Barbara Pleasant is a multi-award-winning garden writer who has written about organic gardening and self-sufficient living for over 30 years.
Recently a friend asked what I thought of his plan to have a quarter acre of pasture plowed up so he could plant a wildflower meadow there. Explaining why his method would promote weeds, and that it would be better to plug in bulbs and plants, took more than an hour. In GrowVeg: The Beginner’s Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening, Benedict Vanheems explains it in two pages, and explains it well.
Brevity can be so beautiful. Take the topic of making liquid fertilizer from comfrey. While the 75 comments on Jeremy Dore’s original GrowVeg article make interesting reading, I like seeing the material in the book focused on concise, accessible information, including the requisite photo of slimy rotten comfrey, ready for composting.
The Making of the GrowVeg Book
I have hovered around the edges of this book’s development for several years. I gave advice on three evolving book proposals and five different publishers, and in the greatest of happy endings, GrowVeg ended up with Storey, publisher of my books and numerous other best-selling books for self-sufficient gardeners. GrowVeg then enlisted the talents of London-based photographer Kim Lightbody to help make this book beautiful as well as useful.
As any book author will tell you, there comes a time when the work takes on a life of its own, becomes a thing that holds the energy put into it, always with the help of others. That’s when you finally know what you are doing, and you put your heart into it.
Ben Vanheems rose to the task, and then rallied again to address questions asked by editor Carleen Madigan. I’ve worked with Carleen and have benefited from her wisdom, but she does have hang-ups about the accuracy and clarity of words, traits shared by all fine editors.
Step-by-Step Gardening Projects
I should lend my copy to my friend who wants a wildflower meadow, but I’m not done with it yet. Long ago it was cool to grow little herb gardens in wood crates, which is included as a step-by-step project, and I’m itching to try it again. I can have an herbal bouquet on my deck, so even if it’s raining I can grab the sprigs I need for dinner. Should a big storm threaten, the whole operation can be moved to a sheltered spot.
I’m also weary of losing strawberries to weeds, so Ben’s plan for a tower of plants set in three cascading pots might be just the thing. Or maybe I should try them in one of his hanging gardens, attached to a sunny wall. GrowVeg: The Beginner’s Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening is supposed to be for new gardeners, but it’s also for the rest of us who think dreaming up new garden projects is a good use of time.
Now in its finished form you get good old-fashioned book learning you can soak up at your leisure, and think about, and then go back to when you’re ready to create something wonderful. I give it five stars.
To find out more about GrowVeg: The Beginner's Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening, click here.