Rodale’s organic gardening book

For people who want to practice the organic and permaculture style of home gardening in the manner that is done on this site, it is always nice to have a few companion books to keep around the house.

I decided to take a look at the top 5 best selling organic gardening books on Amazon to see if they were in line with the methods we practice on this site.

The star ratings and reviews reflect the opinions of the author of this article (Jonathan Davis), and if you disagree or want to add something, please drop us a comment.

1. Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

Author: Brett L. Markham

Our Rating: (3.5 / 5)

Review Summary: Good reference text that covers a lot of different topics with some great charts and tables, but not a good how-to guide for the beginning, small-space organic gardener. Impersonal tone.

Review: This book is the number one selling book on organic gardening at Amazon. It is written in what I would describe as a textbook style / overview format. Although it covers a wide range of great topics that readers of our website are interested in, it really doesn’t walk the reader through how to actually do things in a step-by-step manner.

In checking other reviews of the book, many have described it is impersonal and not very fun to read, and I would have to agree.

The author clearly has a wealth of information on the topic of small space home gardening, and there are a ton of topics covered, but most of them are just touched upon.

Having said that, the book is nice to have on hand for a reference because there is a lot of great information on soil diseases, times to maturity, tips for building various types of trellises, beds, stuff for chickens, etc.

For me, this book is great to read through from time to time to get ideas about things I could be doing differently. The topics mentioned are all solid concepts, and definitely fit with what we are trying to accomplish in our gardening. I have gotten some great article ideas from it, because it brings up techniques that I use and love, but that need to be explained and fleshed out for the average gardener to be able to understand.

With regard to the claims of making money from selling one’s produce, I would say that things are never as easy as they look on paper. The goal of home gardening should be to produce our own high quality produce. I would strongly caution a person who doesn’t know much about gardening to think that they can somehow follow this information and suddenly have a successful business.

What Others Say: Click here to read more reviews of this book or to purchase it in various formats.

2. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd ed.

Author: Edward C. Smith

Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)

Review Summary: The name says it all. This is one of the best organic gardening books ever made and we fully endorse it.

Review: This book is a true classic and provides a complete resource for traditional organic gardening.

There is a ton of information on garden beds, plant positioning, bed depth, blocking wind with trellises, seed selection, tips on what to grow, simple and effective crop rotation strategies, companion planting, planting diagrams, seed starting & transplanting, weeding, watering, the best tools, mulches, when to harvest, storing the harvest, tons of stuff about soil health, compost, pests and disease control, and much more.

There are a lot of very helpful charts and tables, and the final section has a huge amount of information and details about how to grow every garden plant imaginable. There are 840 pages and the book includes a huge and very handy index. Every organic gardener should have a copy of this book at home.

One issue is that he advocates a lot of rototilling, and we don’t, but that is the only thing I find to disagree with.

What Others Say: Click here to read more reviews of this book or to purchase it in various formats.

3. The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming

Author: Jean-Martin Fortier

Our Rating: (2 / 5)

Review Summary: Highly technical description of how a full-time farm in Canada operates its growing business. Involves techniques that are mostly not practical for the home and hobby grower.

Review: To be clear, this book is for people who want to go into the full time business of farming for profit on a small scale, and it is not for the home gardener who wants to grow quality produce and maybe sell the rest at the local farmers market. So, therefore, it is not for us or the majority of our readers.

This book is basically a well laid out explanation of how this particular small scale farm in Quebec does things. Unfortunately for us, the way they do things involves tilling, buying super composts, applying bio pesticides (which they hate to do but still do anyway), and burning weeds with special torches.

The home gardener and urban farmer is not going to want to do these things, nor will they likely want to follow the very technical and scientific systems such as their complicated fertilization systems and 10-year crop rotation tables.

It would be a great book for perhaps an already established full-time farmer who wants to convert over to some more organic methods, but it is not for us, and it is surprising to me that this book sold so many copies.

What Others Say: Click here to read more reviews of this book or to purchase it in various formats.

4. Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

Author: Louise Riotte

Our Rating: (3 / 5)

Review Summary: Reference manual for almost every plant imaginable with respect to suggested companions as well as plants that may not work well inter-planted with them. Very specific with regard to companion information but not very helpful to overall organic gardening or the home gardener.

Review: This book would be good for people who are really interested in companion planting, but for me, it is just way too much information on this topic, so much so, that I lose interest almost immediately.

The majority of the book is a listing of every plant in alphabetical order within broad categories, such as vegetables, herbs, fruits, etc., with a brief description of what plants do well planted with it and which plant may hinder it, along with some brief reasons why.

