River Cottage has become synonymous in Britain for food with conscience. Here they practise the art of growing fruit and vegetables as naturally as possible. Mark Diacono leads the Garden Team at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage – running the garden courses, giving talks, hosting events at River Cottage HQ and appearing in the River Cottage TV series. Mark is known for his commitment to sustainable, ethically produced food. As well as having a unique take on growing food, Mark champions climate change growing, an approach to producing food that takes sustainable advantage of the new weather conditions. Diacono’s sense of humour is a rare gem in books like this, and his passion and enthusiasm come through in these two books that he authored in the River Cottage Handbook series:

Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook No.4

Veg patch

Named as the Practical Book of the Year at the Garden Media Guild Awards 2009, this book draws directly from Mark’s experience as an acclaimed climate-change gardener, and of setting up a kitchen garden from scratch for River Cottage.

Mark explains the practical aspects of organic growing, introduces the reader to a whole world of vegetables they may not have previously considered, and does away with alienating gardening jargon. He begins with a catalogue of vegetables, explaining each of their benefits, what varieties to go for, dos and don’ts, and popular culinary uses.

Next, he explains how to turn this diversity of vegetables into a coherent kitchen garden plan appropriate for your space, whether it be a patch of acidic soil, a roof-top garden or an allotment.

Included in the book is a section showing how to look after nutrients in the soil, how to resist pests and diseases, and how to make the garden sustainable and organic. Learn about seed trays, supporting plants with climbing structures, mulching, composting, companion planting, irrigation and promoting pollination

About thirty recipes finish the book.

Fruit: River Cottage Handbook No.9


Growing fruit at home is a delicious and altogether more enjoyable alternative to buying it in the shops. Mark offers a practical and accessible guide to making the most of your garden and what it has to offer. The first part of the book is an A-Z of the different varieties of fruit, with old favourites like apples, cherries, plums, blackcurrants, white currants, redcurrants, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries and rhubarb as well as more exotic species like figs, grapes, cranberries, Japanese wine berries and apricots. Each is accompanied by a photograph, with detailed advice on when and how to grow and harvest.

In the second part of the book, Mark gives straightforward guidelines on techniques like pruning and training, as well as how to deal with problems or pests. There is a section dedicated to growing under covers and in containers. Introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and with 30 delicious recipes, beautiful, full-colour photographs and a directory of useful addresses, this is the ideal reference for any aspiring fruit grower.

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