The Alternative Kitchen Garden: an A-Z

Graham Burnett | Monday, 3rd August 2009
Graham Burnett finds that Emma Cooper's quirky gardening miscellany is as good studied in the potting shed as it is read in the hammock...
Author: Emma Cooper
Publisher: Permanent Publications
Publication year: 2009
RRP: £14.95

The Alternative Kitchen Garden is, according to author Emma Cooper, an evolving idea of what a kitchen garden could be in the twenty first century – organic, environmentally sustainable, resilient and about re-localising at least some of our food production. Its also a place not only for learning and practising growing skills but for enjoying ourselves and having fun.

There are many incarnations across the globe, but Emma's particular Alternative Kitchen Garden came into being in 2001 when she and her husband bought a new home in Oxfordshire and decided to grow a few pots of herbs on the patio. A self confessed 'cyber geek', she began to document the transformation of her 'ropey old lawn with potholes and brambles' into a fertile and abundant permaculture plot via internet radio and a popular blog site.

Eight years on her postings and stories have been collected in this fascinating volume, illustrated with beautiful colour photos and arranged into easily accessible alphabetical order. Covering subjects as diverse as growing achocha (a lost Inca crop) to zucchinis, and forest gardening to xeriscaping, Emma's style is light and friendly yet at the same time informative and based on personal experience. You feel you could actually be sitting in the garden chatting face to face as she shares her knowledge and experience, especially when she veers off onto non directly garden related tangents such as osteopathy and freecycling.

A dual purpose book – a concise and valuable practical guide, but at the same time a lovely little read for the deckchair or hammock!

Review by Graham Burnett