The rest of the book covers some great gardening topics, but does not go very deep at all into any of them.

I was hoping for some really cool companion strategies, diagrams, and plans for where to place plants, but for the most part, in my opinion, that is not present in this book.

There is a section on garden plans, but it is far too broad to be of real use to the home gardener. Reading this whole book and taking in all of the information of what helps what and what hurts what, leaves this reader feeling confused and overwhelmed.

What Others Say: Click here to read more reviews of this book or to purchase it in various formats.

5. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition

Author: Toby Hemenway

Our Rating: (5 / 5)

Review Summary: A must own for home organic and permaculture style gardeners. This is the best book ever written on gardening.

Review: Hemenway fully explains permaculture and how it can be used in the home garden.

He outlines how the garden is an ecosystem, discusses blending the many functions of plants, and goes in depth on microclimates, hugelkultur, and attracting insects and wildlife.

The book proposes ingenious inter-planting systems using plant guilds, and offers step-by-step instructions for designing specific bed systems and what to do from seed to harvest.

The book shows anyone how to take the garden from a bare lawn to a food forest. There are tons of home garden designs that work in multiple ways, urban gardening tips, and many charts, tables, and diagrams as well as beautiful pictures of thriving home gardens.

The book is a must have for any gardener.

What Others Say: Click here to read more reviews of this book or to purchase it in various formats.

Vegetable gardening is a great way to save money on produce while also enjoying the freshest and most delicious vegetables, fruits, and herbs. If you’re planning to start your very first vegetable garden this year, here are 10 great books to help you get started:

1. Smith, Ed – The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible

One of the best general vegetable gardening guides ever written. Simple and straightforward information laid out in an organized and easy-to-follow format, with lots of pictures. The book advocates the W-O-R-D system – Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds, and Deep soil – but it’s an excellent reference even if you don’t follow that advice to the letter. For balcony and patio gardeners, Ed Smith has also written an excellent guide to vegetable gardening in containers: The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers.

2. Kujawski, Jennifer and Ron – The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook

Suitable for all gardening zones, this super-helpful book breaks down gardening tasks week-by-week throughout the year based on your region’s average last frost date to help you plan, prepare, plant, tend, and harvest your vegetable garden. (Find your last frost date here.)

3. Pleasant, Barbara – Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens

If you’re nervous about planning your first garden, this book offers 24 detailed three year plans that will help you start small and simple and work your way up to larger and more advanced gardens, while teaching the basics of good garden design and planning along the way.

4. Bartholomew, Mel – Square Foot Gardening

This classic gardening book has been teaching people how to get more food out of less space for decades. Although it occasionally reads a little like an infomercial, this book is one of the most popular gardening books ever written for good reason: square foot gardening works!

5. Hill, Lewis and Leonard Perry – The Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruits and Nuts in the Home Garden

While many popular garden vegetables are quite easy to grow (some, like zucchini, terrifyingly so), fruit can be a little trickier. If your mouth waters at the prospect of homegrown strawberries, blueberries, apples, or pears, it’s helpful to have a little extra help in the form of a specialty fruit gardening book. The Fruit Gardener’s Bible is an excellent and comprehensive choice that will introduce you to the mysteries of topics such as pruning, espalier, and chill hours.

6. Smith, Miranda – Your Backyard Herb Garden

There are few things tastier than food made with fresh herbs, but fresh herbs are often outrageously expensive at the grocery store. Luckily, most herbs are pretty easy to grow (much easier than fruit), but if you’d like a guidebook to help you get the most out of your herb garden, this is a great choice. It not only explains the proper planting, cultivation, and harvesting of herbs, but also has a lot of information abut what you can do with them, from cooking and medicinal use to crafts and gifts.

7. Campbell, Stu – Let It Rot!

Improving your soil will result in happier, healthier, and more productive plants, and one of the best ways to build better soil is by composting. This excellent starter guide will introduce you to different methods of composting and how to use the finished product for maximum effectiveness.

8. Fell, Derek – Vertical Gardening

Gardening in small spaces such as city backyards can be a special challenge, and with this book Derek Fell teaches you one of the secrets of maximizing space in a small garden: vertical gardening! Many popular garden vegetables, including cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes, will grow quite happily on trellises and other vertical structures, allowing precious square footage to be used for pickier plants.

