My career choices of ‘writer’ and ‘editor’ hint that I’m rather text-driven. So book design has to be pretty spectacular to warrant any or all of my attention.
Suffice to say, The Little Veggie Patch Co.: How to grow food in small spaces is pretty spectacular. As in gorgeous, award-winning-worthy, I-want-to-eat-it, I’m-in-awe beautiful.
But in a complementary sense, because rather than dwarfing the text or making up for poor content as design elements are sometimes wont to do, this book’s design wholly supports and enhances the text.
The Little Veggie Patch Co. has been out for some time, but it’s been sitting on my ever-expanding to-be-read pile for almost as long. I bought it because I’ve always desperately wanted to have a wickedly lush garden filled with flowers and vegetables, with chickens gambolling about. The Little Veggie Patch Co. looked like just the inspiration-meets-instructional text I’d need to achieve it.
As of October, I’ve got the chickens—two former battery hens now named Randall and Coo I’ve adopted under what I’ve codenamed Operation Chooken (you can follow just about their every adorkable move via my Instagram account, @girlcalledfred, or by searching #OperationChooken).
I’ve been convinced I’m on my way to a burstingly good veggie patch and have madly been fantasising about raised garden beds overlaid with straw and fertile chicken poop and pallets doubling as containers. I’ve been sketching out designs for where everything can live (including the bee hive I’m hoping to add to the mix after I’ve completed a beekeeping course next week).
So I laughed more than a little when I read the book’s opening lines, having dug it out to help with my research and design:
The prospect of creating an edible garden can be so all-consuming, it’s quite easy to get over-excited. Spurred on by the overwhelming urge to become self-sufficient, you find yourself staying up past midnight, a glass of red wine in one hand and a blunted pencil in the other, feverishly mapping the layout of your new veggie garden.
Over-excited, moi? If my chooken Instagrams are anything to go by, you could say when I love something, I get a little obsessed. The book continues:
You are certain your family will share your enthusiasm and that trips to the supermarket will soon be a thing of the past. It all seems relatively straightforward. From what you can deduce, the hardest thing will be telling your partner their tool shed is now the chicken coop, and explaining to the kids that their cricket pitch will soon be an amazing new fruit orchard.
I’ll not deny that I was hoping I’d be self-sufficient, except that I’ve quickly learnt I’m far less the green thumb than I ever imagined. Who knew gardening was so tough?
The smartest decision you can make is to start on a small scale and focus your attention on making your veggie patch as productive as possible. Don’t launch yourself into subsidising your current food needs, let alone becoming self-sufficient.
Huh. This book seems to be eerily written about and for me. So I’ve found myself inhaling its contents—figuratively and, because of the high production values, literally too.
The tasks outlined in The Little Veggie Patch Co. are practical, humour-filled, and achievable. I haven’t been disheartened by the difficulty of them as I was with those in Indira Naidoo’s book, which was incredibly well researched, but intense and beyond my extremely low skill level.
The Little Veggie Patch Co. doesn’t dumb the processes down by any stretch, but it doesn’t try to overwhelm you with information. I get the sense these guys—the owners of the business on which the book is based and the co-authors of the book—are very much familiar with explaining the how-tos of gardening in accessible, memorable ways.
For example, they’ve introduced me to the concept of compost ‘lasagne’, which for the first time made me understand how to organise layers in compost (and the importance of doing so).
They made me realise I could manage a worm farm. And they have inspired me to attempt no-dig gardening, which is apparently both the lazy person’s garden and the smart person’s one.
They’ve shown it’s possible—optimal even—to have raised garden beds. Better yet, apple orchard boxes that offer a rustic aesthetic and ergonomic goodness in one.
They’ve also provided vegetable-by-vegetable breakdowns of what to plant, when, and how to nurture it. Then they’ve added in some scrummy recipes to boot.
All of this is accompanied by exquisite images with simple, step-by-step accompanying instructions (please forgive my dodgy Instagram pics of them, but you get the idea).
Suffice to say I’m still staying up late into the night sketching out my plans for vegetable- and chooken-led self-sufficiency, but I’m doing so better informed and with a better plan. Oh, and with a beautifully designed book to inspire.