Grow Your Food for Free
19th May, 2011
Packed with useful nuggets of advice; Dave Hamilton’s tome, says Andy McKee, has everything you need to kick start a more self-sufficient way of life
Growing food is officially sexy at the moment. You can tell this from the growing list of celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater who are crowbarring themselves into the grow-your-own market, once the preserve of actual gardeners. This has done a lot to dispel the anoraks-at-dawn image of the amateur veg gardener, so perhaps it's no bad thing - but what a pleasure it has been to read a gardening book that doesn't send the reader scurrying off to the garden centre every five minutes.
Grow Your Own Food for Free (Well, Almost) by Dave Hamilton is all about gardening without spending money. Rather than dealing too much with actual gardening advice, which after all you can get from pretty much any book, the watchwords here are reusing and recycling. Whether it's planting a wildlife corner or making a tunnel cloche out of - well, nothing much, really - this book points you firmly away from the shops. It directs you instead to take a good look at what you've already got, or what other people are giving away for free.
Ellie Mains' artwork, following the primitive style much used by the Transition network, makes clear that this is a twenty-first century book. This echoes the book's anti-consumerist philosophy, which is made apparent right from the start, including in the opening paragraphs. Hamilton is, without doubt, a writer who wears his heart on his homespun sleeve.
Aimed squarely at urban gardeners, the book concentrates on advice for the small scale. The scope, on the other hand, is wide. The growing of food is a large and varied subject, and a single volume can do no more than provide an overview of each. This is what Grow Your Food for Free does very effectively, punctuated with detailed practical advice picked out in coloured boxes to separate it from the text.
There are some real gems here; for example, Hamilton telling you how to make an apple picker out of a two-litre fizzy drinks bottle and a broom handle. In fact there are so many of them that some pages look a little cluttered, but to leave any of them out would be unforgiveable - and I can only wonder about the material that there wasn't room to include. Grow Your Food for Free is inspirational rather than instructive in tone. It’s just the book for anyone itching to get started on backyard self-sufficiency but is put off by the outlay. It would also be a perfect present for those friends – and we all have them – who gaze at the hanging garland of apple rings drying in the conservatory, and pronounce us barking mad.
Grow Your Own Food for Free (Well, Almost) by Dave Hamilton costs £14.95 and is published by Green Books
How to…grow your own herbs
Whether you’re after a garden that’s both pretty and practical, or a ready supply of flavoursome home-grown herbs; Hazel Sillver has the goods on making your dream herb garden a reality
Top 10… self-sustainability courses and workshops
Be it chicken keeping, foraging or organic gardening, if it's the good life you want, there’s a course out there for you. Tom Antebi rounds up some of the best
Creating a Forest Garden: working with nature to grow edible crops
Excerpts from the new book telling you everything you need to know about this novel way to grow edible crops - where nature does most of the work for you.
Seedbombs: Going Wild with Flowers
Josie Jeffery’s opus is a call to arms for gardeners and the community spirited alike, says Ruth Styles
Saving the World’s Wildlife: WWF’s First Fifty Years
Written to coincide with the WWF’s half century, Saving the World’s Wildlife is a fascinating account of the 50-year history of the world’s most famous eco charity
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.