The Kitchen Garden by Richard Bird is a book designed more for the intermediate to advanced gardener with a large plot of land to hoe. It’s not designed for an urban gardener or for someone who is just beginning.
3 out of 10 stars. It was obvious from the first chapter than this book was geared toward British gardens and Canadian gardens, large spreads that would be described as farming plots, not for backyard gardens. If you live in the U.S. and you have a typical backyard, even using your entire backyard would not be large enough for the garden plans presented in this book.
There are five garden plans for very large plots (farming plots). These are beautifully designed but much too large for the average American garden plot and much too time-consuming for the average American gardener to maintain alone. If you’re running a community plot and everyone can agree on using one plan, then this might be your book. Otherwise, it’s not.
For these very large gardens, the author provides a four year crop rotation plan and a three year crop rotation plan with various vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees.
The watering and drainage section of this book was two pages and consisted of plans on installing a large pipe for drainage. We’re talking massive scale here, like something a civil engineer would design, not your average garden.
Storage of Root Vegetables
Now here’s a section I’ve never seen before. The author describes and photographs layers of root vegetables stored in peat. Interesting, but I’m not sure I’d try it. It would take a lot of room.
Harvesting and Storing Herbs
Most kitchen garden books include a section on growing and harvesting herbs, but few give storage ideas. This one describes drying versus freeze-dried storage. Both are time-consuming and require large amounts of space, so be prepared to do this on a much smaller scale if you have an American garden.
This was one of the worst pruning sections I’ve ever seen in any gardening book. The author describes pruning completely from an espalier viewpoint rather than typical pruning techniques. Unless you’re planning on growing all of your plants in espaliers, then skip this completely. (An espalier is a two-dimensional shape where the plant grows up vertically and then horizontally, trained by wires and stakes. Normal growth is three-dimensional.)
Propagation By Layering
This was the best section of the book and the only one I would recommend reading. it describes various propagation techniques including layering which I’ve never tried. Layering requires space, lots of it, but it’s an interesting way to propagate plants. You could make a business out of propagating alone.
Vegetables by Family
The last section of the book is a description of varieties of vegetables by family including: Alliums, leafy vegetables, roots, peas and beans, squash, shoots, fruiting vegetables, herbs, fruits, and melons. There are no nuts in this book so if you were all excited about growing olive trees (like me), forget it.
3 out of 10 stars. I was very disappointed with this book. The size is small and the print is even smaller, but mostly it was really geared toward very large commercial plots of land in Britain or Canada. The climate recommendations were even geared toward those two regions. 🙁
Reviewed by Betsy