There is a clear gap in the market for an authoritative modern reference book on growing fruits and nuts in this country, so does this new book fill the niche? Hmm. It is like the curate’s egg – good in parts. It is worth buying for the fertiliser chart on page 111 – the best representation of this information we have seen. The chart on common pesticides is also very good as is the attention to pest and disease management, giving different approaches and addressing the issues. At last we are not seeing everything dumbed down and made simple when it is not, based on the assumption that the average home gardener has a mental age of about eight. If you want to be successful at growing these plants, you do need to get to grips with some of the details regarding pests and diseases. The range of fruits covered is appropriate and the information on recommended varieties is up to date, appears to be comprehensive and very useful. The author is credible. You may know his name from the Weekend Gardener – he is a keen gardener, backed up with professional qualifications and experience.
So what lets it down? The photography is not good enough. Amateur photography is not a suitable replacement for good diagrams when it comes to pruning and shaping and too many of the photographs fail to tell any story at all, let alone save words. The text is too wordy and would have benefited from tighter editing. Magazine writing is different to books. It is much more transient by nature and a looser organisation of ideas is acceptable because it’s all in shorter pieces. Much of the information is here but it is a little too loose and wordy, ranging rather too freely at times without a clear sequence. A greater use of tables and charts would have helped reduce the verbiage. Peer review prior to publication might have plugged a few of the gaps where the author was beyond his own areas of expertise.
For all its faults, it is a better reference than other recent offerings on the topic.
Grow it Yourself Fruit and Nuts by Andrew Steen (David Bateman; ISBN: 978 1 86953 789 0) reviewed by Abbie Jury.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.