Book review: Sugar snaps and strawberries.

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries:  Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden – Andrea Bellamy (2010, Timber Press, Inc., Portland)

This beautifully-photographed tome is a must-have for wannabe small-space urban gardeners:  it’s a comprehensive how-to manual that details all of the necessities for creating an aesthetically-pleasing and highly productive food garden on a balcony, deck, courtyard, driveway, or small yard.  Containers, of course, are the cornerstones of Bellamy’s designs, but she also offers construction plans for raised beds.  All the gardening nuts and bolts are covered:  light, water, soil, amendments, fertilizers, siting, pest control (organically, natch!) and all of the cultural requirements from sowing to pruning to harvest (including a really great section about saving seed and deliniating the terms “heirloom” and “hybrid”).

About one third of the book is devoted to the food plants themselves, with brief, detailed portraits of standby greens, herbs, tomatoes, root veggies and small fruits – and some surprises, such as mushrooms and grains.  I’m a bit astonished that Bellamy has included larger plants such as apples and corn on this list (particularly the latter, about which she writes, “Unfortunately, corn, also known as maize, is not suited to growing in very small places.”   I’m not quite sure it belongs here, especially as she doesn’t mention that it can be grown as shoots, which may be more appropriate given the theme of the book.  In her defense, though, a small yard can support a few corn plants, soooooo).  All in all, however, the plant selections are excellent small-space choices and many of them can be grown even in geographical locations with limited frost-free days.

Written in a easy-going, very accessible manner (and as an aside, I LOVE the fonts and layout!), this is THE primer for small-space gardeners looking to get started on their first food garden…it’s well worth purchasing as a reference tool.

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Bellamy is the creator of the blog Heavy Petal, which can be found here.

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Related posts:  The Book of Little Hostas.

How to Grow Your Food.

Book review: How to grow your food.

How to Grow Your Food:  A Guide for Complete Beginners – John Clift and Amanda Cuthbert (2011, Green Books, United Kingdom)

I know the gardening season has come to an end, at least for those of us on the Prairies (the snow is falling as I write, after all), but I believe you can never start soon enough with the dreaming.  I mean, we have ten seven months of winter – what else can we do?  Planning for next year’s garden takes longer than growing and harvesting the garden itself!

If growing vegetables and fruit is new territory for you, but you’re dreaming of having your own fresh food next year, then Clift and Cuthbert’s book is perfect for you.  This is about as basic as it gets, right down to the format of the book.  It’s a very tiny, slender volume, with information about each plant on one side of the page and excellent, large photographs on the opposite page.  Only one or two paragraphs are devoted to descriptions on how to grow, maintain and harvest each plant – this isn’t the place where you’re going to learn quirky facts or get bogged down by fancy cultivar names.  Yet…it’s just the right amount of information for you to take with you to the garden centre when you buy your seeds in the spring, or to take to the garden plot after it’s been dug out and is ready to plant.  You can grow veggies right away based on what is in this book – even if you’ve never put your hands in the dirt before.  And, considering the book’s size, there are a lot of veggies, fruits, and herbs represented (forty in all):  carrots, beets, zuchinni, garlic, onions, spinach, leeks, parsley, basil, currants, raspberries, rhubarb, potatoes, salad greens, even beansprouts.   Even if you’re not a food garden newbie, there may be some plants you haven’t tried yet, and this book will give you sufficient direction.

Track this book down and start dreaming!  The photos alone will make you drool.  And, if you have never grown vegetables or fruit before, do give it a try – you don’t need a huge garden plot, and a great many varieties can be grown in containers.  Don’t get frightened by the traditional view of straight rows in a massive bed that takes up half the yard – that’s not necessary (unless you want it to be).   With the high cost of food (and I mean that in more ways than one), it’s worth it to grow at least a few plants for yourself.  You’ll be hooked.

Related post: Rhubarb rhuminations.