I get sent quite a few books to review. This is something of a mixed blessing; some are really good and I enjoy the ‘job’ whereas others are just work and quite frankly I wish the publishers hadn’t bothered.
Recently I was sent The Allotment Source Book by Caroline Foley. It’s a thick tome, 192 pages in large format, so a meaty read. It’s copiously illustrated with colour photographs and promises to be “The definitive guide to setting up, running and managing an allotment” So far so good.
However, the wealth of photographs, many of them unnecessary and irrelevant tend to distract more than compliment much of the text. I know this is a trend amongst publishers, bung in lots of photos that look good so the skimming through buyer in the bookshop will grab it off the shelf.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a decorative book rather than a guide to go with a new allotment, it’s perfect.
There’s much in the book that is of value, it’s just a shame the media is drowning out the message. Some of the content struck me as plain daft though. How to make string to tie your tomatoes from nettles, for example. Interesting enough, I’d no idea you could do that, but what allotment holder has the time to spend making their string?
There was an interesting bit on making a bird scarer from a bottle and bits of plastic. I’d have much rather seen some comment on whether it actually scared birds or not, though. I’ve seen so many ineffective ideas for keeping the birds off the crops it would be nice to come across one that works.
Then there’s a page on green roofs. Now green roofs are a good thing, especially in the city. I’ve even stayed in a wood built house in Norway that had a green roof. The thing is, what on earth has this to do with an allotment?
There was just enough information to whet your interest but not enough to enable you to actually create a green roof. Having researched these, I know it’s vital to ensure the structure of the roof is capable of supporting the weight. There’s a light disclaimer about consulting an architect or structural engineer. So, let’s get it straight – who is going to pay £400 for a structural engineer to report on the suitability of putting a green roof on your allotment shed?
I’m sorry, I know how much work goes into writing a book, but I really can’t recommend this one. It’s a triumph of style over substance. The sort of book to show your friends in Knightsbridge whilst complaining about the lack of London allotments.