Book Review and Giveaway: Build a Better Vegetable Garden

build-a-better-vegetable-gardenAt this time of year my thoughts turn to planning for the veggie garden for the upcoming growing season. I love a cosy evening looking at ideas on my Pinterest gardening board, looking at seed catalogues and making ambitious plans. What I always have to keep in mind is that our budget is limited, so that’s why I was so pleased to be given the opportunity to review Build a Better Vegetable Garden – 30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest by Joyce Russell with photographs by Ben Russell (published by Frances Lincoln). It’s full of ideas to create garden structures, supports, containers, beds and loads more too – all of which can be made without too much outlay (especially if you already have some of the the DIY tools).

My ambition this year is to work on our fruit garden. The current arrangements for our gooseberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries were put together as a ‘temporary’ measure about 5 years ago, and are quickly becoming unsustainable! I am so fed up of the battle with our resident wood pigeons over my gooseberry harvest… and don’t get me started on my rage with the squirrels who pick a lovely luscious strawberry, eat half, then throw the rest away! So I am excited to see that there are simple, inexpensive, projects for a fruit cage, plus a project to make post and wire supports for raspberries.

We also plan to plant dwarf apple trees – so I was excited to see this drying cabinet project:


Other projects that got me interested include a simple A-shaped bean frame, which look so much more elegant, practical and sturdy than my wobbly garden cane structures:


I was also excited to see ideas for creating a cold frame and a covered hot bed plus projects to create raised beds, all kinds of planters, a garden caddy, a boot cleaner, troughs for grow bags and loads more.

You can start simple with a leaf compost bin or maybe some simple cloches:



Then move onto the trickier projects like these fabulous slug-proof salad beds – which have the advantage of being able to be moved nearer to the house later on in the growing season. I even have a supply of old wellies to use:


I have done garden DIY projects before (putting decking in our first garden in London was a wild introduction!), but it has been a long time, so I am glad to see that there are two excellent sections on tools, materials and safety. If you are a total beginner, I think you could feel pretty confident in the advice given here. The added bonus is all the brilliant gardening tips – this feels like real value for money!

As you can see from some of the photos I have included here, each project has a difficulty grading, so you can start with something achievable, and then work your way up to something a bit trickier when you have the confidence.. And there’s also an indication of how long each project will take to complete (although, knowing me and my ability to drill holes in the wrong places – did I mention that decking in London?) I need to add on a couple of hours to every project, just to make sure!


My favourite project is this fabulous shed shelving and hanging system. Just need a shed to put it in…


I have a copy of this fab book to giveaway. Just leave a comment on this post, maybe telling me what your garden plans are this year, or, as usual, I don’t mind a ‘pick me’. I am happy to post the book anywhere in the world, but bear in mind some of the gardening information might not be quite right for your climate! Please leave your comment before 9pm on Friday 13th January to be in with a chance of winning.

Build a Better Vegetable Garden by Joyce Russell, photography by Ben Russell, is published by Frances Lincoln (£16.99)


43 thoughts on “Book Review and Giveaway: Build a Better Vegetable Garden

  1. What a brilliant book. Our attempts at garden diy, of which there have been quite a few, have always erred on the side of shonky so this would be a great help

  2. I’ve almost given up being able to grow any thing (can barely keep a cactus alive), but the dream’s still there (just about…) I love the projects in this book -at least the garden would look like I’d tried!

  3. I was so disheartened with my bid to beat the slugs to my veggies last year, that I felt like not bothering. I love the look of this book, sound perfect for what I need to help me kindly deal with the pests and increase my growing ability.

  4. Looks like a great book. We’ve been renovating a bungalow for 5 years and our only work outside has been to fit land drains and move a greenhouse from outside the bedroom window. This year is our ‘year of the garden’, so we could do with some help!

  5. This book sounds fabulous. I love gardening but always struggle with the cost of putting in infrastructure……..the ideas here seem to practical and sensible. Thank you for the giveaway.

  6. Omg this book looks awesome, I have been neglecting my allotment quite a lot recently and would love some new inspiration to get going again!

  7. This book looks great. I have ambitious plans for the garden here too which may/may not all come into fruition! A few patches have been covered over for the last 6 months or so to hopefully kill off a good number of weeds before trying to turn them into more raised bed areas in the Spring. But, like you, my main area this year is fruit. I have a half formed plan to build a fruit cage after going and inspecting one a friend built in her garden in the Autumn, but it’s a slightly larger project than I’m comfortable with and I keep putting it off!

  8. I’m moving at the end of the month to a house with a garden, so this would be fab! We have grand plans to start planting food stuffs and this book would help us a lot. Fingers crossed 😀

  9. Hi Ali, what a lovely looking book! Like you my berries have seen damage from birds and squirrels but my lettuces and herbs have also been attacked by slugs and snails. Our garden attracts deer, badgers and foxes too so when we first moved into our country idyll we were hit hard by the battles we seemed to often encounter. Slowly, slowly we are learning how to cope (heavy piping laid at the bottom of our pond so that the fish can hide in it when the heron passes and planting deer resistant flowers to name a couple) and, of course, there are lovely moments such as when the kingfisher eyes up our beloved goldfish. The book would be tremendously helpful and we’d love to receive it. Good luck to the other coveters too!

