If you’re looking for inspiration as the warmer weather beckons, try leafing through some of the excellent books out this spring, bringing you advice on everything from growing fruit and veg to design and practical tips.
There’s a plethora of new books out this year on every conceivable way to grow every conceivable fruit and veg, pushed further by the Jamie Oliver effect and with all the big guns jumping on the grow-your-own bandwagon.
These include Alan Titchmarsh, with The Kitchen Gardener (BBC Books, Â£20), and the RHS, with two yummy titles including a revised edition of its Vegetable & Fruit Gardening (Dorling Kindersley, Â£20), featuring advice from experts on growing more than 150 different foods, and Grow It Eat It, (April 1, Dorling Kindersley, Â£9.99), aimed at junior chefs and gardeners who can get to grips with healthy eating but grow the food themselves.
If you want something a little quirkier, wait till the May publication of Forgotten Fruits, a guide to Britain’s traditional fruit and vegetables, from orange jelly turnips to Dan’s mistake gooseberries, by Christopher Stocks (May 1, Random House, Â£16.99).
As well as being a guide, it’s also a fascinating work of natural and social history. Did you know, for example, that gooseberry-growing contests were a prominent feature of 19th century rural life? Or that the first radishes to arrive in England (in around 1548) were the size of small turnips? Or that there are over 2,000 varieties of cooking and eating apples in Britain alone?
TV tie-ins are also abundant now, so if you have been enjoying Monty Don’s Around The World In 80 Gardens, you can find out more about them in the accompanying book (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Â£20), as he searched for the world’s most inspirational gardens.
If you’re after something different, a little later on in the year you can pick up some entertaining titles including One Man And His Dig (Pocket, Â£6.99, May 6), written by journalist and allotment holder Valentine Low, who decided to forego his world of dinner parties with the chattering classes to take on a down-to-earth pastime. He recounts tales of the characters and crops he has encountered on his allotment and offers tips for green-fingered urbanites.
If we don’t have a similar summer to last year’s washout, we may be in need of Ian Cooke’s new book out in May, Waterwise Gardening (New Holland, Â£12.99), which offers all manner of water-saving advice for gardeners – what to do if you have a hosepipe ban, ways to recycle and store water and water-wise plants.
Take a leaf out of Chelsea gold medal winner Andy Sturgeon’s book by following his design ideas in his new book, Minimum Space Maximum Living Outdoors (Mitchell Beazley Â£16.99, Apr 15). It looks at a range of different spaces from balconies to basements, rooftops to entrances, and highlights particular considerations of each as well as illustrating inspiring design ideas.
And for those planning some visits to gardens for inspiration, grab some companions such as Gardens Of Britain And Ireland, by Patrick Taylor (Dorling Kindersley, Â£14.99), featuring 300 of the greatest public and private gardens, with quick and easy references arranged by region.
Alternatively, pick up a copy of the 19th edition of The Good Gardens Guide (Frances Lincoln, Â£15.99), which selects only gardens of real merit, vividly describing their main characteristics and qualities, with detailed information and coloured maps.