Looking for god's word on veggies
December 5, 2016 2:39 AM   Subscribe

Starting in January I will have a plot of land for organic gardening that measures 70-80 sq meters (750-850 sq feet). I am specifically looking for a comprehensive beginner's gardening book/bible to help me plan and grow my garden, but anecdata and advice are also very much welcome.

Some friends of mine are starting a gardening collective on a semi-urban plot of land that's about 1000 sq meters. This is land that has never been used for agriculture, at least not in the last few decades. They are going to hire somone to till and add horse manure to it, and the collective water deposit is already in place.

I live in central Spain, EU hardiness zone 9 (never below 20 F/ -6 C), 1000 meters ( 3280 feet) above sea level. I have some gardening experience, as my parents had a large garden the whole time I was growing up, and I've been container gardening on my balconies for the last few years, so I'm not a true beginner. But this is the first time that I will be in charge of such a large plot of land all by myself.

So, I am looking for a book that will give me a comprehensive overview of vegetable gardening. I want information about a wide range of vegetables, when to start them from seed/put them in the ground, what plants should be grouped together, how to rotate crops, how to choose an irrigation method, etc. It doesn't need to be about organic gardening specifically, although the collective will seriously frown on non-organic methods. It also doesn't need to be about Europe, I can easily translate something focused on gardening in the USA. What I don't want is something like The Self-Sufficient Life by John Seymour (which I already have), because I am not interested in livestock-raising, cheesemaking, outhouse-building, or anything else in the homesteading vein.

Also important: I want to maximize the space I have but without having to get into canning what I can't eat fresh (I live in a small flat and have no pantry or really any space to store canned goods). I think that biannual/perennial crops (asparagus, rhubarb, raspberries, etc) would be useful for this, so ideally any gardening book will also cover these things, not just the annual favorites.

Thanks! You are all invited to my house for an all-zucchini lunch when I am inevitably overrun next summer.
posted by lollymccatburglar to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
A question or two the answers to which may help guide responses:

- what do you/your friends envision happening with the surplus food you grow?
- what sorts of storage do you have for equipment?
- can you built a greenhouse/shelter/shed?
posted by mdonley at 3:13 AM on December 5, 2016


what do you/your friends envision happening with the surplus food you grow?
The gardens are not held in common- each participating family has their own, and can grow whatever they wish for their own use. I know most everyone else will plan their gardens with an eye towards canning, but they all have proper houses with storage space. I am not interested in canning, but perhaps drying (tomatoes, peppers, etc) would be an option for me. Any other food my family can't eat will have to be given away.

- what sorts of storage do you have for equipment?
- can you built a greenhouse/shelter/shed?


There is a small (9x6 ft) lockable shed on the property for storing tools. Anything too large to go in the shed could be stored at someone's house, although I don't anticipate needing anything that big.

I think a greenhouse is beyond our scope at this point, although I was thinking about looking for some old windows to make seed-starting frames.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 3:28 AM on December 5, 2016


I've done a fair bit of farming and would recommend The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. You'll be able to work out planting times for your climate by seed catalog, or poking around websites like ATTRA or the ag extension of a state college in a similar hardiness zone (I'm guessing N. Ca?). In truth, there's a learning curve and microclimate to every plot, plus the land will get more productive as you improve they soil and decrease the weed bank.

So jealous. Have fun!!!!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:29 AM on December 5, 2016


One of my go-tos for this is the Moosewood Garden book, because it's more like a "gardening book with recipes at the back". But the writer is based in North America, so some of the tips may not apply.

Then there's this book, which is more like "a cookbook with some gardening advice at the back". The writer is based in Europe, or at least was for a while; and the last chapter of the book is a detailed "what to plant and when" garden plan.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on December 5, 2016


Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening book is very informative even if you don't plan to do raised beds.

Make sure that the manure you're getting has been composted and is NOT fresh, otherwise you may run into pathogen issues.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:08 AM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really like the Vegetable Gardener's Bible and I think it's very much what you're looking for. It's got an overarching "system" for planning and preparing, specific information on organic nutrient, pest and disease management, and a detailed A-Z growing guide for specific vegetable crops.
posted by drlith at 5:55 AM on December 5, 2016


My garden is close to the same size as yours. I sometimes reference Backyard Harvest to keep me on track as far as monthly overviews. I am currently reading From Seed to Table for the same purpose. They are easily digested books.

Having said that, my biggest, most essential garden planning tool for the last few years has been the GrowVeg garden planning app. It lets me map out my garden month by month for succession planting. It lets me know how many of each I should ideally plant in an area. It lets me look at other gardener's plans so I can get ideas/inspiration. And it tells me not to plant things in the same spots year after year to avoid nitrogen depletion, etc. And the customer support has been stellar.

Feel free to memail me if you want to talk more about this stuff.
posted by rabidsegue at 5:57 AM on December 5, 2016


I didn't really know anything about vegetable gardening when I first started in my backyard, and I bought Vegetable Gardening for Dummies, which is actually a really good book.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 6:20 AM on December 5, 2016


I have always liked this book: A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. The author is an accomplished organic gardener and seed producer. She farms in a zone 8 climate, which is relatively similar to zone 9. Similar enough that the advice will be good. Particularly, I like this book because it emphasizes timing along with technique, so helps plan for year round productivity.
posted by jamaal at 7:59 AM on December 5, 2016


I have always liked this book: A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. I don't know her second book, The Zero-Mile Diet: A Year-Round Guide to Growing Organic Food, but given the excellence of the first, maybe worth getting the pair? The author is an accomplished organic gardener and seed producer. She farms in a zone 8b climate, which is relatively similar to zone 9. Similar enough that the advice will be good. Particularly, I like the first book because it emphasizes timing along with technique, so helps plan for year round productivity. The second seems to have a similar emphasis.
posted by jamaal at 8:04 AM on December 5, 2016


Most of the UK is Zone 8, with London and coastal areas Zone 9, so British gardening books should be useful without much change.

I love Joy Larcom's Vegetables from Small Gardens but it's now out-of-print. However, the introduction to her newer Grow Your Own Vegetables says that it is based on the older book, with lots of new research incorporated, so I think it should be even better than the one I've got.
posted by Azara at 12:34 PM on December 5, 2016


The temperature zone isn't all you need to know -- do you get your water in the growing season or not? If not, irrigation requirements and tradeoffs may determine a whole lot of what will be healthy and work for you.

If you get rain when it's cold, then Californian or other Mediterranean or (IIRC) South African advice will work better for you than advice from the non-dry. There is very likely a gardening association of some kind where you are -- if there isn't, well, side project!
posted by clew at 6:57 PM on December 5, 2016


In Australia, which has a similar climate to Spain I think, the bible is the Yates Garden Guide. It's not specifically organic, but I'm fairly certain the more recent versions include organic gardening. I'll have a look tonight and check.
posted by kjs4 at 9:27 PM on December 5, 2016


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