Many gardening books drop you right in it. “IT’S SPRING! DO THIS NOW!” they scream at you, and I feel an immediate panic rising up in me, for I have not even bought the seeds they say I should have sown last week. If you are looking for a gentler, warmer approach then Liz Zorab’s new book, The Seasoned Gardener, is a mellow autumnal day, not a sharp spring shower.

This book begins in September, a point in the year that Zorab describes as ‘The Pause’, when “the heavy warmth of fragrance-filled air hangs over the garden like an invisible blanket of joy.” And where better to be but under that blanket with Zorab, for a softer start to the gardening year?

Zorab’s distinctive, friendly, but no-nonsense voice guides us through the seasons from this autumn starting point with tips, anecdotes and wise advice. She paints a colourful picture of the food, forest, flowers and vegetable garden, with Monty the cat, ducks and chickens alongside. Her approach is holistic – this is not just about growing, but about harvesting, storing and cooking too.

As an inexperienced grower of a few veg each year, I appreciated the straightforward, accessible language and ‘can-do’ feel. Tips that particularly inspired me included using magnolia petals to make a syrup, and growing squash on the compost heap. A more seasoned gardener than I am will find plenty of inspiration too, such as making your own rooting solution for encouraging new cuttings, or using the permaculture design principle of ‘stacking functions’ so that the garden thrives through multi-tasking.

There are thoughtful ways of ensuring your garden works in harmony with Nature, with a healthy respect for the predator–pest ecosystem and a thrifty, sustainable approach that involves recycling and, of course, repurposing to make the garden low impact.

Sometimes I felt the book needed a firmer editorial hand. For example, two sections on compost could have been published together or at least linked. On occasions, the formatting of the book doesn’t flow naturally either, and the indexing could have been more comprehensive.

This does not detract, however, thanks to the engaging narrative. This is a personal book with Zorab’s opinion firmly at the centre. She explains which vegetables she doesn’t bother with simply because she doesn’t like eating them. There is humour too, particularly the bee-induced strip and pond dip, which, although a scary experience, is told with retrospective amusement.

Zorab’s perfectly imperfect approach is likely linked to her past. She has battled a chronic illness that left her bedbound to create this self-sufficient lifestyle away from the rat race. This inspiring resilience and ability to start afresh has also seen Zorab and her husband move the location of their first farm to a new, blank-canvas site in the Carmarthenshire countryside.

Alongside the book is Zorab’s successful YouTube vlog, Byther Farm, which is an opportunity to further enjoy her charisma. It’s also a good dose of reality, with topics such as ‘Shocking mistake with mulch’ and ‘Wettest ever March’. It’s not all sunshine and roses and is all the more entertaining for it. The vlog supports the content of the book. It’s helpful to be able to read about, say, no-dig potatoes, and then find the relevant video on the vlog for more information.

It’s no wonder Zorab won the Garden Media Guild Awards 2022 Vlog of the Year, with the judges commenting: “The winner’s style is approachable and engaging, yet practical… A clear sense of personality emerges through what feels like a one-on-one chat and their message of self-sufficient and sustainable growing is both aspirational and inspirational for today’s gardeners.”

This isn’t just a guide to look up information in – it’s a book to cosy down with. It’s a perfect autumnal read, under that blanket with the warm hug of Zorab’s voice and the discovery of real gems of knowledge.

The Seasoned Gardener: Exploring the Rhythm of the Gardening Year by Liz Zorab. Permanent Publications, 2023. ISBN: 9781856232647.

Kate Blincoe is a Nature writer and lover, and a mother.