With gardening comes a learning curve that can never be surmounted so long as you keep gardening. It doesn't matter how much you know, there's always something new to learn.
As an avid reader and junior scientist (all gardeners are amateur, if not reluctant scientists), my bookshelves are overflowing with dozens of books devoted to various gardening-related subjects, including a handful of field guides on insects and trees, and several dusty botanical textbooks left over from college.
There never seems to be any absolute truths when it comes to gardening (at least not for long), so we can always look forward to a constant stream of new books filled with new and better ways to garden. Here are a few of my favorites-some old and some new-in no particular order.
Rodales Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (by Anna Kruger).
This book contains all the information a gardener needs to grow anything without chemicals. The text includes 336 beautifully illustrated pages of tips and techniques ranging from how to start composting and attracting backyard wildlife to improving your lawn and selecting vegetables for containers. Two A-Z guides follow the text: one on growing vegetables and the other on managing plant problems. There is also a section defining the H.D.R.A. (Henry Doubleday Research Association) Organic Guidelines that divides gardening techniques into four categories: best practices, acceptable practices, qualified acceptance and not recommended. The book finishes with a resource section on where to buy seeds, plants and supplies and a suggested reading list. This one is my organic bible. Paperback.
Down-to-Earth Vegetable Gardening Know-How (by Dick Raymond).
Printed in 1975, this book is a staple in most public libraries. Vermont gardener Dick Raymond has written many worthwhile gardening books. His writing style is straightforward, to the point and like the title says, down-to-earth. I can hear my grandfather's voice when I read the words in this book. This is the how he would explain gardening to me. Mr. Raymond shares tips and tricks that he's personally learned from over 40 years of gardening experience.
The pictures are black and white and some of the chemical information is a bit passé. Still, 40 years? The man knows gardening. That's a lot of tomatoes!
Lois Hole's Perennial Favorites-100 Best for Beauty and Hardiness (by Lois Hole).
Lois Hole and her husband started Hole's Greenhouses & Gardens, Ltd. (Alberta, Canada), which is still operated by their children today. Widely published in Canada, this award-winning writer has a series of gardening favorite books including, Lois Hole's Bedding Plant Favorites; Lois Hole's Vegetable Favorites; and Lois Hole's Tomato Favorites. I love this book because of its layout. Each of her favorite 100 perennials is listed in alphabetical order and includes scientific information, a brief description, tips for planting, growing and transplanting and recommended varieties. This book makes it incredibly easy for gardeners to decide on which types of perennials to grow.
The Truth About Garden Remedies (by Jeff Gillman).
University of Minnesota Horticulturalist Jeff Gilman explores the truths and the myths behind common gardening remedies like hot sauce and dish soap. From vinegar to tobacco, he discusses the practice, the theory, and sometimes the history, of more than 100 common and uncommon garden practices. Then he lays out the scientific research to back it all up and tells you exactly what it means for your garden. Trust me, this book is worth the $20. You'll be surprised at what really works, what doesn't and why.
Practical Science For Gardeners (by Mary Pratt).
I was never a fan of chemistry until reading this book. The author, Mary Pratt, was formerly a biologist, author and gardener in the U.K. before dying of cancer in 2004. In this book she explains how to apply the basic principles of plant biology to achieve healthier plants and better gardens. In an entertaining and uplifting way, Mary Pratt teaches us how plants are constructed, how they produce food, how they are genetically engineered and most importantly, how a basic understanding of science can make us better gardeners.
Now, can anyone recommend a good book on growing herbs?