The photograph above was taken last night from a favorite old chair, where I will be spending my leisure hours reading during the months of January and February. And although a few calendar weeks remain until winter officially begins in the northern hemisphere, I have already started on my seasonal pile of gardening books. Some of the titles in my stack are new, (to be reviewed here later), and some are old favorites, (listed below).
Recently a number of new gardeners have contacted me with questions about the basics of vegetable gardening. New gardeners always have great questions. How do you learn to garden ? What should you plant in your first garden ? How much do I plant and when do I plant it ? While some of us were lucky enough to have vegetable plots of our own as children, (or to grow up on, or around, farms), many gardeners begin when they move into their first home or apartment. To a new gardener, without early gardening experiences, the horticultural world can seem mighty daunting. Phrases like, ‘she was born with a green-thumb’, or ‘he can grow anything‘, or ‘do you have the name of the cultivar in botanical latin?’, only add to the mystery and anxiety surrounding the gardening world. But the truth is, no one is born with a green-thumb, and even the best gardeners can not grow everything, (we all routinely kill things, sometimes by accident – gasp!). And please, never let language intimidate you – I have met many a ‘gardener’, fluent in botanical latin, without a shred of gardening skill. Just because the parrot can talk, it doesn’t mean he knows what he is saying !
Learning to garden is a basic life pleasure, and it isn’t difficult at all – in fact, anyone can do it. I have been gardening professionally for quite awhile now, and I still can get really frustrated with the often haughty ‘horticultural world’s’ insistence upon academic language and off-putting ‘rules’. This is no way to encourage participation. So, for you new gardeners out there, or those of you just thinking of testing the waters – you know what I say to all that? Forgetaboutit. Seriously. Gardening is an action verb. It’s like Nike says, ‘just do it‘. The most important thing you can do is to approach your little plot of earth with with the desire to have fun and to learn. Everyone has to start somewhere. Most gardeners learn through trial and error, (and a little bit of help from more experienced friends). Remember that all professional gardeners started as novices too, and they often make just as many, (and sometimes bigger), mistakes as amateurs, (making mistakes is part of learning, no matter your level of experience).
Now that we have that out of the way, I will say that there are some very handy resources out there for gardeners; well-written guide books for everyone, from the novice to the advanced horti-maniac. Understanding how plants grow and what they need to thrive is always key to your success. Soil science, (basic natural chemistry), is important; basic entomology, (insect identification), is useful; and of course simple botany, (the study of plants), is helpful. Below I have listed the three books I most recommend to vegetable gardeners. Whether you are just turning your first vegetable plot, or working on your 25th gourmet-potager-plan, these books will help you to develop and improve your gardening skills. Because I teach and coach other gardeners, I am always reviewing the basics and making new discoveries for myself.
So, if you know a new, intermediate or advanced vegetable gardener, and you are looking for a good gardening gift, you might want to consider the three titles listed below. I give each of these books a five-out-of-five star review. So here they are, listed in the order I would assign them if I were your teacher. Now, put the tea pot on the stove, cozy up beside a toasty fire, and dig right in…
This is the first vegetable gardening book I would recommend to anyone. Ed’s book a perfect resource for new gardeners. Written in simple, easy to understand language, it includes step-by-step guides to composting, soil testing, amending and building, seed starting, companion planting and harvesting, and more. It is worth it’s weight in gold…
Fern Bradley’s book is the next title on my list. This is a great book for beginning or advanced vegetable gardeners. The author covers all of the important organic gardening essentials, and digs deeper into entomology and companion planting than many other authors. I consider this an essential title in the organic gardener’s library…
Once the basics have been mastered, (or for the more comprehensive vegetable gardening home-course), I usually suggest reading this fantastic potager-design book by Jennifer Bartley. Although Jennifer’s book does touch on some basic gardening information, I consider this title more of a design and layout, (also important), resource. It is gorgeous and inspirational.
Happy Reading !
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