9. Bradley, Fern Marshall, Ellis, Barbara W., and Deborah L. Martin – The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control

An encyclopedic guide to pests and diseases that may affect your plants and how to treat them organically, without resorting to chemicals that may be harmful to the environment or dangerous for families with young children or pets.

10. Coleman, Eliot – Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long

Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, you may want to start expanding your skills by growing fresh produce year-round. This classic work by market gardener and farmer Eliot Coleman explains how home gardeners in cold climates can use cold frames and tunnel greenhouses to extend the growing season. Coleman’s other works The New Organic Grower and The Winter Harvest Handbook are also highly recommended.

Image credit: Amanda B | CC

What are your favorite gardening books for beginners?

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24 Gardening Books That’ll Quickly Make You an Expert

Inside: The best gardening books for beginners.

We live in an era of instant everything. Instant rice, instant communication, and most importantly … instant-dry nail polish!

But one thing that can’t be sped up is your garden.

I learned that when my fourth-grade teacher had us start sunflower seeds in a paper cup.

I woke up each morning, excited to see how my seeds were doing.

Had they sprouted overnight? Did they need to be watered? When would they be ready to go outside? When would they finally have a flower? How would the sunflower seeds taste when they were ready to be harvested?

That experience taught me hard lessons about patience in the garden. No matter how hard I wished my plants would grow faster, they wouldn’t.

But at the end of summer, when those seeds had morphed into 6-foot tall sunflowers, with blooms as wide as dinner plates, I became a passionate gardener.

And maybe you want to grow a garden for the same reason.

Or maybe you want:

  • your family to have greater access to healthy, high-quality food, and know where their food comes from
  • to spend more time in nature, put your hands in the soil, slow down, and reduce your stress
  • to give your kids the same experiences you had as a kid – like picking ripe raspberries with jammy red hands, eating just as many as you put in your bowl

Or maybe you simply want to bring more beauty into your world.

And even though your garden, like my fourth-grade sunflowers, can’t be rushed, there’s one thing about gardening you can accelerate.

You can become a gardening expert sooner by investing in a few good books that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence you need to succeed.

And even though this list of gardening books is perfect for new gardeners, experienced gardeners will also learn a lot from these books.

As Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Well, everything except the instant-dry nail polish!

This post may contain affiliate links to products I use and recommend. Read my full disclosure.

What makes this booklist different?

This isn’t a compilation of other people’s reviews of gardening books, like other lists you may see online.

  • I’m pretty obsessed with gardening books and have read hundreds of them.
  • I own and have used all the books on this list.
  • And I have high standards for what makes it onto this list. There are puh-lenty of so-so gardening books out there, but you won’t find them here!

Having your own gardening library made up of high-quality, useful books will improve your gardening skills no matter how long you’ve been gardening.

After all, no one’s born knowing how to garden!

Best Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. Plants You Can’t Kill: 101 Easy-to-Grow Species for Beginning Gardeners
    by Stacy Torino
    Think you have a black thumb? Get ready to change your mind! Stacy gives you practical advice about the most dependable plants you can grow. With more than 100 easy to grow vegetables, flowers, herbs, trees, shrubs, and even houseplants to choose from, there’s something for every newbie in this book.
  2. How Plants Work
    by Linda Chalker-Scott
    This book will change how you garden! Understanding how plants work is vital for being a successful gardener. And this book, written by a horticultural expert, is easy for non-scientists to understand. It has a conversational style and is filled with interesting and useful information that’ll help you make more informed choices in your garden.
  3. The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why
    by Jeff Gillman
    If you’ve spent any time online searching for answers to your garden problems you’ve seen plenty of home remedies out there. But which ones really work? Is Epsom salt a miracle cure like some claim? What about using vinegar on weeds? And does corn gluten really work? You’ll get answers to these questions and more! This book offers something for all gardeners, no matter how experienced you are.
  4. The Month By Month Gardening Series (for U.S. gardeners)
    by various authors
    Written for gardeners in the U.S., these detailed books tell you what to do month-by-month in your state or region. They cover flower gardens, lawns, vegetable gardens, and shrub and tree care. Find your state or region in the list below.

