by Michael Rand - £10.99 Marlin Press (2005)
hardback ISBN 13: 9780954798819 | ISBN 10: 0954798813
Winter 1992. After a series of failed relationships, family bereavements and career setbacks, Michael Rand has hit rock bottom. One morning, a letter arrives from the council, asking if he would like a plot on the Fitzroy Park allotments, next to Hamstead Heath in London. From that day on his life would change forever.
This is the story of one man's obsession with a sixteen by eight yard patch of ground on the edge of a city - a source of delicious fresh produce and much more besides. In a series of entertaining tales, Michael Rand describes how he learned to garden and tried to find answers to the questions faced by all vegetable growers. How do you make your soil more fertile? What are the best crops to sow? Can you ever be completely organic? In the process he reveals the often extreme lengths to which he and his fellow plotholders will go to improve their harvest, from carrying bursting bags of horse manure on the Northern Line to using Vicks VapoRub as a slug deterrent.
He also describes the many pleasures of growing your own, whether its eating the freshest sweetcorn imaginable, cooked on the plots within minutes of harvest; growing luscious tomatoes, such as Costoluto Fiorentino, which are unheard of in the shops; or raising a miniature field of wheat.
Michael's plot yields more than fresh produce as it leads him to question the nature of the food industry, our use of scarce resources, and our ambivalent relationship with the natural world.
This is a very different kind of gardening book. An engaging narrative with a wonderful cast of characters, it explores the subject from a variety of perspectives - personal and political; practical and philosophical. Close to the Veg will appeal to vegetable gardeners in general, allotment growers in particular, and anyone who enjoys a good tale.
(Price & availability last checked: April 2018)