People regularly ask us to share our sources for what we know. This post will include our gardening book recommendations and some of our most used and favorite books in our library on the subject.
In the first part of our series on Planning Your Garden, I showed a stack of gardening books. In this post, I’ll explain these why these gardening books are included in our recommendations.
The First-Time Gardener
The first book I want to recommend, especially if you are new to gardening, is The First-Time Gardener – Growing Vegetables by Jessica Sowards. Jessica is a YouTube content creator. Her channel is Roots and Refuge Farm. I have followed Jessica for several years and have learned so much from her. She recently put all of that experience and know-how into a book full of gorgeous pictures of her garden, greenhouse, and high tunnel.
While this book is perfect for the first-time gardener, it is also a beautiful read for the more experienced gardener. She includes basic information about a variety of topics including:
- Plant Growing Basics
- Organic Gardening
- Gardening Styles
- Seed Selection
- Vertical Gardening
- Seasonal Growing
- Seed Starting
- Companion Planting
Carrots Love Tomatoes
Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte is a great resource for learning more about companion planting. This book is chock full of information and is a handy reference to have on the shelf. It is especially useful when planning your garden or looking for solutions.
There is information on nearly every vegetable, herb, or other crop you might want to grow. The sections list companion plants along with why they work together. Sometimes the companion plants help repel pests, other times they help reduce risks of disease. Also included is planting and rotating information to help keep the garden healthy and productive.
While the book only contains a few black and white line drawings, its value lies in the wealth of knowledge imparted about natural ways to improve your garden. These include gardening techniques, soil improvements, garden planning, and information on wild and poisonous plants.
Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook
For those people who like checklists, the Week-byWeek Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski is for you! You start by finding your last frost date. Everything in the book is based off of that date. They even give you a place to write it in the front cover. Did I mention that this is a workbook? After a couple dozen pages of information, the checklists begin. Starting with 20 weeks before the average date of last frost and carrying through the entire year, this book gives tasks for categories such as Maintenance, Seed Starting, Planting, and Harvesting. It also has space for 3 years worth of garden notes to track your own experience.
The checklists provide what to do in each time period during the year. In addition, it includes supplemental information on the tasks listed, the season, or for specific plants. They even have He Says/She Says sections scattered throughout the book when the authors have different things to say on a topic. Don’t worry about starting at the beginning. Just start recording your progress wherever you are in the growing season and cycle through the year.
I love the colorful easy-to-read layouts of DK books. Grow Vegetables by Alan Buckingham is no exception. This beautiful book is full of 350 pages of pictures. Information is provided on just about every type of vegetable you might want to grow. Accompanied by photographs, each variety has sections on where to plant, when to plant, how to plant, how to start seeds, routine care, harvesting, and even what can go wrong.
This book is a valuable resource throughout the planning and growing season. While it doesn’t have the depth of information some of the other books on this list have, it is especially helpful for people who learn better by seeing instead of just reading about it.
Backyard Harvest by JoWhittingham is another easy-to-read DK book full of pictures. This is another year-round guide on what to do in your garden each month of the year, but one geared toward those of us with smaller areas for our garden (back yard, patio, etc.). This month-by-month guide takes you through all of the gardening stages. For each month, it shows what to plant, what to do in your garden, and what to harvest. Each month also has a Ready to Eat calendar showing what is in season, what to use from storage, and what to find fresh in the grocery store (in case you didn’t plant it).
This book also includes information on fruits as well as vegetables. Along with the gardening information the book also includes recipes and tips on storing and preserving the harvest. This book is out of print, but still available from used bookstores.
The Mittleider Gardening Course
The Mittleider Gardening Course by Dr. Jacob Mittleider and James Kennard focuses more on sharing the specific method of growing a garden rather than information on individual plants. Dr. Mittleider taught his gardening method for 43 years in 27 countries. His method is used around the world to increase food production for families, especially in third world countries.
The book is split into 2 sections: Soil-Bed and Grow-box (Raised Bed) gardens. Depending on your garden type, it details the planning, preparation, planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting techniques to maximize yields and produce hundreds of pounds of food from your garden.
Sample garden plans that use less than 1/20th of an acre to provide enough food for a family of four using this method are detailed in the book. Included are step-by-step plans, material lists, and full color drawings and photos to help take the guesswork out of gardening. We use much of the information in this book in our own raised bed garden, especially the soil and fertilizing information. This is the gardening book I referenced when building my current raised beds.
The Food for Everyone foundation that promotes Dr. Mittleider’s method even offers a Certification “Boot Camp” every year for those who want more in-depth information. They say that this method allows gardeners to raise an abundance of vegetables in almost any soil, any season, any climate, and almost all elevations. I have found that to be true in our own garden.
The Big Book of Gardening Skills
The first gardening book I ever bought was The Big Book of Gardening Skills by Garden Way Publishing. I have had it for almost 30 years. It still holds a warm place in my heart for the many things it taught me. Not just about vegetables, although it covers them well, this book also has information on flowers, trees, lawns and landscaping.
This book is full of handy graphics and charts including how to change the PH of soil, how many weeks to start your seeds before transplanting, and a great chart of plants to deter specific insects. Focusing on an organic method of solving problems rather than a chemical one, this book is great for anyone looking for a more natural way to tend their garden.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible
If you can’t tell by now, I can’t seem to get enough gardening books for my library. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith is a best seller. The latest version is full color with lots of pictures and drawings to help plan and execute your vegetable garden. Most of the information is for larger gardens than I currently have, but I really like the sections on compost, seed starting and drip irrigation systems. The section on garden pests and common diseases with color pictures are also helpful.
As with many of the other gardening books, this one provides lots of information on each type of vegetable, but where this book really stands out is the charts with full details on seed depth, soil temperature, days to germination, pH range, spacing, water, light, and how long seeds will last if you didn’t get to plant them this year. This last one is especially important if you end up with way more seeds than you can grow in your garden. (I may be slightly guilty of this myself.)
Which to Choose?
I would have a hard time choosing which book I have found most helpful if I could pick just one. They have all shaped my gardening experience and added to my gardening knowledge tool kit. Hopefully, I’ve been able to give you a taste of what gardening books might be right for you. What are your favorite gardening books?