This post offers book reviews for my top must-have gardening books. Read on to learn why I consider these my garden bibles and use my shopping guide to build your own library or choose the perfect gift for the beloved gardener in your life. The shopping guides are Amazon affiliate links to products I use and recommend.
Best Gardening Books | Recommended Reading for December
One rainy fall afternoon I sat with my little library and laptop reviewing books I have and dreaming of books I want. Then I created this list of best gardening books and garden library shopping guide. All the winter months are great for catching up on our reading, planning, and ordering. I also thought the list would help with your gift giving this December or any time.
Have your own recommendations? Please leave them in the comments. I’m always adding to my own garden library!
Best Gardening Books in the Vegetable Category
Eliot Coleman is hands down the best writer for vegetable gardeners. This year, The New Organic Grower is rereleased in its 3rd edition to celebrate the book’s 30th anniversary. It’s my number one gardening book recommendation because there’s nothing you want to know about basic gardening that isn’t in this book. I also recommend Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman.
Eliot also wrote The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook with his wife and Washington Post columnist, Barbara Damrosch. I recommend everything they do and am always learning from The Four Season Farm!
Check out the Eliot Coleman Four Season Farm Gift Guide
Best Gardening Books in the Flower Category
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden is my first recommendation for the best gardening book in the flower category. While the authors, Erin Bezakein and Julie Chai, are production flower farmers in the Pacific Northwest, the book is designed to help anyone grow beautiful cut flowers, in many different climates. Michael Wait’s photography is stunning and inspirational. Use this book to learn the ins-and-outs of growing cut flowers as well as how to arrange them. The book is arranged seasonally, and you know I’m all about that perspective!
I’m all about perennials, too! They help me build my garden beds focusing on good soil with half the work of annuals. My second recommendation in the flower category for best gardening books is The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide by Nancy Onda. This is a perfect reference for choosing the right perennials for your soil, water, and sunlight conditions. Check out Nancy’s blog to learn more about perennials, gardening, and her extensive gardening background.
We’ve had an amazing butterfly year here at Stony Ridge Farm! A pasture full of milkweed has created a farm full of Monarchs. On a recent episode of A Way to Garden podcast, Margaret Roach highlighted the newly published Butterfly Gardening: the North American Butterfly Association Guide by Jane Hurwitz. During that interview, I learned to not only think about nectar when planting a butterfly garden but to learn what plants caterpillars need to thrive. I was so jazzed and I’ve been talking about this book ever since. This book is number one on my shopping list!
Check out the Flower Gardener’s Gift Guide
Best Gardening Books for Companion Planting and Garden Design
Don’t you love designing a garden? Thinking and learning about the ways plants go together is like a living jigsaw puzzle. Whether growing vegetables and wondering about the best companions or designing a color themed perennial garden, designing a garden is an ever-evolving project.
Companion planting is a method of garden design and crop rotation that explores the ways certain vegetables and herbs grow in a mutually beneficial way, or not. A resurgence in planting vegetables and flowers in the same garden beds is a hot new thing in gardening. It’s actually an ancient gardening practice that ensures beneficial insects are integrated into vegetable garden patches. Vegetables Love Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler is my first recommendation in the category of companion planting and garden design. It is a smart guide to making healthy garden beds that are beautiful at the same time.
Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte is my second recommendation. If you are not up to having flowers in all your vegetable garden beds, this book will help you plant your vegetables in a way that increases harvest and decreases pests and disease.
Having a resource in your garden library that offers tried and true layouts for vegetable patches is very helpful for both the novice gardener and the expert. That’s why I recommend Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardeners by Barbara Pleasant. I love this book because it explains how to start a vegetable garden with growth and expansion in mind.
Check Out the Companion Planting and Garden Design Gift Guide
Best Gardening Books for Technical Garden Knowledge
Composting, seed saving, soil science, pest management… there are so many technical aspects to organic gardening that having these manuals and handbooks in your library is a must. Here are my choices for the best gardening books for technical garden knowledge.
Turning kitchen and yard waste into healthy organic compost is garden magic. Learning how to mix brown waste (think leaves and straw) with green waste (think kitchen scraps and lawn clippings) to get the best mix, working with seasonal temperature fluctuations, and knowing how water affects your compost are just a few of the technical aspects of composting for the garden. I recommend a book published in 1998, Let It Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell to get you on the composting bandwagon the right way. The section that compares different styles of compost bins, their function and usefulness may be the best part of the book! It comes with building plans.
Seed saving is an art as much as a science. I’m recommending Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for the Vegetable Gardener by Suzanne Ashworth for all of us. I am not very skilled at seed saving and am looking to add this book to my library and this skill to my gardener’s toolkit. Seed saving helps preserve biodiversity, is good for the garden budget, and helps minimize your garden’s carbon footprint. Let’s do it!
Building Organic Soil
We all love to see beautiful plants in our vegetable and flower gardens, orchards and landscaping. It all begins with good soil building and soil management practices. I recommend Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach by Elizabeth Murphy. This book is written with the home gardener in mind but is based on up-to-date organic soil science. Of all the books on the list, I think a reliable and approachable book on soil building is as important to the gardener’s library as the soil itself is to the garden.
Check out the Technical Garden Shopping Guide
Best Gardening Books for Best Gardening Practices
So, that’s my list to get you started on building the perfect useful gardening library. Kitchen gardening is all about using the best gardening practices to create clean, nutritious and tasty food for your daily meals. It is a month-to-month endeavor that responds to weather and season to manage threats and take advantage of the ways nature supports your efforts. The blog is built around those monthly tasks. Check out these links to learn more about building and maintaining a healthy and productive kitchen garden every month of the year. Please also consider signing up for the Resource Library and Weekly Newsletter where I offer unique content for the garden and the kitchen to our community members. It’s all about creating a seasonal lifestyle.
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