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Caroline Foley divider

The Allotment Handbook

Publisher: New Holland Publishers
Published: 2004
Pages: 192


Gardens Illustrated

Being a self-confessed allotment addict, I found myself heartily agreeing with Caroline Foley’s statement that there couldn’t be a better time to take on a plot.

From the first chapter ‘Getting Started’ to the last – ‘Pests and Diseases’ – the information is written in an accessible, engaging style that has a tried and tested air.

Having recently written a book about kitchen gardening, I was particularly interested in which of the hundreds of vegetables now available Caroline had included, as well as how they were grouped. Categorized under clear headings such as the beetroot Family, roots and Stem Vegetables and Distinguished Perennials, all the basic groups are covered thoroughly. I was pleased to see some more unusual varieties too, such as amaranthus, sweet potato and scorzonera. Alongside the practical information, Caroline has included a list of recommended varieties and interesting historical snippets. The chapter ‘Safeguarding Your Site’ is particularly good, containing a breakdown of allotment legislation and appropriate action to take if your beloved plot comes under threat.

The text is illustrated with simple line drawings, but these are rather few and far between, and I would have liked to have seen many more. In particular, the section on weeds would have benefited from illustrations to help novices recognize which demons to b eat into submission.

Fortunately the text is made more digestible by being interspersed with plenty of subheadings and boxes highlighting tips, trouble shooting advice and case studies.

Another small gripe is that the list of useful addresses at the back of the book is rather scant. I couldn’t help wondering if the text was cut short simply to suit the single page devoted to this chapter.

There is an overwhelming number of vegetable-growing books on the market, but The Allotment Handbook distinguishes itself by fulfilling the needs of a specific group of growers and by being heartfelt. I see it as a reference book rather than a cover-to cover read and will be regularly dipping into it to remind myself of tasks to get on with as well as for specifics. My copy is already covered with grubby fingerprints.

Juliet Roberts

The Garden

A useful volume for allotment holders, giving valuable advice on all aspects of plot management.

For those of us who already have an allotment, or who are about to take the brave but enjoyable first steps towards becoming allotment holders, this book is well worth reading. It should certainly encourage newcomers and arm them with confidence when meeting ‘the all-powerful plot secretary’.

It usefully covers what to expect and questions that need to be asked on the initial look round. Details included on allotment law and the useful addresses are both fascinating and genuinely helpful for those with a plot.

Chapters on month-by-month jobs are handy for non-experts, and regional weather statistics give a good guide as to what to expect and – perhaps how to plan. The gardening techniques are adequate for beginners and should lead to further investigations…

Will Sibley