Vegetable Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible
    by Edward C. Smith
    Learn how gardening in wide rows using organic methods in raised beds with deep soil will make your garden more productive. This is the vegetable gardening roadmap you need if you’re a newbie or have been gardening for a few years, but don’t feel like you’ve gotten the hang of vegetable gardening. And almost every vegetable and culinary herb you can think of has detailed growing information.
  2. The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season
    by Jennifer and Ron Kujawski
    For vegetable gardeners who live in cold climates (zones 4-6), you’ll learn how to manage your schedule and prioritize what’s important in your vegetable garden. You’ll always know what to do and when to do it. If you live outside zones 4-6, this book might not work for you.
  3. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
    by Niki Jabbour
    Learn Niki’s simple techniques for growing vegetables year-round. It’s a fantastic guide whether or not you’re interested in gardening year-round. She profiles vegetables from asparagus to zucchini and gives you a timeline for planting. You’ll learn when to start seeds indoors, transplant, or direct sow in both spring and fall.
  4. Growing Perennial Foods: A Field Guide to Raising Resilient Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables
    by Acadia Tucker
    While designed for gardening newbies, this book will appeal to experienced gardeners who want to widen their garden palette to include these more resilient crops. Depending on where you live, some of the plants listed in the book won’t be true perennials for you, but many will be. And as a bonus, after each plant profile, there is an easy, yet delicious recipe that’ll encourage you to eat what you’ve grown.

Flower Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. The Flower Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Colorful Blooms All Season Long
    by Lewis and Nancy Hill
    Grow the flower garden of your dreams with this guide that’s loaded with expert advice for new and experienced flower gardeners. Learn how to have all-season blooms, prepare your soil, and care for your flower garden.
  2. Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location
    by The Smithsonian
    With more than 2,000 plant recommendations, gardeners in every situation will find ornamental plants that’ll work in their garden. With detailed descriptions and beautiful photography, this enormous book deserves a place on every flower gardener’s shelf.
  3. Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs: 377 Flower Varieties for a Vibrant Garden
    by The Editors of Creative Homeowner
    You’ll learn how to improve your soil, design your flower garden, and plant and care for your flowers in this guide that has more than 600 photos and step-by-step instructions. The garden design section alone is worth the price of the book. Learn how to use color in the garden, select the right plants, and where to place them.
  4. Bloom’s Best Perennials and Grasses
    by Adrian Bloom
    How do you know you’re making the right choice when selecting perennials and grasses for your garden? With 250 choices that are reliable, beautiful, and easy to maintain, you’ll find answers in this book. Adrian supplies growth, care, and design tips that you can use, no matter the size of your garden.

Organic Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. The Garden Primer
    by Barbara Damrosch
    You’ll find wise and practical advice on planning a garden, recommended plants, and the best tools to buy. Entire chapters are devoted to every type of plant from annuals to vines. While there are books that cover these topics in greater depth, you simply won’t find a better introduction to organic gardening. If I had to recommend only one gardening book to beginning organic gardeners, this would be it!
  2. Weedless Gardening: The Hassle-Free All-Organic System
    by Lee Reich
    While there’ll always be some weeds, the simple and easy methods taught in this book will show you how to keep them to a minimum by ditching the conventional advice to till your soil. You’ll also learn how to reduce your water use, protect your soil, and grow healthy plants. And you get helpful information about growing vegetables and ornamental plants.
  3. Let it Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting
    by Stu Campbell
    All organic gardeners should know how to make good compost. But a lot of information about composting can seem intimidating to the first-time organic gardener. How do you get the carbon, nitrogen, moisture, oxygen levels right? This easy to understand guide breaks everything down with no fluff added, and tells you what you need to know to get started.
  4. The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line
    by Jeff Gillman
    This book takes a nuanced approach to the common belief that all organic products and practices are “good” and all conventional ones are “bad.” You’ll learn how to think about what you’re doing in your garden, and why you’re doing it. And in the process, you’ll make well-informed, more effective choices for your garden.

Garden Maintenance Books for Beginners

  1. Perennial Care Manual
    by Nancy J. Ondra
    If you grow any perennials, you should own this book! This book is written in an approachable style for new gardeners and gives general perennial care advice in addition to detailed information on 125 popular perennials. You’ll learn what perennials to choose for your garden, and how to take care of them. If you only own one perennial care book, this one should be it!
  2. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques
    by Tracy DiSabato-Aust
    Absolute newbies may find this book intimidating. But once you get your feet wet with growing perennials, it’s an excellent companion to the Perennial Care Manual. It includes thorough details on the essentials of perennial care—included deadheading, pinching, thinning, and dividing. But it also covers detailed growing information for many perennials and includes a monthly planting and maintenance schedule. One of the best features of the book are the thirty-six different lists of plants by maintenance requirements. These allow you to choose plants from a particular list (tolerates clay, drought, deer, etc.) and then go back to the alphabetical listing for more information about that plant.
  3. The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook
    by Penelope O’Sullivan
    Have trees or shrubs in your yard, or want to add more? Then you need this essential guide to choosing, planting, and maintaining trees and shrubs. With a focus on selecting the right plant for the right place, you’ll learn how to add texture and shape to your garden with trees and shrubs. The book includes more than 350 plant profiles and discusses the best cultivars. You’ll also learn how to care for your selections.
  4. Tending Your Garden: A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance
    by Gordon and Mary Hayward
    Learn how to keep your garden looking its best year-round. All the seasonal tasks you’ll need to learn are detailed in this book: pruning trees and shrubs; planting, staking, and dividing perennials; and edging, deadheading, and weeding. You’ll also get many tips for reducing garden maintenance.

