Book Review: The Allotment Book by Andi Clevely

I’ve recently been lucky enough to be given an allotment and my family gave me this book by Andi Clevely for Christmas to help get me started. My allotment is the most land I’ve ever had to cultivate (by a mile!) and it’s approaching the growing season. It’s fair to say I am feeling very daunted. Will I have time? What if I forget stuff? Are my windowsills big enough to house all the seedlings? I have the “I’ve taken on too much” fear. In summary, I am this book’s ultimate target market!

The Allotment Book is a lovely glossy read with loads of photos, diagrams and illustrated text areas to break it all up. It does exactly what you want, covering everything you could need to know about getting started. From the prepping of soil and weeding, through to choosing crops and growing them properly.

As I have now read quite a lot about preparing a garden and know how to do that, I found the most useful element of the book was the actual specifics on each vegetable and fruit plant. I imagine the large choice of food to grow is the bit most people find exciting and overwhelming in equal measure at first – there are so many different factors.

Multiple sections of the book attempt to break up the growing season into manageable chunks. From a familiar sow/grow/crop table showing the main crops with what to do and when, through to a season break down (which my head finds easier to follow).

Unfortunately, I have this sinking feeling that until you actually get stuck in and start growing things, the detail of the allotment year will continue to elude my brain. After reading this book, I still feel like the allotment year is going to be like juggling a load of plates with one hand tied behind my back.

I’m planning on growing a lot of different crops, so the multiple layering of different plants being sown and grown at different times is highly complicated. Throw in all manner of other variables like growing conditions, crop rotation to avoid pests and disease, and quantity of plants to feed our household. It’s a lot to take in and the information in a book like this, doesn’t just automatically transfer to your head. There’s nothing to it but to dig.

But I write this in February, it could all be a different story by the end of March when my seed sowing is off to a rocking start. Fingers crossed!

Summary: The Allotment Book

If you’re looking for an intro book to running an allotment, or indeed a productive fruit and vegetable garden, this book is for you. It has a wealth of knowledge. “Crammed with information and tells you all you need to know” says the review on the front cover and I have to agree.

On reading however, it shows the limitations of books when it comes to veg and fruit gardening: it really can be quite complex if you want a large variety of different plants. I came away from this book well informed but wishing I had a poster for a household of two people, showing where to plant everything on a 4 or 5 year crop rotation. Something I’ll be creating in a spreadsheet instead.

All in all a great book. It could perhaps do with having a few little bits cut out to simplify it, and perhaps a little reordering to help make it a tiny bit easier to dip in and out of, as it has so much in it, it is a bit jumbled. A recommended buy though.

Score: 4/5

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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