The Thrifty Gardener

My husband received Alys Fowler's The Thrifty Gardener as a birthday present from his sister last week. The book was published in 2008 but, as far as we are concerned, it couldn't be more of the moment (thank you, Rachel!). 

Our garden was completely overgrown when we moved
into our  house in Harlesden in September 2014.

A year and a half after moving into our house, we've just started designing our garden. Our plan is to grow vegetables, aromatic herbs, have a few chickens and plant a few more bee friendly flowers. But we've never looked after a garden before and we don't have any money to spend on it. So The Thrifty Gardener is exactly the kind of companion we need. This book won't sit on a shelf. It's gonna be well used. I know this already. 

The Thrifty Gardener is a well-designed book.
You can probably get it second hand as it was published in 2008. 

Guardian columnist Alys Fowler takes you through the different steps you need to take to create the kind of garden you want. Whether it's pruning trees or propagating plants, everything seems to be perfectly achievable with no previous experience, as long as you follow a few rules. Money is not an issue. You can grow a chilli plant from seed and an avocado plant using a pit. No excuse. 

I bought three seedlings (chilli plant, tomato plant and butternut squash)
 from Queen's Park farmers' market yesterday (£3!) 

The Thrifty Gardener is very appealing to zero waste advocates. Alys Fowler is all for using repurposed containers, making flower boxes with reclaimed material and bargain hunting for plants in garden centres. There's also a section on how to grow a garden if you are renting. The chapter on house plants is also very good. You can get a lot of pleasure for keeping plants indoors but you can't expect them to do well with very little/no attention (note to myself!). They need repotting every year (yes, they do!). 

Two of my house plants.
I gave a bit of  tender loving care to the spider plant last week.

We've started making our own compost less than a month ago. So, as soon as I laid my hands on The Thrifty Gardener,  I've delved into the section dedicated to compost. Without any good compost, growing any kind of plants is impossible. Making good compost is like baking a cake, write Alys. You need to follow a recipe. All the rules are laid out very clearly by the British gardener. She also explains how to build your own compost bin and your own worm box. Get your tools ready!

One of our two compost bins.
They were a (very useful) Christmas present from my parents-in-law.

"When you grow your own vegetables, make your own teas or recycle your kitchen waste in a bin that you made, you are taking control", Alys Fowler writes in the preamble to the Thrifty Gardener. I say amen to this. I never thought that scrapping my vegetable peelings and fruit skins into a compost bin in my garden would fill with joy. But it does. As for growing vegetables, well, give me a few months...

For more information:
The Thrifty Gardener, How to create a stylish garden with next to nothing, by Alys Fowler, published by Kyle Books
Alys Fowler on Twitter: @AlysFowler