Monday 13 March 2023


Book review: The Green Gardening Handbook by Nancy Birtwhistle

Watching the Instagram stories from Great British Bake Off champion Nancy Birtwhistle for practical cleaning tips and easy recipes is one of the favourite parts of my day. Who knew you could clean oven racks with tough food stains by leaving them overnight in damp grass? Or that you can create your own laundry detergent with ivy cuttings from the garden? Her knowledge is incredible and we are so lucky that she is sharing all her wisdoms with us. Nancy's advice is simple to follow, cheap and, most of all, green. Meaning that it's much better for our planet. And after focusing her first few books on tips for a greener house – in her latest one she turns her hand to gardening.

The Green Gardening Handbook is practically laid out by focusing on the four seasons – starting in early spring and concluding in late winter. Each of the sections talks about different tasks to undertake during that season, what produce to plant and eat, and even includes tips on how to manage a glut (when you have an abundance of a certain product) alongside yummy recipes to make the most of seasonal produce. Nancy's advice is incredibly useful, whether you've grown the food in question with your own bare hands, or you're stocking up from local shops.

I'm currently living in a flat in London, which only has a tiny, pigeon-filled balcony. There is not much opportunity here to do some gardening and get my fingers properly dirty. And yet, The Green Gardening Handbook has inspired me and given me some wonderful ideas for what I can do in such a limited space. From maximising yield from supermarket herbs to being more conscious about eating seasonally; stocking up and filling my freezer and spice cupboard with produce when it's in abundance to get me through the rest of the year.

It doesn't matter where you live, what space you have available, or even how green (or not green) your fingers currently are. There is plenty of amazing advice in Nancy's latest book to inspire anyone to enjoy the delights of growing something for yourself and using every aspect of it. Whether that's understanding how to best store produce to keep it fresh for a long time (I love her guide for this, which shows carrots can be kept in the fridge for 6 months!), getting more bang for your buck (such as her tip to boil discarded lemon peels in a kettle to freshen up both the kettle and the sink you pour the water into), or how to make natural insect deterrent.

I am hoping to move to a house with a garden later this year. Having read The Green Gardening Handbook, I feel I have such a strong foundation in place for the opportunities my future garden can bring and I'm already looking at potential houses with different eyes. And, when the time comes, I'll undoubtedly revisit some of my favourite sections – such as her crop guide, companion planting, and making an insect hotel – to really make the most of the space.

The Green Gardening Handbook by national treasure Nancy Birtwhistle is genuinely amazing. I read a lot of zero waste and gardening books but few have been as insightful, practical, and accessible as hers. Nancy is the green guru, whether it's for cleaning, baking, or gardening. And with The Green Gardening Handbook she has done it once again. It's a book I will be gifting to many friends and family members as everyone needs Nancy's wisdoms in their lives!

The Green Gardening Handbook by Nancy Birtwhistle is published by One Boat (an imprint of Pan Macmillan) and you can now buy a copy from your favourite local book shop!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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