The Best Gardening Book For Beginners

Next to actually working in their gardens, gardeners love to read and learn more about gardening. There are hundreds of new gardening books each year. Here are some of the favorites from my own bookshelves.

12. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques

This is the kind of bottom line practical information that every gardener looks for. New gardeners will take the fast track to learning about staking, deadheading and divisions. Experienced gardeners will be treated to the inside track on expanding your gardens bloom season through creative pruning.

You can get the book from HERE.

11. Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

This is an amazing piece of work. If you enjoy saving seeds or just want to learn about different varieties of vegetables and their relationships, you’ll find this an invaluable reference. Ashfood sorts through 160 different vegetable crops and provide instruction on isolation distances, cross pollination problems, how the flowers are pollinated and techniques for hand-pollinating, harvesting, drying and storing seeds. You’ll soon find yourself a seed saving junkie.

You can get the book from HERE.

10. The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control

I broke the binding on my first copy of this book from the gurus of organic gardening, Rodale Press. Not that my garden was full of pests, mind you. I just wanted to identify those that I had. The front part of the book goes plant by plant (flowers and vegetables) and tells you what the plants need to thrive and then what problems you might encounter. The problems are listed by the symptom you might be having, like “Leaves mottled and ruffled.” or “Blossoms brown and limp.”, with the corresponding organic control. I wish there were photos in this section instead, but photos in the Symptom Guide in the back of the book, almost make up for it. There is also a very useful section on organic pesticides and how to use them.

You can get the book from HERE.

9. 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden

If you lament that tomatoes don’t taste as good as you remember, Dr. Male suggests you are growing the wrong tomatoes. Somehow she has culled down the thousands of tomato varieties she has grown over the years to her top 100 for home gardeners. This book is for the tomato loving gardener who takes great pride in growing the most flavorful tomatoes on the block.

You can get the book from HERE.

8. The New Organic Grower: for the Home and Market Gardener

Eliot Coleman was one of the first mainstream writers to talk about organic gardening. He introduced a generation of Miricle Grow gardeners to compost, crop rotation and soil blocks. This book was intended for the small-scale market gardener, but there is nothing in here that doesn’t apply to us backyard gardeners. He’s laid out a blueprint for getting the most from your garden while giving back to the soil. Planting schedules, rotation charts, individual crop management – it’s like attending one of his college lectures.

You can get the book from HERE.

7. Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden

I think I’d enjoy gardening with Larry Hodgson. He clearly loves his garden, but I don’t get the feeling he takes it all so seriously. Given the choice between running for spray can and finishing his beer, I think Hodgson would finish his beer. Hodgson disspells the idea that shade gardens are boring. Not only is there a whole, untried world of shade plants, but the shade is much more enjoyable to work in during August. The first part of the books talks about his approach to shade gardening: different types of shade, the futile fight against encroaching tree roots and how to add color, light and depth to shade. The second part is an encyclopedia of the best plants for various shade gardens.

You can get the book from HERE.

6. Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History

Back when most of America was first discoving the Brandywine tomato, Woys Weaver compiled this tome of hundreds of heirloom vegetable varieties and their stories. Woys Weaver is a food historian, a Master Gardener and a manic seed saver. He gardens in the Brandywine Valley and has a Mennonite ancestry that lead him to some of his earliest heirloom interests. Plants are about the only heirlooms that get better as you use them and if you think you’ve exhausted the heirloom seed rack, take a look at ‘Howling Mob Corn’, ‘Crystal Apple White Spine Cucumber’ and ‘Murry’s Pineapple Melon’. Interspersed with the varieties and their descriptions are recipes and growing tips, all meticulously researched.

You can get the book from HERE.

5. Gardening All-in-One For Dummies

Written for the beginner, “Gardening for Dummies” does a great job of covering the basics: zones, choosing plants, weeding, pruning… It also lives up to its subtitle, “A reference for the rest of us.” The section on pesticides is one of the easiest to grasp in print. But novice gardeners will appreciate it most for it’s ability to get them up and gardening in a short amount of time.

You can get the book from HERE.

4. Garden Primer, by Barbara Damrosch

This was one of the first gardening books I remember reading from cover to cover. Damrosch covers all the basics on flowers, vegetables, bulbs and houseplants and gets novice gardeners up to speed without overwhelming them with jargon and theory, yet without talking down to them. She covers everything from “What Plants Need” to which ones to beware of. The new edition is 100% organic, as she and her husband, farmer/author Eliot Coleman have long advocated, and it’s full of the kind of wisdom that only comes from years of trying until you get it right. It’s a great reference I return to all the time. If you miss their wonderful TV show, “Gardening Naturally”, you’ll especially appreciate hearing an old, familiar voice on each page.

You can get the book from HERE.

3. Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long

Eliot Coleman can talk vegetables. This man has made such an in depth study of growing just about everything edible. He farms in Maine, and somehow put together that southern France lies along the same 44th parallel as his farm, so the day length, which regulates plant growth, must be the same in both areas. So if he could just control the temperature, he could have a four-season harvest to rival Provence. The system he has developed is amazing and it’s probably more than you’ll want to take on. But there’s plenty that can be scaled down for the home gardener, like rolling cold frames, a temporary A-frame greenhouse and Mediterranean tunnels. If you’re an avid vegetable gardener and you like to push the season, this is your bible.

You can get the book from HERE.

2. American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

The American Hort. Society’s A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants deserves to be in every gardener’s library because it can pretty much answer any question you have on any plant you might be inclined to grow. Whether there’s a question on hardiness, when to prune or propagate or how large to expect it to grow, you will find the answer here.

You can get the book from HERE.

1. All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space

It’s hard to believe that Mel Bartholomew wrote the original Square Foot Gardening over 25 years ago (1981). It caused quite a sensation then, although I don’t think the concept was particularly new. Gardeners had been taking advantage of limited space by gardening in blocks and wide rows for centuries. However Bartholomew did bring the concept back to the forefront and made it accessible to a whole new generation of gardens. The revised edition incorporates ideas like raised bed gardening and soil mixes, to coax even more from your garden. And three are more how-to illustrations for the different techniques. Even if you don’t want to lay your garden out in a grid, there is useful, practical information in this updated classic.

You can get the book from HERE.

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