Welcome Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion – Growing into your life »
And turn your gardening space into an edible resource
By Alison Ferry
Have a garden, or space for one? Want to be more self-sufficient, or just add some home-grown veggies and fruit to your diet? This might be the transformative guide you are looking for.
Gardens evolve over time. We purchased our house about five years ago and for the first couple of years I felt reluctant to change much of the garden. It was overgrown, and I felt I should work on restoring it to a standard the previous elderly owner had worked for.
Slowly the space felt more like mine; the plants that weren’t performing – or in the case of bougainvillea and blue plumbago, overtaking (a story for another time) – were removed. I am moving towards creating a more traditional block with veggies out the back and ornamentals in the front yard. Well, that was the plan a year ago, as now I have discovered there are too many things I would like to grow to eat, so maybe the front yard isn’t off limits to edible foods…
I want to provide food from my own yard as much as I can with the time that I have being limited by a toddler. I was needing inspiration to start thinking about gardening again, I hate winter (I could easily hibernate if my daughter would let me) when lo and behold, onto my doorstep arrives the Kitchen Garden Companion – Growing. At 377 pages it's a good sized reference item, with instant appeal.
The previous edition was a huge book simply called the Kitchen Garden Companion, and with 784 pages it was too big to handle comfortably in bed (doesn’t everyone read their cooking and garden books in bed?!) The new editions have been revised and broken up into two separate books, Growing and Cooking, making the advice on cultivating your own food so much easier to find and be inspired by.
I am smitten with Growing to say the least. This book isn’t intended to be an encyclopaedia of edible gardening, rather it focuses on the most common Australian backyard fruits, vegetables and herbs. Each plant has a summary page and then more detailed information follows in clearly laid out sections.
Stephanie Alexander has a background in trying to establish gardening and healthy eating as an important part of children’s education, and it’s great to see the ‘Especially for Kids’ segments in each chapter. These sections give suggestions on involving children in gardening, for example seed collection, drying and creating trellis frames. Here you will also find great tips on introducing kids to tasting vegetables, which seemed timely as so far my husband’s announcement of, “Yum broccoli!” hasn’t been very convincing to our daughter.
The guide for the number of plants to establish for a family of four is a great thing to include. Being fairly new to gardening vegetables, I don’t have the best grasp on how many of something I need to plant. I have my suspicions that I may have overestimated my garlic needs…
The Preparing and Sharing sections are great, making me feel the end goal of eating my successful harvest will be tangible. This section often has tips on preparation and cooking suggestions.
With the popularity of raised garden beds, I was really happy to see the inclusion of container planting options. My garden is a mixture of garden beds and pots, partly because I am concerned about the soil quality around some of the old outbuildings on our property.
All the essentials are covered e.g. crop rotation, planting times, companion planting, water requirements and fertilising. Unfortunately, I can get a little obsessed (very) with my interests in a particular plant, and was disappointed in some cases that here weren’t more pages on an individual crop. In most cases however the book is more than sufficient, and luckily for me there are seven pages dedicated to tomatoes.
This book is the perfect addition to my small gardening library. Its vibrant photography is sure to please and motivate for the upcoming season. It’s a definite recommended buy for the vegetable garden newbie or the part-time garden enthusiast. I can’t wait to pair it with its upcoming partner book which is due to be released soon, and meanwhile, I’ll be transforming more of my block into an edible garden.
Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion – Growing by Stephanie Alexander and Jacqui Lanarus is published by Penguin Random House (Sydney, Australia 2016; sc, 377pp, RRP A$49.99). It is available at all good bookshops.
Reviewer Alison Ferry is a librarian who enjoys cooking, gardening and writing children’s stories. She has lived in Hobart for five years and is slowly acclimatising to the cold.
- Melbourne (VIC)
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