Books About Weeds, Insects, Diseases, and Pests

  1. Weeds of North America
    by Richard Dickinson
    Every garden will have some weeds. And to defeat your weeds you have to be able to identify them. That’s where this book has your back. It covers more than 600 species from 69 plant families at every stage of growth. My favorite thing about this book: It has close-up photos, which makes identification easy!
  2. Garden Insects of North America
    by Whitney Cranshaw
    This is the most comprehensive guide to the insects you’ll find in your garden! Featuring 3,300 full-color photos and detailed descriptions, this book covers the hundreds of species of insects (good and bad) that you’ll find on any plant in your garden. The book tells you where you’re most likely to find the insects, which is helpful for identification. Dr. Cranshaw was one of my instructors when I became a certified gardener, so I can tell you first hand he knows his stuff!
  3. What’s Wrong With My Plant?
    by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth
    As a new gardener, it can be difficult to diagnose and deal with a sick plant. This book will help you get to the cause of the problem quickly, and suggest solutions. It also includes photos of common plant problems, which makes identification easier for newbies.
  4. 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants
    by Ruth Rogers Clausen
    As a new gardener, your first thought when you see deer in your yard might be “Bambi’s come to visit!” But after they’ve chewed your precious plants to the nub you’ll start wondering why hunting isn’t allowed in the city limits. The problem? You’ve most likely planted some “deer candy” – the plants deer love the most. With this book by your side, you’ll discover what deer do and don’t like to eat. Plant more of what they don’t like, eliminate their favorite treats, and they’ll stay away.

It’s Your Turn

Do you already own any of the books on this list?

What do you think of them?

And what’s your favorite gardening book for beginners? Share in a comment below!

Maria Rodale’s Organic Gardening: Your Seasonal Companion to Creating a Beautiful & Delicious Garden

Maria Rodale, Author Rodale Press $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-87596-799-8 More By and About This Author Buy this book In this debut of a new generation of America’s first family of organic gardening, the author shucks the down-home, quirky pragmatism of her forebears to cultivate a more genteel interest in the style and pleasure of gardens. The theme behind this seasonally arranged almanac is that organic gardens can be beautiful and will produce delicious vegetables and fruit. A dizzying kaleidoscope of personal memoirs, philosophy and information is loosely organized into a legion of lists (everything from “”easy steps to make your dreams come to life”” to good bugs/bad bugs) and ubiquitous info bytes (“”11 reasons why you should never, ever use chemicals again”” and “”five ways to dig up grass””) and a few too many common-sense recipes (Mashed Potatoes, Corn). The breadth of subject matter is the strength of this book–and its weakness. Although gardening neophytes will encounter encouragement and helpful advice, many will find that the fluffy or self-evident tips weaken the book. Rodale says, “”This is not a book about how fabulous my own garden is. It’s far too new and immature…. Maybe in another 30 years I will do a book on my own beautiful yard.”” Gardeners with some experience may opt to wait for the author’s own maturing as a gardener and a writer. 600 color photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)

Best Gardening Books

My favorite thing about this book: the planting calendar that accompanies each variety. It provides an easy-to-use schedule for when to start your seeds (indoors, outdoors, or in a cold frame or tunnel) and when to transplant those that were started indoors for both spring and, when it’s appropriate, fall planting.

Homegrown Pantry

The full title of Barbara Pleasant’s book (another by Storey) is Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round. It provides the answer to my ever-present gardening question: how much of each crop do I need to plant to get us through the year.

This lovely book is broken into three major sections. The first provides a quick overview of the whys and hows of growing your own food. Part Two tells you enough about the five primary preservation methods to get you started. The starring attraction, though, is the discussion of specific vegetables, fruits, and herbs—more than fifty in all—some of the most likely ones to be found in a home garden which can be preserved in one way or another.

