Good books for gardening?
February 24, 2010 9:59 AM   Subscribe

What are some good introductory gardening, botany/plant biology, herb/herbal medicine, or nutrition books?

I'm gonna have me a great big ol' garden this summer and I want to immerse myself in all things planty. First and foremost I am looking for good references for vegetable and herb gardening. They may or may not fit any of these criteria:

  • General newbie gardener information including propagation,disease, seed collecting, and fertilizer basics.
  • Information on specific vegetables/herbs or plant families.
  • Consideration of organic gardening methods. (I will be leaning a lot toward organic methods but I'm not a purist.)
  • Ideas/recipes of how to use the vegetable/herb
  • Gardening in northern (zone 3) climates.
  • Companion planting and other garden design information

    I am also interested in finding some good books in these other areas:
  • Plant biology
  • Herbal medicine
  • Nutrition
  • Healthy eating and living
  • "Country living" books (I want to can food...and I'm going to have chickens!)
  • Native American plant traditions

    I have a background in the health sciences and I don't mind getting geeky and technical.
  • posted by hannahelastic to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

    Some of my favourites for starting out:

    You Grow Girl (yes, a terrible title, but lots of fun and inspiring ideas for gardening)
    A Slice of Organic Life (beautiful - and it has facts about chickens!)

    If you're looking for more serious resources, I'd suggest

    The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith
    The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener by Eliot Coleman

    I ran an organic farm for a year. The first two inspired me to do it, the second two were the resources I used most often.
    posted by valoius at 10:27 AM on February 24, 2010

    Steve Soloman's Gardening When It Counts is the best all-around, no-nonsense introduction to organic gardening that I've found.

    RE: plant biology, I've found Botany for Gardeners very useful.

    RE: fertilizer, Let it Rot and Easy Composting are both excellent, cheap introductions to composting.

    RE: country life, M. Grieve's A Modern Herbal is full of interesting history and mythology related to common plants, and a book that I find myself turning to a lot. I also recommend Helen and Scott Nearing's The Good Life.
    posted by ryanshepard at 10:43 AM on February 24, 2010

    I always found the Foxfire series informative.
    posted by noxetlux at 10:49 AM on February 24, 2010

    Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte is the classic companion planting book.
    posted by thaumatrope at 10:54 AM on February 24, 2010

    2nding Botany for Gardeners in particular!

    If you are in the US, find your county cooperative extension, which will have the latest scientifically-backed information on agriculture and horticulture *specifically for your state and county*, much of it free, other publications very low-cost. You can get everything from the soil survey to pamphlets on growing apples to books on bramble fruits, all specific to your region.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2010

    If you're looking for inspiration, Michael Pollan's Second Nature is wonderful. I also like the how-tos and tips on If you want to start small, The Bountiful Container is focused on gardening in containers. Good luck with your veggies!
    posted by hungrybruno at 11:14 AM on February 24, 2010

    Barbara Damrosch's The Garden Primer. I use it again and again and again! I work at a gardening center, and the staff affectionately calls her "Babs" when we look up something we don't know.
    She's zone five, so some plant recommendations won't be appropriate, but for basic info she's rock solid.
    posted by missmary6 at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2010

    These two are amazing for home gardening:

    Gaia's Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

    Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden by Sally Jean Cunningham

    For nutrition, check out:

    Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (it's more about nutrition and healthy eating/living than "weight loss" per se)

    I think you would also really like:

    Botanica North America: An Illustrated Guide to Native Plants: Their Botany, Their History, and the Way They Have Shaped Our World by Marjorie Harris

    posted by bengarland at 1:30 PM on February 24, 2010

    For a truly fun, general look at plant biology try Angela Overy's "Sex in Your Garden"

    Not sure if you're interested in houseplants too, but another great, offbeat books is Orlando Hamilton "Hip Houseplants" It's a beautifully illustrated beginner's guide to incorporating houseplants into interior design.
    posted by Ys at 6:27 PM on February 27, 2010

    you also mentioned herbs: "Herbs for the Home" by Jekka McVicar neatly packages traditional lore with practical details of cultivation, harvest, storage & use. I was tired of letting it rot on the bookshelf, so I brought it to work last year & was very pleased by how helpful it was in answering people's questions about growing and using herbs.
    posted by Ys at 6:36 PM on February 27, 2010

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