I met Naomi Schillinger a couple of years ago after realising that she lived and gardened not far from me in North London. Having followed her blog for some months, I was curious to know how she had succeeded in getting so many of her local community involved in her front garden veg growing project. The answer, discovered over a cup of tea and a tour of the neighbourhood, is that she is enthusiastic, energetic and passionate about gardening. Naomi's commitment to the community gardening project has now seen those energies channelled into a new book called 'Veg Street - Grow your own community'.
A copy of the book was sent from Naomi via her publishers and it's a pleasure to see what a worthwhile endeavour this book has been. Even with several years gardening experience under my belt, I've found Naomi's book very informative. I'd go further and say it would be invaluable to anyone wanting to start an edible garden - whether in a bucket or a backyard. But the real point of the book is how the front garden vegetable project has transformed a few streets into a cohesive neighbourhood community. It's not only made it a nicer and more colourful place to live, but has made the area safer too.
I found the structure of the book very helpful: it's chunked up into months of the year, with each chunk following the same format of monthly list and introduction, community corner, sowing and planting, good ideas, one pot shop and harvesting. To quote one of Naomi's headings, this is a Simple but Brilliant Idea; it makes it possible to swiftly locate areas of prime interest, although every section makes rewarding reading - and the absolute basics (soil, light, etc) are covered at the beginning of the book. Creative ideas, useful recommendations and beautiful photos - many taken by Naomi herself - abound throughout.
So, with a wealth of gardening books available, what makes this one different? For a start, it's written in the first person, rather than as an informal guide, which gives it a warm and friendly tone; there's a real sense of how much fun everyone is having, the community spirit which this project has engendered and how it's all so achievable. Naomi's voice is heard throughout, imparting the full benefit of her extensive gardening experience - a bit like a cross between garden chat over a cup of tea and sitting down to read the gardening section of the Sunday supps. For those that don't live in her street and can't pop into a Cake Sunday for practical advice, this is the next best thing. So whether you want to become more confident in creating or nurturing an edible garden or you want get to know your neighbours better, this book is worth a more than a look. Who knows? It may even be the catalyst that starts a gardening project within your own community.
I'll definitely be referring to my copy throughout the year; it's a keeper - thank you, Naomi!
The book is available from today, 7th March. Read more in Naomi's post here.
Naomi Schillinger writes a regular blog about gardening and her community at Out of My Shed.