  10. Towards the end of last Summer I started to help garden at a Leonard Cheshire Home in Tunbridge Wells. Someone had kindly donated a Greenhouse and some Raised Beds so that the residents could take part in growing their own vegetables. You can’t believe the pleasure it gives . Waiting for the snow to fall today I am making plans on paper for this year’s vegetable crop and Joyce Russell’s advice would certainly be of benefit!

  11. This looks like a great book. We have one raised bed we built from old sleepers and our plans this year include compost bins from pallets and attempting to reassemble a greenhouse we got from freecycle. I love the mini raised beds for children. Nice to think of all the new growth that is on it’s way, currently under 2 inches on snow!

  12. We have a small vegetable and fruit garden and I am constantly trying to improve it. And find a solution for the slugs and snails that are everywhere!

  13. That book could be all the difference. This year is my “make or break” year in the garden. I hate the thought of giving up my vegetable and fruit plots but after the disappointment of minimal harvest over the past four years I am on the verge of turning the lot over to grass and shrubs, which will be a sad day for me.
    Thanks for the link to your Pinterest boards too! Goes off to look >>>

  14. We always grow a lot in our garden, but it can be quite a challenge with the heat we get in summer. Maybe there are some good ideas in here that will help – I particularly like the raised beds on wellies!

  15. I’m taking on an allotment this year so this would be really handy. It’s certainly whetted my appetite! Please enter me for the draw.

  16. it such a lovely books, off course I will love to win . My husband and I had been talk about expand vegetable patch this year, if possible I like to have a banana tree in the garden too, in Asian kitchen banana always bring joy, we always can create some delicious foods from the fruits itself , leaves even banana blossom, nothing to be waste when talking about banana plant.

  17. What a lovely book! We sold the playhouse last year so now I have a space for 2 vegetable beds – hoping to get them ready for use this spring. I particularly like the bean frame – I think it would be ideal.

  18. Oh Yeah, Please pick me! My husband & I are moving over to Priest River, Idaho in early spring to live closer to our son, his wife, our granddaughter & one on the way. They have 40 acres & I would really love to have some help with living off the property since it is pretty far from town. We are in our 60’s, but up for new tasks this year. I have been a gardener for years, but nothing like this adventure. Thanks for the contest & good luck everyone 🙂

  19. I inherited a lovely fruit and veg garden 3 years ago.. but each year my crops are getting more sparse.. help needed desperately! I always thought you just plant seeds, water and harvest.. 🙈

  20. That looks like a fabulous book. I’m intending to make a second raised bed out of pallets and getting planting in our first raised bed this year. We’re making tiny bits of progress every year towards our functions fruit and veg garden.

  21. Hi, This book looks fantastic and I would love to win it. We are in the process of changing our garden around. For the past few years I have struggled to grow anything much and think it’s probably the position where the vegetables are. Therefore I’ve had the whole family (husband and two daughters 12 and 7) out in all weathers digging up plants, digging up grass and moving the vegetable patch. We have still got a long way to go but hopefully we’ll be ready for the growing season. I’d love lots of ideas which I can see this book has – the bean growing system looks especially great. Keeping everything crossed x. Sandra

  22. Myself and my neighbours are beginning our first allotment this year. This book would give us some handy tips as we are complete novices!

  23. This is wonderful, I want to plant rosemary and some other herbs like lemon thyme this year. Also a few vegetables like bell peppers and spinach as I use them a lot. Oh and pick me please, I really could use a copy of this book! 🙂

  24. Hi Ali a lovely post as always. Up to September when I retired gardening was something I was interested in but didn’t have time. This year my time is my own and my thoughts have returned to a desire to grow something if my own. Your lovely book looks inspiring- fingers crossed. Have a wonderful weekend.
    Dorothy 🙋🏻

  25. Those are quite some plans you have there. I really like the bean frame (more having in thought pea, because I am not a bean-growing fan).

    I think that the compost box is quite a challenging task, because you have to make sure to grant yourself an easy access when you will want to use it (after it has decomposed).
    When our boxes were not being topped up anymore (but before using them), there would be always be a pumpkin growing on top of the whole thing and sometimes some flowers as well as we threw the weeds and other discarded parts of vegetables in the boxes. And they surprised us with random results for it.

    All my gardening experience comes from helping mum and grandmother in their gardens, so forgive me my broken garden-English as I have never really thought about the matters in English.

    At first I wanted to ask you exclude me from the giveaway as I just live in a flat in London with no garden prospects in my near future (unfortunately), but I realised that my aunt in Leicester has been working hard to get her garden up and running and she loves good DIY projects, so I will give it a try for her!

    Anyway, those are quite some projects and I hope you will succeed in them, some might be really challenging, but hope for the best! 🙂

  26. Ha! I had a pack of Parsnip seeds in my hand yesterday, and put them back….thinking it is early and I need to plan…

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