Posts Tagged ‘Joy Larkcom’

Foraging talk given by Miles Irving at King Henry's Walk last summer

The more I know about gardening, the more I want to know. Gardening courses are a wonderful way to increase your knowledge and as the growing season starts, there’s a plethora to book onto. Locally to me in North London, King Henry’s Walk Garden has a whole series of great courses and talks running throughout the year.

Photo: Vertical Veg 2011

Last night I went to hear Mark Ridsdill-Smith, of Vertical Veg, talk about growing food in small spaces. All were wowed by the image above and Mark was very generous in sharing his extensive knowledge with all who came to the event. More photos inspired us all to experiment with growing some unusual veg such as Wasabi (as in the beans) for their tasty leaves and flowers, and herbs such as Vietnamese Coriander, Lovage and Sorrel which you’d be hard pressed to buy in the shops.

Mark discussed why you don’t see every balcony and windowsill in urban areas overflowing with tasty produce, and what barriers might stop others from also ‘growing their own’. Probably a combination of not enough time, not being aware what can be grown in such small areas, knowledge of where to start when growing food and also the cost of buying pots, soil and seeds. A really interesting debate and he concluded that beginning with small quick projects might be a good way to encourage others to have a go.

If you sign up to Mark’s Vertical Veg blog, he’ll send you free monthly newsletter full of growing tips and also a his ‘Art of growing food leaflet’ which lists ten very useful steps to enable you to grow your own. If you fancy something more hands-on, Mark will be back at King Henry’s Walk on 21-22 April, for a full on weekend course on ‘everything you need to know about designing and maintaining a highly productive vegetable garden in containers on your balcony, patio and window sills.’  For a very reasonable £95.00,  and cuttings to take away to start you off, this should be a very informative and enjoyable weekend.

Staying in London, The Garden Museum in Lambeth, now lists a whole heap of events, talks, exhibitions and workshops, and I’m very excited to have booked to hear Joy Larkcom, queen of veg growing, talk on June 13th.

And another more hands-on course in London is the Seed2seed monthly foundation course in urban food growing at Food from the Sky on the rooftop of Budgens in Crouch End. Starting next week with a free taster course on March 17th 2012, 2-4pm,  the course continues on the third Saturday of each month from 10-3pm and takes you right the way through the growing season up until November, with a comprehensive study programme aimed at beginners and those with some gardening knowledge too.

photo: Bloomsbury. Laetitia Maklouf talking about making a garden in a year

A little further afield, The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, running from 24th March-1st April, has six, one hour talks from garden writers talking about  their new books (and many other talks from non-gardening authors too!). Above is Laetitia Maklouf who will be talking about  ‘Sweetpeas for Summer: How to create a Garden in A Year’ on March 28th and other talks include: Sararh Raven on wildflowers, Sunday 25th March (which sadly I’ll have to miss due to eating cake at our next ‘Cake Sunday’), Toby Musgrove on heritage fruit and Veg, Jennifer Potter on the History of Roses, Val Bourne on colour in the garden and Andy Hamilton on making wine and beer from fruit veg and foraged plants. All talks last for an hour and cost £10. Certainly worth finding out which talks and courses could inspire and enlighten you throughout 2012.

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As the thunder cracks and the rain is lashing at the windows, I thought I’d mention a few books that I like to curl up with on such an inhospitable afternoon.

Anna Pavord’s ‘Plant Partners’ is close to what I regard as plant porn. Sumptuous photographs  make you want to get planting and experimenting instantly and I often reach for this book when seeking inspiration for plant combinations as I plan specific areas of a border for a specific season in the year. Mostly listing perennials, bulbs and annuals with a nod to shrubs and ferns too, I’m still grateful to the friend who bought this gorgeous, informative book for me years (note coffee stains) ago.

Another gift from a friend when I started growing crops on my first allotment, Joy Larkcom is the queen of vegetables. None of the glossy images of the former book, but a wealth of down to earth (no pun intended) knowledge shared, about basics of soil, sowing, pest and diseases and cropping at the front of the book, followed by a very comprehensive alphabetical list of vegetables to grow, supplying information on best soil, when and how to sow, pests and diseases, harvesting times and a range of cultivars for each crop. I wouldn’t want to grow vegetables without it.

This catalogue of perennials, including Irises, ferns and grasses from the Suffolk nursery has been updated a number of times over the last few years and a new version is out in February which you can order now. One of the things I like about this catalogue/book, apart from just being a good read,  is that all perennials are listed in the sun loving or shade loving sections, making life a lot easier when searching for plants for different areas of the garden. Descriptions by Michael Loftus are detailed, witty, full of historical references and very descriptive. Woottens’ website has good images too. I find this catalogue very useful for finding the right variety of a plant for the right place in your garden.

Another veg growing book and a very welcome recent addition to my collection. Written by Mark Diacono from the River Cottage garden collection,  this is a very straightforward book, listing many vegetables alphabetically too, but with gorgeous images for most crops and a heading for each vegetable listing plant group, when to sow and plant out and when to harvest. Very easy to follow and therefore inspirational,  this book also includes somes recipes at the back too.

Finally, another inspirational book that can keep me awake half of the night. Although sadly no longer with us, Christopher Lloyd’s book still is able to convey his passion for gardening and his understanding of how to combine plants to create a stunning garden all year round. Photographs taken from his garden at Great Dixter (still very much alive and continuing to flourish under the guidance of Fergus Garrett) joyfully illustrate his choices of plants that give vibrant colours and playful textures throughout the seasons. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, reach for this book.

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