Quite a few people have been asking me about my reference to Percy Thrower, and that fact that I use his book ‘In Your Garden’ as my sowing and planting bible. So I though I would make a post dedicated to Percy. The book is old! It was first printed in 1959 but I think the impression I have was printed in 1960. Nothing like some up-to-date, cutting edge gardening data eh?
The reason I like it so much is that it breaks up the year into months and then into weeks. Most books will tell you what to sow in what month according to where you live. But this one tells you what to plant this week. It’s brilliant! Of course, he is a little part of childhood too, being the Blue Peter gardener on TV in the 80s.
So for example, here’s an extract from January (fourth week).
“As soon as the Brussels Sprouts have been gathered, the stalks should be cleared from the ground unless there is a shortage of Purple Sprouting Broccoli or Kale in which case a few Brussels Sprouts may be left to produce young shoots for gathering later on.
Herbs such as Sage and Thyme can be replanted and large clumps can be pulled apart into small pieces with roots attached. The bushes can be cut down to within 9 inches of the ground and plenty of young shoots will grow up from the base…”
But, being a gardener in the 60s he also recommends spraying your crops with all kinds of nasties, poisoning the mice that eat your Pea seeds and dusting Turnips with DDT to kill flea beetle! Ho-hum you can’t have everything can you?
What I especially like are the black and white photos that have been hand finished in pencil. Why, I’m not quite sure but someone has taken a lot of time making these photos into a kind of eerie half reality that I just love.
The sad thing is I think it’s out of print. The only books I can find on Amazon are second hand or from collectors. I’m not sure you can buy it new anymore.
So that’s my gardening bible. I read other books, of course, but I always go back to see what Percy’s up to this week. It’s like an addiction I have.
What’s your gardening bible?
Funnily enough, Percy Thrower is my favourite too. ‘Fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden.’ first published in 1974 is my bible. Very clear and not faffy in any way. He also gives a sewing and harvesting guide fot the principle vegetables. What a guy!!!
I’ve never heard of this author. He sounds great though. Sometimes a direct “this is this” method can be more helpful (at least for me) as opposed to the “try this and it might work in your area and maybe not, and this adjustment can be made, and if you plant this, this might be impacted” etc. approach. Not that I’m knocking that, but sometimes just straight-up instruction is what’s needed. Thanks for sharing this book… I wonder if its still in a library, or maybe second-hand….I’ll scope it out.
The gardening year, readers digest 1968/1976(third edition).
Has a lot about flowers and lawn care stuff and things like that, too, I don’t really need/care about but is excellent at basics and though I don’t look into it often enough, your post made me look up January (at the end of the book, the year starts in March and finishes in Feb in this book!) and tells me about pruning fruit bushes and planting peas and beans… yeah, off to the garden now.
Thank you for your post.
Some of those old books have great information in them that you wont find in new books. Especially turn of the century books which basically have organic methods without calling them organic because modern agriculture hadn’t been invented yet and of course neither had synthetic fertilizers so everyone used compost. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing your favorite.
Monty Don’s gardening diary’s….they don’t tell you what to do or when to do it, but they do inspire you to get outside and do something. Just what you need in the middle of January. Lots of love for Monty!
I remember Percy Thrower …especially on Blue Peter ….. I’m sure it is still a better and more informative book than most of the books out today …
I have only recently got into ‘proper’ vegetable gardening (I only grew tomatoes and peppers in pots previously) and when looking for a week by week guide found one called ‘How to Grown Your Own Food’ apparently based on an anonymous gardening column (!) by someone called Dirty Nails in the Blackmore Vale Magazine. I shall see how I get on with it this year.
Joy Larkom “grow your own vegetables” is good–but i LOVE the look of percy’s book. think i will have to search it out!
I have Percy Thrower’s “Encyclopaedia of Gardening”, 1976 edition. I gave it to my dad for his birthday that year and when he died I reclaimed it. It’s highly informative with lots of black-and-white photographs and illustrations. I refer to modern gardening books too, but I use this encyclopaedia very frequently – a classic.
There are plenty of copies to be had on eBay, so on your recommendation I’ve splashed out £2.64 on a slightly worn 1976 copy. If it’s as good as you say, I think I may finally get myself organised!
I swear by Dr Hessayon’s “Vegetable Expert”. Hugely concentrated relevant information without the waffle. I believe he has gone on to do ‘Experts’ for every other aspect of gardening – but my interest is veg.
Percy was to horticulturwhat Fanny Craddock was to gastronamy, being the first media star.
You’re right there’s loads of them on eBay. There’s even one exactly like mine! Brilliant.
A week by week guide sounds good. I bought a copy of Grow Your Own Vegetables by Joy Larkcom on recommendation from a number of people.
I have a 1973 copy that I regularly refer to. However, I would thoroughly recommend “Organic Gardening – The Natural No-dig way” by Charles Dowding. He also has “Salad Leaves for All Seasons”
I can vouch for this post – it’s all she reads ;)
lovely old book…that takes me back…
l have a question not sure who to ask, thought l wold ask you if you dont mind…
I have just bought a bunch of tulips…and one of the stems has TWo tulip at the top…thats a bit unusual isnt it??? I have only ever see single blooms….
DDT??? LOL … times have changed!
I have to agree with Susan about ‘Dirty Nails’ I recently bought one of his books, A Vegetable Gardener’s Year. It has beautiful pen & ink drawings and a very detailed diary of what to do when during the year, week by week. I, of course, turned straight to the Dec/Jan pages where he advises during the winter when all the jobs are completed to ‘potter & mooch’….just the sort of thing I love to do in the veg plot whilst I am planning next years plot.
Percy Thrower was one of the first TV gardeners and one of the best. I dig out a copy of ‘Adam the Gardener’ showing how to garden week by week with black and white diagrams. he was featured every week in the Sunday Express. I think it dates back to the 60’s but its really useful. Nice cover as well.
I’m also addicted to a bit of a throw-back. The one book I always go back to again and again is Geoff Hamilton’s Cottage Gardens (a BBC book, published in 1995) (I call it a ‘thow-back’ because our beloved Geoff is also pushing up daisies). I love his no-nonsense organic approach and his traditional ideas of sticking the veg in the flower beds! With such a tiny garden this is the perfect way forward for me. I remember Percy on Blue Peter too!
Well this is brilliant, just bought Percy for a penny and he is brilliant. Many thanks for telling me about the book.
Well, I never. As a child I met Percy Thrower at the ‘Home Life Exhibition’ at Leicester’s Granby Halls sometime in the 60’s. I must have been 5 or 6 years at the time and was totally awestruck at meeting a man off the tele!
Thanks for rekindling the memory.
Well actually My Tiny Plot has become my bible. Where you lead I follow. Informative, up-to-date, fantastic photography and a pleasure to read – always.
I’ve just bought this book on Ebay on your recommendation……..Look forward to it…And I must prune my raspberries :O)
If I could recommend one book it would be Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Bible. Apart from his obvious depth of knowledge and the sympathetic approach to his surroundings, he doesn’t assume you have a bank executive’s pension on which to base your budget. Monty Don is a good read too.
Does anyone else think the young Percy on the book jacket looks a bit like David Cameron….?
I’ve only recently stubled upon your blog and I have to say I love it.
I also really like Percy Thrower. A friend bought a book of his for me from a charity shop for 20p and it’s signed. So chuffed with that. Like you wrote, the book is well laid out and full of really useful content.
I look forward to your posts and hope you get a moment to check my blog out too.
Keep up the good work.
Ryan (Ryan’s Garden)