4 brilliant gardening books for summer

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 June 2020

Dejan_Dundjerski/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dejan_Dundjerski/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Need some gardening inspiration? Check out these super summer reads, says our green-fingered expert Naomi Slade.

I Ate Sunshine for BreakfastI Ate Sunshine for Breakfast

I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast by Michael Holland

When it comes to being informative, engaging and entertaining, this is a children’s book that pulls no punches at all.

It starts off by assuming that the audience is both interested and intelligent, an excellent premise, and then follows up with fascinating facts, hardcore information and straightforward science at breakneck speed. It covers what a plant is, the physiology of flowers, plants’ adaptations to their environment and what they are used for, together with fun projects to do at home. The explanations are simple and the information accessible, but botanical Latin and correct technical terms are fearlessly deployed where necessary.

Liberal illustrations, in a modern-psychedelic style, make it bright and exciting to look at and fun facts grab the reader’s attention too: Humans made spears out of yew around 420,000 years ago; softwood trees have long fibres and are better for making paper than hardwoods and stunt explosions in movies use powdered clubmosses for a fiery finish. This is a volume that will be dipped into again and again.

Flying Eye Books, £14.99

Crops in Tight SpotsCrops in Tight Spots

Crops in Tight Spots by Alex Mitchell

For anyone who is trying to grow fresh fruit and veg and who has little space, experience or resources, this book is ideal. Packed with good ideas for upcycling and recycling containers and solutions for tricky locations, it even helps you bring a bit of style to your small-space veg plot.

It covers crops for salads, herbs for tea and runs through the things that any gardener needs for success – such as crop rotation, soil and wind-breaks – as well as wackier (but still useful) ideas, like using an electric toothbrush to pollinate tomatoes and growing mushrooms under your bed.

The world has been a bit crazy of late but if any book can help you break the bunker mentality and tempt you back outside to reconnect with your inner green-fingered miracle-worker, this is it!

Kyle Books, £18.99

The Secret Lives of Garden BeesThe Secret Lives of Garden Bees

The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon

On a mission to spread some bee-love, this new book, from garden writer and bee-guardian Jean Vernon, is both approachable and fascinating. Focussing particularly on the charming and idiosyncratic lives of bumblebees and solitary bees, she sets out to spread understanding, to inflame curiosity and to inspire us all to help them.

And in truth, their existence is fragile. They are threatened by loss of habitat and by disease; some species hang on by a knife edge. Yet through knowledge we are all able to help, even if it is just in a small way, by supporting conservation efforts or planting the right things in our gardens; by leaving a patch of damp clay for the mason bees or letting dandelions, a valuable source of early pollen and nectar, grow unfettered.

Garden and neighbourhood wildlife has been a comfort and a solace to many of late. There has been time to stop and stare. Knowledge is power and inspiration must lead to action, so let this book be your guide.

White Owl Books, £20

Wild about WeedsWild about Weeds

Wild about Weeds by Jack Wallington

Through no fault of their own, and often down to breeding, habit or fashion, many plants find themselves in a box labelled either ‘weed’, ‘wildflower’ or ‘ornamental’. It is undeniable: some plants are more equal than others. Seen as recidivists, the humble, versatile, vigorous weeds are common and well-adapted to what they do – and much effort can be expended in trying to eradicate them.

Yet these weeds can also be beautiful; they support an immense range of wildlife and, as Jack Wallington explains, they can be incorporated in even the most formal of garden designs. Sure, they are rebel plants with a PR problem, but you have only to look to Vivienne Westwood and John Cooper Clarke to appreciate that the rawness of punk can transmute into incisive social commentary, bold fashion and unexpected beauty.

This book shows us how to identify and encourage our weeds, it tells their stories and rehabilitates them. Some are invasive, it is true, but many are charming. And for a real wildflower meadow, or planting a really tricky situation, the humble weed might just be the solution.

Laurence King, £19.99

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