Patio Produce by Paul Peacock

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Patio Produce by Paul Peacock

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: If you've ever wondered whether it was possible to grow food in a relatively small space then this is the book for you. Good basic instructions and a reasonable coverage of the plants it's possible to grow. Recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 156 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Spring Hill
ISBN: 978-1905862283

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It's surprising how many people dismiss the idea of growing at least some of their own fruit and vegetables in the mistaken belief that they'll need to have an allotment or at the very least a sizeable vegetable patch of the type which is simply not possible in many modern gardens or because they're living in a city rather than a village. Paul Peacock sets out to prove that this needn't be the case – with the proof of this particular pudding being the fact that he lives in Manchester.

I'd better spell out my own interest in the subject. I'll confess that I decided to grow food in the first place because I'm actually not that keen on gardening and if I had to put some effort into keeping the patch tidy then we might as well benefit in terms of produce which we could eat. It was only when I discovered that the food I was growing in the garden tasted many, many times better than the food I brought home from the supermarket that I realised that what I was doing was worth the effort. Over the years the containers have spread and grown in number. I'm proud of the pink enamel bath at the bottom of the garden even if it does produce a lot of merriment and the fact that I have eight dustbins containing fruit bushes worries no one less than me.

I wish I'd had a copy of this book when I started out. I could have avoided quite a few mistakes. Growing in containers is quite different to growing in the ground. There are no reserves of water or nutrients which the plant can draw on when it's in a pot and the watering and feeding regime needs to be more assiduous. Similarly the weather has more effect on the plant. Paul Peacock explains what happens to the plant and what action needs to be taken.

There's good advice on the equipment you'll need (reassuringly little, in fact) and a plan which will take you through the year. It's not set in stone and if it doesn't work for you then you can change it. When you've reached this stage you'll be full of confidence that you can grow food. The information about how often various crops need to be fed is worth its weight in gold – it's as easy to overfeed plants grown in containers as it is to underfeed them.

This book provides some of the information which I was hoping to find in the River Cottage Handbook Veg Patch and the list of plants which you can grow is impressive if slightly impersonal. Personally I've never seen the point in using an eighteen inch pot to grow a two inch cauliflower. It's undoubtedly possible, but given the effort that will be required – is it worth it? I'd like to have seen more of an assessment of the value of growing certain fruit and vegetables rather than just an indication that it was possible.

There are also some notable omissions. My best crops come from redcurrants and white currants. The white currants aren't available in supermarkets but they're heavenly and no trouble to grow. Blackcurrants are mentioned but I came away confused as to which variety was best. In the section on blackcurrants (page 116) the variety Ben Sarek is recommended, but in the summary of the varieties of fruit and vegetables on page 153 the only variety recommended is my personal favourite, Ben Lomond.

In fairness Peacock does say that readers shouldn't restrict themselves to the varieties which he mentions. If you follow his advice you will eat well but it would be wise to regard the book as a starting point rather than the definitive work. I was disappointed to see that the advice on growing tomatoes didn't extend beyond using growbags when for years I've been getting far superior crops in terms of quantity and taste by growing Tumbler in hanging baskets – obviating the need for staking and side shooting which do deter the novice gardener from growing this most useful crop.

If you've never had the confidence to grow your own food in a confined space then this book will be a godsend to you. It will get you started without a lot of expense and carry you through the inevitable queries that you'll have. Don't think that you can go no further because I'm sure that it won't be long before you're experimenting on your own account.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

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