Have You Read Any Good Gardening Books?

A scene from Peter Jackson’s new movie.

Someone asked me recently if I’d read any good gardening books lately. I had to admit that I haven’t. Year after year I pick up the same two books when I have a question, John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables,and The Sunset Western Garden Book.

Have you read an interesting gardening book recently? If so, leave a comment.

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  1. I’m a big fan of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening. While more about farming than gardening, I like Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower. I found Michael Polan’s story of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm (in The Omnivore’s Dilemna) very inspirational.

  2. Those are NOT interesting garden books…those are manuals. For interesting garden books try “Education of a Gardener” by Russell Page or “Second Nature” by Michael Pollan. Also interesting, both by Sarah Stein, “My Weeds, A Gardener’s Botany” and “Noah’s Garden”. Depending on the type of gardening one is interested in, there are many interesting titles.

  3. My current favorite is Stand Up and Garden by Mary Moss-Sprague. Great ideas about (really) raised beds, container gardening, drip irrigation, etc.

  4. I am currently in the midst of reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s Sowing Seeds in the Desert. It goes far beyond “gardening book” because the title is somewhat poetic — it reaches into sowing seeds-of-ideas in the desert of our culture’s mind. A great philosophical read.

    Also on my reading table is Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom and Kate Baldwin. It has gorgeous pictures, haven’t dug deep into the text yet. I’m hoping the authors might have solved the puzzle of how to free range chickens without destroying an urban garden that grows veggies for people.

    The other great garden book I’ve read recently is The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe. By “uncertain times” Deppe means everything from distracted-from-gardening-by-life’s-course such as care for an elder during their final illness, to the societal disruptions of peak oil, etc. Unlike most veggie gardening books, Deppe focuses on a few calorie crops and how to grow them well despite limited inputs. She understands the necessity of varietal diversity and seed saving. Her climate isn’t identical to mine, but she writes with much wisdom.

    None of these are the “return to as a reference” type of book like Jeavons. But the above books reach into other realms of our gardening education. Jeavons’ mind-boggling tables and calculations will probably always earn his book a prime spot on my gardening bookshelf.

  5. No, and yes. Truth is, rarely read garden books as so few deal with conditions we encounter in the upper desert of Arizona. My own records and memory are my best resource now. BUT did read a book about organic gardening by HRH the Prince of Wales, aka, prince Charles. Hadn’t realized how deeply into the subject the man is. Having the deep pockets necessary and the sizeable acreage, he now organically manages his properties and encourages not only organic methods, but also promotes it actively at what ever levels is necessary. At one estate not only do they manage fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens, but also raise chickens and bees, has something like a 32,000 gallon cistern for harvesting water, AND processes the entire household sewage through their own system. Takes growing your own to new levels, when you consider he’s using his own cut flowers and his own veggies when he hosts state dinners!

    • I admire Prince Charles’ focus on organic gardening, but was disappointed to learn that when he is in Scotland, 600 miles away, he has his own organic produce flown in several times a week. That is a blatant disregard for the environment and doesn’t sit well with me.

    • I’ve heard that before about Prince Charles and I’m not entirely convinced it’s true.
      He can be a bit inconsistent in his environmentalism (can’t most people?) but it sounds like something the Daily Mail would write…

    • according to HRH, he has converted his section of the Scottish estate to organic gardening techniques . . . . he does send stuff from Highgrove down to the London estate, but more like his own soil and manure mixes and think its trucked. Environmental plus or minus? guess it depends on a bigger picture.

  6. Since I live in Arizona, this book has been amazing for me to figure out when and what to plant for each growing season: The Garden Guy by Dave Owens.

    I also got the Encyclopedia of Garden Living for reference and Mini Farming by Brett Markham but haven’t started reading through these two yet.

  7. Dan Hinckley, the iconic founder of the fabled (and now defunct) Heronswood Nursery on Bainbridge Island said that all life’s answers can be found in “The Secret Garden.” I still have my copy from third grade, with Tasha Tudor’s illustrations, and sometimes I think he’s right.

  8. Since I live in the fog, the book I turn to the most is Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Pierce. This book convinced me that I could give it a go despite our “summers.” The other book that is earmarked and always on the kitchen table is The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal.

  9. anything and everything from Carol Deppe. If I read her once I can read her again. It’s rare I can re-read a book and get new bits and pieces and new ideas out of it but her stuff is more dense and packed in than it looks at first.

