To this end, last time I was in UK at WH Smith, I purchased an excellent, clearly illustrated and simply written book 'Grow Vegetables - Gardens, Patios, Roof Terraces, Allotments' by Alan Buckingham published by Dorling Kindersley. I notice it has 4 and half stars on US Amazon, which is a good sign.
It is divided into sections:
1. The Perfect Plot
2.Vegetable Grower's Know-How
3. Cabbages and Leaf Vegetables
4. Root and Stem Vegetables
5. Peas and Beans
7. Fruiting Vegetables
8. Cucumbers and Squashes
9. Perennial Vegetables
11. Vegetable Planner
12. Vegetable Doctor
I like this book for several reasons:-
* It has lovely photos, but they are not too 'arty' so it makes you think that it might be realisable that you too could grow some of those veg.
* It is really comprehensive and detailed and tells you everything in very simple english, without patronising. This is why I like Delia Smith's cookbooks too after all these years....but I digress.
* It list loads of vegetables that you can grow and it makes me think I could do it too.
* It tells you step by step how to sow seeds or plants, routine care, harvesting, what can go wrong and then reccomended brands. This is where we fell down last year with the courgettes. We had our first ever and it was huge and kept growing. Dear readers, the problem wasn't that we couldn't grow the darn thing but I wasn't sure when to harvest it, whether it was ready or not, we hesitated, not wanting it to go mouldy nor pick it before it was good to eat. I don't have this problem with tomatoes, we've been doing this for a while now and you can see with your own eyes what a ripe tomato looks like. Anyway, this book tells you when to harvest so I have high hopes.
* It is pragmatic. I quote " Space versus time: the history of vegetable gardening is littered with unkempt, overgrown plots started with the best of intentions, but abandoned when the time to maintain them can't be found. There's no way of divorcing how much space your vegetable plot occupies from how much time you will have to spend on it. To put it bluntly, the bigger your patch the more time it will take. SO DON'T KID YOURSELF - be honest about how much time you can devote".
I like that, don't kid yourself. Told you it was pragmatic!
* I also liked the advice about growing vegetables on a terrace or in pots. Really helpful for balcony or small plot owners.
So, my conclusions, without kidding myself? I will go for tomatoes again, they are so useful and money saving and I'm getting to know what to do, although my 'pinching out' technique is not perfect yet. Spring Onions, Lettuce, perhaps Roquette and Chilli Peppers. Not too much but something satisfying. I'll be consulting this book regularly and, bien sür, my knowledgeable neigbour who knows even more than this book can mention....Watch this space!