The vegetable section is the most in-depth, covering an overview, how-to-grow, best types to plant with preservation in mind, pests and diseases, harvesting, and food preservation options, as well as other tips unique to specific vegetables.

My favorite thing about this book: well there are two. First is the well placed how-much-to-plant reference. I’ve checked out resources before that purported to answer that question, but they were either too vague or too complicated (or both) to be of any use. This one is distinctly different. For each of the twenty-eight vegetable varieties covered, Pleasant tells you how much to grow per person. It’s the first thing you see under the heading for each of the vegetables presented.


The other is a real treat: in many cases, the author provides a “Harvest Day Recipe.” As she describes it, these tasty offerings are some of the “fastest and easiest ways to make use of a big harvest quickly.”

I consider Homegrown Pantry a must-have for a serious gardener who wants to feed a family on good garden food all year long even if you limit your actual gardening to the traditional growing months.

Epic Tomatoes

First you need to know a little something about the author. Craig LeHoullier, known as the NC Tomato Man, has trialed more than 1200 varieties of tomatoes and introduced more than 100 to the wider world, the most famous of which is probably the ever-popular Cherokee Purple. Clearly, he knows what he’s talking about.

The book’s full title is Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time which kind of says it all. LeHoullier tells you how to plant, grow from seed, maintain, and harvest tomatoes. In addition, he explains how to save heirloom seed for future use and how to breed new varieties yourself.

But wait! There’s more. The book includes a myth-busting Q and A section, a troubleshooting guide, a list of 250 tomato varieties he recommends for growing, a list of resources and sources for seed and supplies, and a helpful glossary.

This is yet another stellar publication by Storey. Its many color photographs are so luscious you’ll be tempted to eat them.


My favorite thing about this book: what I learned about LeHoullier’s preferred tomato-growing method—container gardening. His system accommodates growing many more tomatoes than you might otherwise be able to. Moreover, since you start with sterile containers and a fresh soilless mixture each year, this technique is the most viable for avoiding diseases. For those of us with relatively cool summers, there’s the added benefit that roots get more heat than if they were in the ground or even a raised bed.

Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales

This is another book by Craig Lehoullier. Growing food in straw bales may the easiest way ever to garden. For one thing, you barely have to bend over. Nor do you have to dig or build a garden space. You can move your garden from one year to the next. The bales become compost material at the end of the season. Still, straw bale gardening has its downside, and LeHoullier covers it all in this slim volume.

I don’t know how he manages to pack so much solid information in so few pages, but he does. The book is straightforward, detailed, and highly readable. He answers your questions before you’d think to ask them. Both the book and a straw bale experiment are well worth their cost, in my estimation.

My favorite thing about this book: its simplicity and clarity, while somehow managing to be so thorough.

Good Bug, Bad Bug

One of the best things about Jessica Walliser’s book is that she accompanies the description of each insect she covers with a clear color photograph. She provides information on prevention, organic control, and how to spot the damage done by each bad bug. For the good bugs, she offers advice on how to attract them to the garden. She discusses the twenty-four most damaging gardening insects, as well as a dozen beneficials.

My favorite thing about this book: its easy-to-identify bugs shown in full color photographs. The book has a concealed wire binding and is written on laminated stock so it’s perfect to take to the garden for easy identification.

Grow a Living Wall: Create Vertical Gardens with Purpose

Shawna Coronado’s on a mission: to encourage gardeners to plant enough to donate some for those who are hungry and, in the process, to produce more flowering plants to encourage the future of pollinators. She truly wants to make a difference and to help you do it, too.

To this end, she advocates growing vertically, a way to grow more in less space. The author further promotes living walls as a way to save water and energy, lower utility bills, and solve unique design problems. She discusses types of living walls, how to get started (including issues such as soil and compost when growing vertically). The gorgeous photographs of various vertical growing methods will inspire any gardener to try at least one of them, whether on a fence bordering your property, a wall of your home, hanging boxes on a balcony. It’s a perfect gardening method for those with limited space.

Grow a Living Wall is show-and-tell at its best. Some wall-garden systems can be purchased and merely put in place—Coronado explains how; but others are DIY from start to finish, a great way to keep costs down. The author lays it out for you with a list of materials and supplies for each project and photographs that clearly explain the process.

What I love about this book: the inspiring photographs along with Coronado’s passion and enthusiasm which shine in every word and picture.

Backyard Foraging

For a different type of gardening experience, follow author Ellen Zachos’ lead: instead of going to all the trouble of growing a garden, seek out good things to eat from the plants already growing in your yard and neighborhood. The easiest gardening system ever!

