My Favorite Gardening Books


I had a great time looking at all your comments in last week’s Gardening Notebook giveaway which showed me that you guys are as ready for the new gardening season as I am. Some more than others, it’s true (I envy those of you who’ve gotten everything pruned…), but oh yeah, we are planning! And remember if you’d like to plan and organize your gardening tasks using Angi’s Gardening Notebook, you can go to this page and order it for 50% off through the rest of the month.

Now that we’re all thinking about planning (notice I didn’t say that we’re done with planning, ’cause I know I’m not, a-hem) let’s move on to the second installment of this Ready…Set…Garden! series: Favorite Gardening Books. After all, where would we be without books to help inspire and educate us to plan the garden of our dreams? I wrote about some of the books that have been the most helpful to me a couple years ago, but of course there are always more I can add to that list.

5 Favorite Gardening Books (+ 2 more on my reading list)

1. Weedless Gardening By Lee Reich. Even though I had it on my previous list, there was no way I could not mention it again – especially because I don’t see it talked about in gardening circles very often. While I don’t do everything in the book, it changed the way I gardened forever. My no-till method was developed using principles from this book.

2. All New Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew. I started out gardening with this book and using raised beds and again, while I don’t do everything now that’s in the book, the raised bed principles found here influenced – and continue to influence – my gardening.

3. Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte. Companion planting and organic raised-bed gardening go hand-in-hand (well, along with crop rotation and succession planting – so hand-in-hand-in hand…) and this guide is the classic introduction and reference.

4. Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. Love, love this book – there’s just so much information here! I read it from cover to cover when I first got it from the library and it immediately went on my “have to buy list.”

5. Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals by Gail Damerow. Of course you may remember my desire for chickens – but have I mentioned we have a little pasture (very little) that I wish we could raise some other farm animal on? This book has so much good do-it-yourself information on all the animals you can raise on small acreages and is another of those books to buy and keep for reference.

The two books I’m putting on my “to read” list:

6. Urban Homsteading by K. Ruby Blume. I try to read lots of different books to learn what I can be doing on a small acreage to live sustainably and this seems to be one I should’ve read when it came out in 2011. The photos seem fabulous, the content large, and again the reviews are great. This I might just go ahead and buy.

7. Starter Vegetable Gardens by Barbara Pleasant. The reviews on this are so good! I’ve liked anything by Barbara Pleasant that I’ve read on gardening, but I thought from the title that it was for beginning gardens (and gardeners). Not so from the reviews, it seems. Still I think I’ll borrow first and then see if it’s a keeper.

Now I’m all ears: what are some of your favorite books? I’m thinking I may need more than just two on my list…




  1. mary w says

    My favorite is Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening. If you live in So Cal I highly recommend it. ( Jami, it won’t work for you. :-) ) It’s set up as a month-by-month gardening book.

  2. Christie says

    Is Weedless Gardening similar to lasagna gardening ? I’ve had good luck with adaptations of lasagna gardening. I’m renting and have some limits on the amount of money I spend gardening here. Building raised beds and filling with compost would be great. I have done that in the past. It does add up though.

    I loved Louise Riott’s books. The most outstanding thing to me was what a small space she had. She lived in a trailer / mobile home and just had the ground around her place. Everything was planted ! She grew all of her fruit and veggies. Plus roses. Ya gotta have roses !
    ~ Christie

    • Jami says

      Oh I liked Lasagna Gardening, too, Christie. :) There are some similar ideas, but Lee Reich goes into detail on how to have a yard and garden with minimum weeds. It’s the place I first read about using newspaper and mulch on our planting beds in the spring. He even has a section on using cut-open compost bags to grow a “raised bed” garden, which might be a good idea for a renter like you who doesn’t want anything permanent.

      • Christie says

        Oh, I tried the compost bag thing … I was in a different rental house then. The only place with full sun was by the driveway. The HOA didn’t like how it looked ! Too “trashy” ! Ha. It really bothers me to see so many perfect lawns when so many need food. It seems a waste to me.
        Have you read ? The blogger, Mavis, is hysterical! She has a big yard and decided to see if she could grow 2,000 lbs of food last year ! What ?? She is going to try and do even more this year. Most of it is donated to food banks, gleaners etc. When I first started reading, I didn’t get that she was donating. I thought she was trying to can it all !
        ~ Christie

  3. tracy m says

    I have lots of favorites ~ either for beautiful pictures or serious information, but two that you might not see everyday and are lots of fun to read are: Mrs. Greenthumbs How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden by Cassandra Danz, and another fun book called Theme Gardens by Barbara Damrosch.

  4. says

    Since I’ve been gardening since the 70’s there are very few new gardening books that I buy, and so many of my favorites are out of print I think (the original PBS Victory Garden book by James Crockett, The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord). I re-read Jeavons “Grow More Vegetables” regularly — I’ve noticed it has been re-issued and is enjoying a resurgence of popularity. “Lasagna Gardening” is another one I like a lot.

    Last year I purchased “Starter Vegetable Gardens”, which is chock full of good info, and “Seed to Skillet”, which I really like. Also “I Garden Urban Style”. But really, my most favorite is “Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars” by Sharon Lovejoy (specifically about gardening with grandchildren — or any children, really).

    • Jami says

      It’s good to hear you thought Starter Veg. Gardens was good, Diana. I really was impressed with the reviews on Amazon, but of course it is Barbara Pleasant. :) I love your favorite – I’ll have to look that up.

  5. Michele says

    Just want to give you some encouragement about being a ‘Chicken Whisperer’.
    I’m a born and bred city slicker from the OC who moved to Klamath Falls a few years ago.
    I’ve always wanted chickens, but I was always ‘restricted’ by city regulations.
    I moved to a suburb of KFalls, and last year, after a lot of reading, and research and attending a class at the local Grange Co-op, we got 5 little chickies! No roosters…
    My husband bought a small coop at Big R and modified it so the girls would have a small run, since we didn’t really know what we were doing. We kept the babies in our office and played with them, let the dogs (Yorkies and a German Shepherd) get used to them, and kept them warm from March-May. Then, we took the plunge and let them into the coop!
    They have been giving us eggs since August, and are the sweetest hens on the planet! We did fence off with a doggie fence our garden (we only lost the kale and swiss chard- oh boy, they LOVE chard) and let them free-range in our little backyard all summer and fall. In the winter, when it started to snow, we put a red light in the coop (lizard light at 75 watts) and a water heater, and they are just fine! Still laying 1 egg per hen every day! We do have a fenced yard, and put them away every night, and made sure the coop was predator proof, but it’s been the best experience! They all come when we call them by name, and they love sitting on our shoulders, or pecking at the back French door to come into the breakfast nook…just for a little while. You can do it and most communities let you!! Best wishes and hope you get some chicks soon! I highly recommend Backyard Chickens website for advice and information!

    • Jami says

      What a fun testimonial, Michelle! I’m so glad for your encouragement – yes, we hope to get some ladies of our own this year. :)

  6. Michele says

    Oh and my favorite gardening book is, “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook.” You do have to take the class to get the book, but it is worth it’s weight in gold! And, even better, you will become a certified Master Gardener for Oregon! Contact your local extension office!

  7. marci says

    These sound like inspiring reads, thank you.
    I might suggest one to you that I read a few years back. The author escapes me, however I’m thinking it might be Barbara kingsolver? Anyhow the title is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. It is great one for sustainability.
    Enjoy your late winter garden planning!

    • Jami says

      Oh, yes, I loved that book, Marci, and got some great new varieties of vegetables to try from it, like silvery fir tomato. It’s very motivating, isn’t it?


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