  10. Now, I mostly read gardening blogs or posts about other bloggers’ gardens. However, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, was inspirational since I live in a city.

    From survivalists I learned about forest gardens. The idea of planting front yards in vegetables, planting lots of fruit trees, and putting vegetables amongst the flowers and shrubs come from lots of blogs.

    Some of the best ideas came from videos, thanks to the internet–Back to Eden video about Paul Gautschi’s methods that involve no tilling.

    As an avid reader and an English major, I hate to admit gardening books are taking second place to the internet. However, many of my books are packed and I refuse to invest in more. I had to ask the library to buy Farm City, so going to the library involves a long wait and a short window for digesting a book.

  11. Since I moved from the Sonoran Desert to the Mojave Desert I am enjoying A DESERT GARDENER’S COMPANION by Kim Nelson. Also THE SHEER ECSTASY OF BEING A LUNATIC FARMER by Joel Salatin (his farm was featured in FOOD, INC and the documentary FRESH), and TENDING THE WILD: NATIVE AMERICAN KNOWLEDGE AND THE MANAGEMENT OF CALIFORNIA’S NATURAL RESOURCES by M. Kat Anderson (which sounds dry but is really very interesting). Of course I refer to the Sunset book you mentioned all the time and another one called Gia’s Garden which also stays out year round.
    Am looking forward to checking out the other books mentioned here.

  12. Our bookshelves groan under the weight of gardening books.

    “Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons should be in everyone’s collection, because it is a really serious, incredibly useful manual. For seed saving, “Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth gets a lot of use here. But I really like gardening manuals that have a story, too.

    For sheer enjoyment, I enjoy reading and re-reading the “20-Minute Gardener” books by Tom Christopher and Marty Asher for the useful, no-nonsense information and the humor. I’ve also picked up several books about period gardening, including one about Shaker gardens and one about gardening in Colonial Williamsburg. These have the drop-dead gorgeous photography (we call it Garden Porn around here) that makes us drool with envy. Our garden will never look that beautiful, but we can dream.

  13. Toolbox for Sustainable City Living (Kellogg and Pettigrew) doesn’t focus exclusively on gardening, but it has some great gardening advice, especially for backyard aquaponics systems on a low-to-zero budget, and DIY phyto/mycoremediation of contaminated urban soils. You mentioned that More Other Homes and Garbage would be your zombie apocalypse pick; well, Toolbox would be mine.

    Also, for the money, you can’t beat the free download of Percival Yeomans’ whole Keyline series of books, on offer from Steve Solomon’s Soil and Health Library. Sure, the author might advocate clearcutting and building dams, but he’s the strictest erosion hawk I’ve eve encountered, and he thinks all streams and rivers should flow without interruption: well worth a read, if only to see the territory alt ag has covered over the decades.

  14. The Sunset magazine staff have a book called “The One Block Feast”. For one year, they strived to cook and eat only what they could grow within a very limited area. They came up with every thing from eggs to honey to wine, beer, mead, black tea, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream. They even managed to do their version of English Tea. I’m buying ASAP.

  15. Love Gayla Trail and Novella Carpenter. Ditto “Free-Range Chicken Gardens” by Jessi Bloom, and The One Block Feast. And I liked Grow The Good Life (but mostly for the chapter on the “never-ending education.” Still leaning heavily on Pat Welsh’s So-Cal Organic Gardening.

  16. I could re-read anything by Joy Larkom, Alys Fowler or Bob Flowerdew, but they’re all British so I’m not sure how much they’d have to offer gardeners in California!

  17. After walking my dog past his garden a million times, I’m finally getting around to reading Jimmy Williams’ “From Seed to Skillet.” Lots of good tips plus a nice down-home narrative. Full of recipes, southern-style.

  18. The best book I’ve ever read is “Teaming With Microbes”…by Jeff Lowenfels. Goes over what happens in the soil and the interaction of various bugs (a way unscientific term) with the root system.

    If you only read one book related to gardening…this is it.

    • We’ve been busy this weekend so haven’t been able to comment. There’s many good recs here, but I’ll just pause now to say that Teaming with Microbes is indeed a great book. Understanding the soil is imperative to gardening. It really opened my eyes.

  19. I’ve been using “Tough Plants for California Gardens” as my landscaping reference, and I also really enjoyed “Gaia’s Garden: A guide to Home-scale Permaculture”.

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