Saturday, 15 January 2011

Soil Mates for my tiny plot

Before even flicking through the pages, I was impressed by the format of this book Soil Mates written by Sara Alway.

It is a handbag size book with a jute sack background. The hard cover shows a soft-rockers tattoo heart embraced lovingly by green lush leaves. I do like the design and bold colours, but besides these pretty illustrations its actually quite a useful garden book.
This little book is actually a guide to companion planting for your vegetables, also dubbed as 'horticultural matchmaking'. Its actually an American book that translates relatively well for those of us living in the U.K.

Some of you may know that I lost my allotment plot in a fire early last year, so now grow vegetable in my tiny garden plot and trying to make the most of that limited space. Whilst flicking through this book, I did pick a number of good ideas in relation to making the most of what I have, for example planting potatoes and beans together. I think I may just do that this year with a dwarf variety, so that I have produce growing below as well as above.
I found her approach to writing quite quirky, fun and light, but I am aware that some people may not appreciate this. She introduces the reader to vegetables as if they were at a dating agency:

just watch out for celery! Leggy and leafy, she is notoriously easygoing and will happily settle down with just about anyone.

My impression is that the intended; or targeted audience for this book are women. Its a little book that serves as a gentle prompt to encourage the 'garden goddess' in you to come out. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Many of us will know that the traditional face of allotments in the U.K is changing as more and more women and families are choosing to grow their own vegetables.
Also I don’t know how Sara Alway has done it, but alongside the companion gardening, she has managed to include 20 creative recipes. The ones that leaped out to me to try were courgette custard with nasturtiums, spinach and pepper couscous loaf, minty beetroot ice-cream and summer squash and borage fritters.

I think this would be a wonderful book to give a virgin gardener, rather than an established one, but saying that, if I had found it under the Christmas tree I would not have been disappointed. This is the kind of book you'd expect to find not only in bookshops, but also independent music store and trendy caf├ęs. It oozes coolness whilst encouraging you to get your hands dirty. For such a compact book, it is direct, informative whilst being colourful and amusing. I like it.


  1. I'm a huge fan of companion planting and use it myself at home and this book looks lovely - thanks so much for the review; it's on my wishlist ;)

  2. Mangocheeks
    I like the looks of it too. I have far too many serious gardening books ( did my RHS cert in Horticulture last year) and now find a lighter style far more easy to browse through
    Happy gardening - feeling brighter now the bulbs are breaking through the soil !

  3. oooh, cute book! i'm totally putting that on my birthday wishlist.

  4. wow that book looks fab, I love companion planting so will be trying more of it this year.


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