Some people like their garden to have perfectly manicured lawns with planting in regimented lines. I think it’s fair to say that Alys Fowler isn’t one of those people.
Her garden is a beautiful mix of plants, trees and shrubs in an apparently chaotic mixture. In her latest book, Eat What You Grow, she describes the methods she uses to grow a wide range of edible plants in her modestly sized garden. The approach, that she describes as ‘polyculture’, is part forest garden, part cottage garden and draws on permaculture design concepts and more conventional organic gardening.
Alongside a permanent framework of trees, climbers, shrubs and perennials can be found a range of conventional annual vegetables as well as a fair few more unusual crops.
The book is organised into a fairly brief description of the principles used to design the planting, followed by the bulk of the content which focuses on the plants, how to grow them and where they fit into the design layers. This is where the author’s depth of experience really shows. You feel that she knows each plant intimately and explains how to get the best from them, both in the garden and in the kitchen.
The book is richly illustrated with line drawings and numerous photographs of the author’s garden.
This might not be the book for everyone though. If you have space to dedicate to an allotment-style vegetable garden, my go-to book would be Joy Larkcom’s Grow Your Own Vegetables. Alternatively, for anyone embarking on a full-on forest garden, Martin Crawford’s Creating a Forest Garden covers the subject in huge depth. I can see this book being most useful for someone with a normal garden who wants to grow more of their own food but without digging up their whole garden à la Tom and Barbara Good.
Alys Fowler’s earlier book The Edible Garden covers much the same ground but the organisation, focus and presentation of this new book makes it a far more useful reference in my view.
Alys Fowler: Eat What You Grow, published by Kyle Books (29 April 2021). Available now from your local book shop. Purchases from following online sellers make a small contribution to physical book shops: https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Alys-Fowler/Eat-What-You-Grow/25561806