I’ve written a gardening book
The book itself is written using the Notion web app and you can browse it on the web and soon from within notion itself. The book can be found here. I also have a ‘quick links’ page for the book, that links to just the sections that are finished, but also other related content.
About 7 years ago I wrote a post outlining a number of ideas for books that I’d like to write. Some of those idea still appeal to me. One of them ‘re-inventing the modern workplace’ has been overtaken by events, because most of what I wanted to write about has been initiated by COVID. Several of the ideas are a low priority now because I’ve written pretty good outlines and published them on this blog already.
Ironically the book I did end up writing wasn’t on the list back then and I nearly didn’t write it. Over the years I’ve become disillusioned by books. At least half of the content ends up being padding, another quarter well trodden ground and only the remaining quarter contains something new and interesting. I really didn’t want to repeat that pattern.
I’m particularly frustrated by gardening books, most of which seems to consist of the information contained on the back of a stack of seed packets, along with the obligatory section on composting, building a raised bed, sowing seeds etc.
Over the years though the frequent requests for me to write one stacked up and I started to consider it again. The tipping point came when I realised four things:
- I’ve accumulated a huge amount of material in my various databases
- I’ve a very large library of youtube videos
- I’ve developed a style of gardening for self-sufficiency, that’s not been well covered in written form
- My style of gardening is quite efficient
This was an enticing combination. If I wrote an eBook I’d be able to build on all four strengths, surfacing all that difficult to discover and navigate database and video content within a narrative structure. The eBook format would also allow me to keep updating the book as my knowledge and scope of interests grew and would allow me to capture the results of my continued experiments. It would also allow me to embed and link to other resources that complimented my own, or that covered topics that I had no interest in. I’d even be able to link to opposing views or alternative techniques.
Finally I’d be able to capture information that I would find useful myself as I got older. The eBook format would also allow me to give the content away for free and to allow people to take copies of the book and modify it for their own use and/or republish it.
So I’ve written a book, or at least enough of a book to be useful. It will probably never be finished.
It’s not a typical gardening book, or at least I hope it’s not and it’s been a very enjoyable experience. I’m used to writing reports and individual articles. I’ve never had the luxury to write something with so much structure before.
The basic idea of the book is to start with my philosophy of life and to link that to the way I garden, then to introduce the basic techniques of gardening. I then wanted to establish my credentials by showing how much space we use to grow a lot of food for a lot of people and showing how to figure out how much space the reader would need to do the same. Finally I provide a framework for thinking about what to grow.
That’s the gentle introduction. I then (this section is not complete) provide a cookbook like list of types of meal and list the fresh ingredients you can use for each meal types for the whole year. I also list the preserves that add a bit of sparkle to these meals. Eventually I will probably build this section straight from my databases.
I then move on to the growing sections, describing how to grow the plants that I listed in the previous sections. There are two types of growing guide. The first takes a class of fruit/veg, for example spinach and show you how to grow that class of veg all year round another example might be salad leaves. I’m also in the process of writing individual guides to specific types of vegetable.
There’s lots more to come in the future, in terms of written content on veg growing and I’m sure I will eventually add sections on ‘gardening jobs’ that go beyond sowing, planting and harvesting. But I will also be creating more tools, templates and other goodies depending on how bad the winter weather is, ie how much time I have available.
The eBook and related content is free, but it is now possible to support my content creation via the buy me a coffee web site.
I stumbled across one of your videos last weekend and immediately got hooked! I’ve been dabbling in small-scale gardening for years, but went in big with my daughter on a 600sqm “Schrebergarten” when I retired in 2019. The German gardening tradition involves a small cottage, usually not winterized, on a rented plot either in or near the city. There are lots of rules and a committee who will slap your hands if you don’t follow them. (One third of the area must be veg/fruit/compost/bee-friendly, greenhouses are limited in size, no “living” long-term in the cottage, etc. Our plot dates from East German days, when rules were laxer, so we have some inherited freedoms and a fully equipped cottage.) Our 200 sqm of beds are strewn across numerous small plots in odd sizes/shapes and varying soil/sun conditions, making planning and management a huge logistical challenge involving a pile of sketches, lists, etc.
I have a rudimentary understanding of programming logic, so I copied your base and have been deleting/adapting your data and hiding fields that I don’t need or understand (yet). Luckily it’s been cold and rainy here, so I’ve started lots of seeds at home, but there’s not too much I could be doing outside. Even though I know your base offers much more than I really need to use, I’m having a blast learning how to use it and playing with all my seed packets 😉 We’ll see how well I manage record-keeping once I get my hands in the soil….
I’ve taken a quick peek at some of your other topics and found parallels with my own (developing) approach to retirement. I look forward to delving into it a bit more.
Anyway, thanks a million for all you do and your willingness to share! I’m gonna go buy you a coffee now 😉
Anne in Berlin, Germany
Wow! That sounds like an amazing setup, I bet we could compete with you for odd rules though! I love it when people take my database and modify it to suit their needs, that’s by far the best way to use it. Thanks for the coffee’s too! much appreciated : All the best – Steve
Hi Steve, just looked at a couple of videos on your YouTube channel, very interesting approach. Love the idea of sowing in Jan and Feb. I live in inland Galicia in the north of Spain, about zone 9a, so wet and coldish in winter, dry and can get hot in summer, sometimes over 30°C but drops at night so plants can have a tough time coping with the swings in temperature. It’s an interesting journey! I’m also very jealous of the range of vegetable varieties you have, it’s much more limited here.
Your book sounds and looks fantastic, I’m definitely going to check it out and see how it works with my timings here. So good of you to make it freely available to us all.
Good luck for this new growing year.
Thanks Jay, I always think that’s one of the best things about growing our own food, being able to easily eat 30+ different fruits and veg a week and a different mix each month : all the best – Steve
Hi Steve I have just got back into gardening and growing Veg I had an allotment about 15 years ago but gave it up, I realised that I knew nothing about growing. I don`t live that far from your area less than an hour away in Blackburn, Late last year I was lucky enough to obtain another allotment (different site) and now again realise I know next to nothing about growing so I have watch nearly all your You Tube videos which are very helpful so thank you for them and please keep them going because I think everyone not just me find them great to watch. I will get to read your Ebook at some time (I`m not that computer savvy) so may take time to figure how to use it correctly. At this moment I`m still confused when to sow and transplant and how to get multi-crops per bed, hopefully your Ebook will help there, any way keep up the good work
The book, especially the individual growing guides have exactly that information, it’s very easy to read and is full of loads of videos too. Take a look here https://steverichards.notion.site/Gardening-eBook-info-6f57489ae10a4721b48b421826203814 : All the best – Steve