Yet another Storey Publishing book, this one does not disappoint. Zachos takes you on a tasty romp of sixty-five common plants you’re likely to find in your own yard that are not only edible, but delicious. For each plant, you’ll find at least one full-color photo (usually more) and guidance on harvesting and eating. Even better, she gives you basic recipes and advice on how to preserve some of these wild delicacies.

What I love about this book: it’s all in the details. With Backyard Foraging in hand, you’ll have complete confidence in your food finds. Bonus: Zachos doesn’t lead you on a wild goose chase. The plants she describes are common ones and easy to identify.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts by following this . You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

7 of the Best Vegetable Gardening Books

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I’m always on the lookout for the best vegetable gardening books, and each year, I add several new titles to my collection. At this point, I have dozens and dozens of books dedicated to food gardening. It’s true that there are a lot of fantastic books on vegetable gardening available at local bookshops as well as online, so by no means is this a complete list. Instead, it’s a list of the books that I tend to reach for so often that they stay on my desk, not my bookshelf. They’re dirt-smudged, well-thumbed, and much loved by me. Without further ado, here are seven of the best vegetable gardening books that belong on every gardener’s bookshelf.

7 of the Best Vegetable Gardening Books:

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible With over 563,000 copies in print, Edward C. Smith’s, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible has become a modern classic. For someone new to food gardening, this is a great place to start. Smith’s advice is practical and helpful, and he demonstrates many ways to boost production with his high-yield growing system. For me, I found the large section on organic soil care invaluable and Smith’s tips on creating quality compost made a big difference in my yields. Each crop is also covered in detail, with planting schedules and tips, growing information, and the pests and diseases to watch out for. Smith also includes some of my favourite lesser-known edibles like sorrel, mustard, mizuna, and claytonia.

With over 500,000 copies sold, Edward C. Smith’s book has become one of the best vegetable gardening books and a modern classic.

Epic Tomatoes If you want to grow great tomatoes, you need to meet Craig LeHoullier. Craig is the gardener who introduced us to the beloved heirloom, Cherokee Purple, and one of the breeders behind the ‘Dwarf Tomato Project’ that is revolutionizing the types of tomatoes we’ll be growing in our gardens for many years to come. Epic Tomatoes is the result of decades of experience cultivating and breeding tomatoes, and guides readers through all aspects of growing tomatoes, the #1 garden vegetable. From staking to disease prevention to fertilizing, as well as collecting and saving seeds, Craig’s passion for tomatoes is infectious. Plus, Epic Tomatoes features over 200 of the best tomato varieties for the home garden – you’ll soon be digging up new beds for spring. For more information on Craig, check out my interview, ‘5 Questions with Craig LeHoullier’.

Related post: Awesome garden books

A must for every tomato lover, Epic Tomatoes covers all aspects of growing tomatoes, and highlights over 200 awesome varieties!

Small-Space Vegetable Gardens As urban spaces continue to shrink – leaving us with smaller yards and more condos – food gardeners need to grow smarter. Living in urban Vancouver, author Andrea Bellamy knows how hard it can be to find enough room to grow food, and in Small-Space Vegetable Gardens, she shares her ideas for growing a bounty of delicious food in a minimal space. This is a beautiful book filled with inspiring photos, but look closer, as Bellamy will soon have you thinking outside the traditional garden plot and looking at decks, walls, along fences, anywhere there happens to be some sun. She tackles the challenge of designing a food garden in tight quarters, and spotlights some of the best edibles for small spaces.

As urban gardeners find themselves with less and less room to garden, Andrea Bellamy guides you to grow a bumper crop of homegrown vegetables in small spaces.

Homegrown Pantry I’m a HUGE Barbara Pleasant fan. I love all her books like Starter Vegetable Gardens and the Complete Compost Gardening Guide, so was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of her recent release, Homegrown Pantry. I’m always looking for gardening books that aren’t standard fare. I want to learn new techniques and be introduced to new varieties. And, Homegrown Pantry is a guide that covered all the steps from planning and prepping the garden to canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing the harvest. Each of the 55 crop profiles give helpful growing advice and cover topics few gardening books tackle – Which tomatoes make the best salsa? What crops can be frozen or dehydrated? How much do I need to plant? Pleasant takes the guesswork out of gardening and tells you exactly how many seeds to sow or seedlings to plant to grow enough food for all your preserving techniques.

