Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Monday 7 April 2014

Book review - "Small Space Big Ideas"

As you know I often get asked to review items, sometimes gardening or chicken keeping equipment and sometimes books. Recently I was sent a press release for a new book by Phillipa Pearson, published by Dorling Kindersley called Small Space, Big Ideas.

The press release said the book would  provide inspiration and practical projects to get balconies, window-sills, porches, patios, roof gardens and even stairs and walls blooming. It also mentioned that the book had a crafty homemade approach to gardening 

I thought it sounded interesting so I agreed to have a copy to review.

When the book arrived I was really rather impressed with it - a substantial hard backed book with beautiful illustrations and a very comprehensive set of instructions accompanying each of the 40 gardening projects in the book.

This book does indeed have a very "crafty" feel to it - lots of the ideas would not look out of place in a craft magazine like Mollie Makes- but the the book is still very much oriented to growing and gardening. Both ornamental and edible plants are grown in the projects and there is an emphasis on being able to produce both food and beauty in even small gardens.

Although I have a large garden, you can see I have marked a lot of projects in this book which I want to try! I particularly liked the Colourful Salad Colander ( p32) - I first saw a similar idea at the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens cafe and I can vouch for how spectacular it can look.

The Saddlebag Balcony Planters (p 74) made from oilcloth and filled with plants to hang either side of a balcony are really great - I would be quite tempted to have some on my actual bicycle :)


The Portable Hanging Insect House (p 198) looks wonderful and would appeal to many a diy enthusiast as well as a gardener - and the finished product looks both effective and very stylish.

I really liked the Wildlife Hamper (p210)- insect attracting flowers growing in a basket  - I think this could make a wonderful gift if the basket were given as a kit with the seed packets in it. I did a similar thing last year to grow Celery, and it is still going strong in the polytunnel so I know this technique does work.

In fact I liked the whole book, I really enjoyed looking through it; there are some good ideas which I want to try and as an inspiration and source of ideas this book is really brilliant. 

Although not explicitly organic, I could see no use of chemicals (apart from paint and varnish) and lots of organic growing methods were mentioned, such as companion planting and attracting beneficial insects to the garden. Composting and maintaining a healthy ecological balance in the garden was also discussed and various methods outlined. The book has a useful section on how to grow and maintain plants, with general care and harvesting advice. It also has a very good contents list at the front and index at the back, along with a list of suppliers.

I do wonder if some of the containers could be obtained as easily as the book assumes (old zinc tubs are quite expensive and I don't often see them!) and I was a bit disappointed not to see more prominent mention of using peat free growing medium rather than just saying to buy multi purpose compost.

These are minor quibbles and this book would make an interesting and attractive addition to the bookshelves of a gardener and/or craft person or indeed to a beginner in either.

Small Space, Big Ideas
Author: Philippa Pearson
Publisher: DK 
Publication date: 1st March 2014

With thanks to Vivienne  at DK for sending me the books. More about the other book in another post :)


  1. Soooooo that's what you're reading :-)

    That looks a really nice book, I love the planting in a wicker hamper idea it looks really rustic, but can I be persuaded to use one of my hampers ... we'll see.

    I have to review a jacket I've been sent, I'd much rather have had a book!!

  2. I am so impressed by it - so many good ideas!


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