I’m always looking for inspiration. Mostly I look to other gardeners I know and peer furtively over hedges.  In fact I’ve picked up all sorts of useful tips (and some wierd ones too) from family members, neighbours and fellow allotmenteers over the years. But I’m also an avid reader. I have several books on the go at once. The two I’m currently occupied with couldn’t be more different in appearance and yet the approach is the same despite being written some sixty years apart.

The latest River Cottage Handbook  – Veg Patch-  is a joy. Written in the typically unfussy and ‘have a go’ River Cottage style, gardener Mark Diacono guides us through the creation of an organic  veg patch from caring for the soil, which veg to choose and  what to grow where….. to the art of compost making, mulch , companion planting and dealing with pests and diseases. Beautifully illustrated it devotes a page to each vegetable and also includes a sowing and planting table, a list of useful addresses and about thirty recipes.

Mr Middleton was the original celebrity gardener. At the forefront of the wartime Dig For Victory campaign which saw formal gardens, sports pitches and lawns transformed into makeshift allotments (sounds like a good idea to me!), his regular broadcasts on the Home Service encouraged a generation to grow their own food. Reading this book is like having a cup of tea with your grandad down at the allotment. He talks, you listen and at the end of it you have a huge bank of knowledge to draw on for your own plot. There are no illustrations but everything is beautifully explained and summarised for you at the end. It’s really easy to dip into as it’s organised month by month.

There was never a better time for reading both these books to arm yourself with the wherewithal to get growing.

I’m off now to take delivery of a large pile of muck and start putting in some raised beds on the new plot. Then I’ll be picking some salad for dinner which I’ve grown over the winter in an apple crate protected by bubble wrap. Ah the joys of the kitchen garden!