Best-selling author, Barbara Pleasant has crafted a vegetable gardening book unlike any other. Not only will you learn how to grow over 55 crops, but you’ll discover how much you need to grow and what the best varieties are for canning, freezing, fermenting, dehydrating, and more!

The Chinese Kitchen Garden Wendy Kiang-Spray’s The Chinese Kitchen Garden was one of my most anticipated books for 2017 and it exceeded all my expectations when it was released in February. Kiang-Spray weaves a story of food and family, peppered with vegetable profiles, growing information, and traditional recipes. She divides the book into four main sections; spring, summer, fall, and winter, focusing on the pressing garden tasks and appropriate crops for each season. In fact, the autumn garden is every bit as productive – and maybe even more – than spring. Kiang-Spray also shares many family stories in the book and about how her vegetable garden connected her to her father in a new way. A must-read for anyone interested in exploring new crops and flavors.

In The Chinese Kitchen Garden, Wendy Kiang-Spray introduces us to food and family and dozens of mouth-watering recipes.

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening I may have twenty raised beds, but I’m always experimenting with various techniques to help me grow more food in my space. High-Yield Vegetable Gardening is a book that should be on the shelf of any serious food gardener. It covers a lot of ground and teaches home gardeners how to think like farmers to boost yield and get the most from your garden area. The detailed section on crop selection, scheduling and record keeping, and the chapter on crop rotation helped me hone my planning skills and have made me a better gardener. I’ve also become a savvy hand-pollinator, boosting the yield of my squash and cucumber plants by using their simple techniques. This illustrated book is full of very useful charts, lists, and work sheets from the authors, who are two experienced CSA farmers. Learn to garden like a farmer!

Grow more food by thinking like a farmer. This guide is one of the best vegetable gardening books because it’s packed full of useful information on planning a productive garden and keeping it healthy.

Foodscape Revolution The first book by Brienne Gluvna Arthur, Foodscape Revolution celebrates the homegrown harvest; from yard to table. Foodscaping is essentially pairing food and flowers in the same space, a technique I’ve been using in my own vegetable garden for years to attract more pollinators and beneficial insects. However, Arthur takes that a step further and teaches us how we can use the parts of our yards that are traditionally landscaped, to grow plenty of nutritious homegrown vegetables, herbs, fruits, and more. She pairs shrubs and perennials with food crops, and shares the best edibles to grow to shave dollars off your grocery budget. According to Arthur, there are many benefits to embracing a foodscaping lifestyle; fresh food, healthier lifestyle, lower food costs, increased biodiversity, and a beautiful, productive landscape.

A 2017 release, Foodscape Revolution is an inspiring read that will have you looking at your existing landscaping in a new light.

I also think that we experts at Savvy Gardening produce some pretty awesome books, such as Jessica’s brand new release, Container Gardening Complete, which features fun and easy creative DIY projects for growing food and flowers in small spaces. Of course, her earlier books, like the award-winning Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, are also super helpful to food gardeners.

Or, Tara’s best-selling book, Raised Bed Revolution, which has become THE guide to gardening in raised beds. And, I have my own collection of three food gardening books too; The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, Groundbreaking Food Gardens, and my latest, which releases in February 2018, Veggie Garden Remix.

The experts at Savvy Gardening are also best-selling authors. Check out our books for more info on growing awesome vegetables!

What do you think are the best vegetable gardening books?

Organic Gardening Books

Managing our gardens is made easier with a myriad of organic gardening books in our home libraries. This page is constantly being updated with new books on gardening, composting, preserving and more.

As with any books, see if you can borrow them from the library or a friend first. If you see it’s something you love and will use, then click each book below to find it used on Amazon, if possible.

Click the links below to be taken to each section or scroll down the page to see them all.

  • Organic Gardening
  • Trees and Shrubs
  • Pest, Birds and Critters
  • Composting
  • Preserving Food
  • Other

Happy gardening!

Organic gardening is a pretty big topic. This section includes books to get you started on growing anything from flowers to food organically.

Trees and Shrubs

Delve deeper into caring for your trees, shrubs and perennials with this section.

Pests, Birds and Critters

You can’t have an organic garden without a few pests, as well as birds and beneficial insects. These organic gardening books will get you started.

Books on Composting

Call me strange but composting books are my favorite. Below are just a few of the best.

Seed and Food Preservation

Saving seeds and preserving organic gardens are crucial for true sustainability.

Other Organic Gardening Books

This is where you’ll find the rest, from seasonal cooking books to greenhouse plans.

Find More Green Living Books and Organic Gardening Tips

Share the organic gardening books you can’t live without in the comments!

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