If you’re looking for the best gardening books, I’ve compiled a list for you.
This list comprises my go-to books.
Here’s my great big list of the best gardening books.
The Best Gardening Books
A good garden takes hard work and experimentation – but a good gardening library is also a great place to start gathering the ideas and practices that will cut out a lot of the hard work on the path to expert gardening.
Good gardening books allow you to be mentored by great gardeners even if you never get to meet them in person.
Read their words, then go apply them in your garden.
The following are the must-have gardening books that should be in every gardening library.
Gardening When It Counts is a classic survival gardening book from Steve Solomon.
It contains a lot of good information and thoughts on feeding yourself under adverse conditions.
It’s also where I got my idea of melon pits, among other things.
Steve Solomon doesn’t shy away from extreme gardening measures.
He also dispels the myth that you need mulch or raised beds to create a productive garden.
He also covers good hoe use and the power of properly sharpening of gardening tools.
What he means is that grass feeds his very profitable livestock operation.
Though You Can Farm isn’t truly a gardening book, it is one of the most encouraging books you’re likely to read on living an agricultural or agrarian life and profiting in the process.
After reading You Can Farm, you’ll want to leave your desk job forever.
And you can.
Grow Or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening teaches you how to grow crops under stress.
It’s also a wonderful crash-course in starting your first garden.
If you want to be prepared, know how to survival garden and grow more food with less work, this is the book for you.
Yes, I wrote it, so I’m somewhat partial, but the 5-star reviews back me up.
For a prepper on a budget or someone who just wants to feed their family organically from their own land, this is a must-have gardening book.
This book by the inventor of The Whizbang Chicken Plucker, The Whizbang Wheel Hoe and the best clothespins I’ve ever tried, is filled with great gardening ideas, snippets from America’s agricultural past and wonderful illustrations.
Perennial Vegetables looks at veggies you ONLY HAVE TO PLANT ONCE.
Warning: due to the abundance of tropical vegetables in this book, it’s likely to make temperate gardeners cry.
I’ve grown many of the vegetables he’s recommended and I’m still checking back with this book and finding more worthwhile additions to my food forest.
If you like to grow plants that don’t require tilling, reseeding and hoeing… this book is for you.
Fruitcake name/killer information.
Gaia’s Garden will transform the way you look at food growing, gardening and the ecosystem around your house.
I read it three times and still skim it now and again for additional nuggets of information I may have missed.
Permaculture is exciting stuff – and this book applies it to a homestead in a compelling way.
Learn to design your garden around you so you work less for higher yields that just increase over time as your trees and perennials mature.
Feed the soil and the soil will feed you. Compost Everything shows you how.
Think you can’t compost meat? Or bread? Or sewage?
This book throws out the composting rulebook and will utterly transform the way you look at composting.
You’ll learn how to make your own fish emulsion, turn rotten beef stew into delicious homegrown melons, capture every bit of fertility you can for your homestead… and a ton more. Plus it’s funny.
A must-have for cheapskates, survivalists and people who are sick of throwing “trash” into landfills.
Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening has likely launched more gardens than any other book.
There’s a reason it’s sold over 2 million copies!
For folks with poor soil and limited space who would like a high-yielding backyard garden that’s completely and utterly under control, this book is for you.
It’s not my preferred method, but I have tried it in the past and found that it works well. It also got my wife into gardening and I’m very thankful to Mel for that.
This of this as gardening for accountants and engineers: a perfectly ordered system with perfect soil.
On the other side of the spectrum from Bartholomew’s intensive beds is Steve Solomon’s approach to wide row gardening in low rain conditions.
This is how I grow my corn and other field crops without having to water.
The link above takes you to the free download page of Project Gutenberg… or you can click here or on the image and buy a hard copy.
If things collapse, you might want one.
Or – if you’re not concerned about aesthetics – just print the .pdf.
It’s a compelling read that will make you completely rethink your water usage in the garden.
How To Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons is a great jump into biointensive gardening.
This method relies on little to no external inputs and gives you excellent results, even in sand.
I know. I’ve tested it.
The emphasis on growing your own compost is compelling, as is the almost complete lack of infrastructure required for getting good yields.
The only cons are that the book is somewhat self-promotional at times and some of the information is a bit dry.
But – no brick, wood or other bed boundaries are required with this excellent method. Just you, a spading fork, a spade, compost, seeds and the good earth.
Holzer talks about dealing with problematic government officials, working with trees inside complete ecosystems, building simple but excellent shelters with logs and other found materials, cultivating mushrooms and livestock… the book is packed.
He’s also experimented extensively with creating microclimates which is a particular fascination of mine.
Pick up a copy of Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture. It’s excellent.
Teaming With Microbes will make you think differently about the unseen world of the soil.
What many gardeners don’t consider is how the soil microecology effects plant growth.
With a healthy soil web, your crops will thrive, just as a healthy complement of gut bacteria helps us thrive.
If you’re a fan of compost tea, this book is just what the soil doctor ordered.
WARNING: You’d BETTER be a fan of compost tea or these authors will drive you mad.
Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham is a non-stop seller.
It just never, ever stops selling.
And there’s a reason for that: it’s a dream of many to become self-sufficient; however, they think it takes a lot of space.
Markham’s ideas are based on everything from permaculture to Square Foot Gardening and you’re certain to be impressed by the small amount of space in which he manages to grow tons and tons of food.
Bonus: He also covers chickens and has a section on how to build a simple homemade chicken plucker.
This older gardening book is worth having because it and focuses on a simple and productive style of gardening that is unfortunately no longer in favor.
Dick Raymond shares his methods for wide row gardening and how he raises large yields in his backyard with simple time-tested methods that he’s tweaked for better results.
Yes, Joy of Gardening is also a bit of a tract for the Troybilt tiller (yet Raymond also shares how he increases soil fertility while tilling), but I still recommend it highly if you’re a bit tired of reading books proclaiming “RAISED BEDS ARE THE BEST EVAR!”
Carol Deppe’s book The Resilient Gardener covers the crops you need when times are tough.
With her help, you can grow and preserve nourishing caloric staples no matter what.
Eggs, squash, beans and corn. Deppe also covers storage and seed saving and she’s truly on a modern expert on the latter.
This book is also very good for preppers and those on gluten-free diets (as Deppe is herself).
I’ve come back to this book multiple times during my Seminole pumpkin breeding project.
Gardening Without Work shares Ruth Stout’s method of throwing away her hoe and simply crushing weeds into submission through liberal applications of straw.
This method was a LOT better a decade ago before the advent of aminopyralid herbicides contaminated most of the hay and straw in this country.
It still makes great sense if you have safe amendments; but chances are, you don’t.
Ruth is still a lot of fun to read and I recommend her book.
Gardening Books To Fill The Gaps
The following books excellently cover niche gardening topics.
Though not everyone is interested in literally growing their own bread or attracting a spouse through creating a permaculture paradise, these are all very worth reading.
And with that, we conclude my list… for now!
Did I miss one of your favorite books in my list of the best gardening books? Let me know in the comments.
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