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Gardener’s world – ‘Almanac’ review

Essential month-by-month guide with introduction by Monty Don.

Gardener's World
Credit: BBC Books

As celebrated gardener Monty Don points out in the introduction to the Gardener’s World ‘Almanac’, you don’t necessarily have to abide by every prescriptive rule of gardening, but in order to break the rules, you have to know what they are to begin with to have any chance of success. There is a profound wisdom in this insight that stretches across every human discipline, not merely the art of proficiency in the green-fingered department.

Know your garden. Know what to expect within each month. Have an idea which bulbs to plant and when they might flower. You might object that there’s no predicting the weather, and notoriously unreliable months like March and April may yield sunshine, snow, torrential rain, and something altogether different by the same afternoon. The Gardener’s World ‘Almanac’ has that covered, with sections on the weather that seem incredibly British. But then, as my father has always said, we only talk so much about the weather because (relative to other countries) there is so much of it to talk about.

The Gardener’s World ‘Almanac’ is not, perhaps, a book that you would pluck off the bookcase and read from first page to last, before happily filing away. It is, rather, an essential reference book that will keep you company throughout the year, and for future years yet to come. I tried it out. Being responsible for a large-ish garden (by terraced house standard) is something of a bind. You fix one problem and another appears. Things keep growing. And dying. Except for weeds, and keeping on top of those blighters feels like a full-time job in itself. Lately, I’d noticed black spots appearing on my beloved rose bush. A quick glance at the index of this tome and a few pages both diagnosed the problem and suggested some solutions. Magic!

If you’re keen on wildlife too, then the book has that covered. It suggests what native or visiting creatures you may wish to look out for each month, and has the occasional project for devotees such as making a solitary bee hotel. For bird, insect and butterfly spotters, these sections will prove invaluable.

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For those who prefer digging into soil, there are recurring sections on what to sow, plant and harvest each month. For those pressed for time, the chapters suggests jobs that will take ten minutes, an hour, or a morning, so you can take your pick depending on your availability.

I’m looking forward to living with the ‘Almanac’ over the course of a year, because the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. In twelve months’ time, if I’ve absorbed and implemented enough of the titbits of wisdom contained within this tome, then my garden ought to be looking rather better than the just-about-acceptable mess that the birds quite like which currently sits beyond the back door. Not every segment will apply to everyone: there’s plenty of greenhouse talk that makes me dream of the day I might have my own, but which for now is pie in the sky. But each section is short and sweet, and those that aren’t relevant can be quickly skipped over.

The Gardener’s World ‘Almanac’ is highly accessible, bursting with ideas and inspirational without making you feel like you need a home that could appear in Country Life magazine. It’s also a beautifully designed and eye-catching tome. Does it do the job? From the September ideas I’ve put into practice, I’d say the advice is sound and easy to follow for beginners as well as keen gardeners, so long as you’re based in the UK.

This is the perfect book if you’re serious about enriching your garden. If you can’t improve things and you’re not sure why, or you’re looking for great ideas about how to liven up your borders and add a splash of colour, then the Gardener’s World ‘Almanac’ belongs on your bookcase. Just keep it in ready reaching distance throughout the year. You’ll need it for reference, for sure.

Gardener's World Almanac
Credit: BBC Books

Publisher: BBC Books Publication date: 9th September 2021 Buy the Gardener’s World ‘Almanac’

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