in an environmentally-friendly way, which is its elevator pitch 🙂

There’s a lot in the book that I will be revisiting now that I have a new garden to play with.

Earlier this year, the publisher confirmed that they had sold all of their copies of The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z and were letting it go out of print. The rights have reverted to me, and in the future I may well do a second, updated edition. In the meantime, I have a few copies left, so give me a shout if you’d like a brand new copy, signed by the author! (If you’re not in the UK, the postage tends to me more than the price of the book, so you may want to look elsewhere for a copy.)