I have to, of course, stop here and recommend our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead that has, not only a four-part chapter on gardening, but so many other topics, as well. If you have a budding homesteader in your life, or are one yourself, you’re bound to find something in these 400 pages of homesteading information, tips and challenges, presented on four different levels of homesteading experience. Check it out by clicking below:
Dangerous Books for Gardeners
I sort of have an addiction problem when it comes to buying books.
I buy them used, but my checkbook still seems to register the purchase instead of the savings of buying used. Shouldn’t I get some sort of cosmic credit?
Consequently, I use the library and other people’s opinions to vet a book before I purchase it for the homestead (or homeschool or home library). With the enormous amount of information that is out there to assimilate on the topic of homesteading, I can’t possibly keep all of it in my head. My personal library is the lifeline of success for my homestead.
Here are a few thoughts I’ve had on some books which may prove useful to you as you try to pick just one (or twenty) for the gardener on your gift list.
For School Teaching Gardeners
How to Grow a School Garden, by Sporer and Pringle.
I got this book as I was trying to pull together a curriculum for a children’s gardening class this spring. The class never materialized (that’s why God invented next year) but this was a good read, nonetheless.
It was certainly geared towards public educators and got a bit pedantic now and then with “green/saving the planet” lecturing. I’ve found that, with children anyway, teaching them to love the earth is easy when you teach them to plant seeds. Preachy or not, this book has great photos that will inspire your own endeavors to garden with children.
There are also useful ideas for getting adults involved with the children – garden experiments, building projects, etc. There’s information on what to plant for a school garden, how to save seed and how to cook with what you grow. There are also fun suggestions like scavenger hunts, observation opportunities and various crafts.
The book provides all that for year round education. There are forms and lesson plans in the back part of the book. I will buy this one to use because I enjoy doing classes for kids during the course of the school year. As a home education teacher, I think this book would be very helpful with co-op type learning in groups.
For Nerdy Gardeners
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, by Carol Deppe
This book on seed saving was way over my head! I’m really a novice (read – lazy) seed saver and, while I think this book will be helpful to me in a few years, it was too much technical information for me now.
Plus (and yes, I am SOOOOO shallow) it doesn’t have pictures – no photos, no drawings, zip, nada. I really need visual inspiration, especially when I’m learning something.
A better book for those starting out in seed saving, in my opinion, would be Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed. Another useful one is The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds. You can also go to Seed Savers and learn a lot. The site itself has a lot of information to access, whether you’re a member or not.
For the Urban Gardener
The Suburban Microfarm, by Amy Moss can help you learn to grow food on your very urban lots with a modest time investment. Gardens take work, but they don’t have to be complicated or confusing. This book can teach you how to use the space you have, even ditch your lawn, in favor of edible landscaping.
Also helpful is Gardening Like a Ninja, by Angela England. You can even please your homeowners association with the help of these books!
For the Student Gardener
The Gardening Notebook, by Angi Schneider
I realized recently that I’m a bad garden student. I know I’m supposed to take notes every year and I know I’m supposed to draw out diagrams of where everything is planted. But, even when I do write down all those things, I lose the bits of paper upon which they’re written. Or they get rained on because I forgot them in my garlic bed. Or the goat eats them out of my pocket.
That’s why I finally broke down and got a garden organizer. Turns out, though, that The Gardening Notebook has a bunch of education information in it, too. Lots of basic garden veggies are discussed and there’s a section for just about every note you could want to jot down. I love this thing!
For the Eating Gardener
The Homesteader’s Kitchen, by Robin Burnside
This book has great graphics and a nice layout. The recipes read well and would appeal to whole-foodists and even raw-foodists, for the most part.
I was hoping it would help me follow the seasons in my kitchen. I was looking for it to tell me what to take from my spring garden and use in my kitchen – that kind of thing. However, it did inspire me with new ideas on how to use the “same, ol’ stuff” coming out of my garden.
It’s arranged like a traditional cookbook, though, and will appeal to you in that way. You can never have to many garden-centric cookbooks, in my opinion.
If you or the person on your shopping list likes whole foods recipes, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, and Whole Food for the Whole Family, by Roberta Johnson, are both good ones.
If your friend is LDS and wants a Word of Wisdom approach to foods and seasonal eating, buy Amy Cox-Jones’s A World Of Wisdom . You don’t have to be LDS to love this book, of course, but you might just want to read here so you know what she’s talking about. Also, be prepared for some spiritual quotes throughout the book on health and nutrition from LDS church leaders.
Amy has recipes for seasonal, whole foods eating and (one of my favorite parts) she breaks down all the grains and explains what they are.
For the Philosophizing Gardener
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
I have enjoyed Kingsolver’s fiction and was not disappointed with this non-fiction record of her family’s year of committing to using only local (quite often from their own gardens), sustainable food. The book was delightful in it’s honesty, prose and realness.
Having said that, though, I will say that her passion for sustainable food quite often crossed the line of persuasive and spilled over into obnoxious. She was preaching to the choir with me and even I felt a bit annoyed at what came across as condescension and disdain for anyone who either hasn’t yet progressed to her level in their understanding of the value of sustainable agriculture or who, simply, sees things differently. If I were undecided about my feelings regarding the politics and cultural issues surrounding our food, I don’t know that her attitude would have won me over.
Having said that, though, when Kingsolver was simply writing and freely recording what they’d learned as a family and individually, this book was absolutely charming and uplifting. She masterfully shared with us their successes and failures.
One of my favorite things about the book is the record they left behind of seasonal menus and incredible recipes that could be made straight from your year round garden. I wish they had a cookbook published so that I could buy copies for everyone I know as Christmas gifts! However, they do offer both their seasonal menu ideas and their recipes on their website for free – just visit http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/.
You can also take a quick, virtual tour of their farm and learn more about the book.
Useful for Every Gardener Everywhere!
The Art of Gardening Building Your Soil, by Susan Vinskofski will be useful for every gardener because all gardeners know that what you’re really growing is good dirt. If you’ll grow good dirt, everything else will take care of itself.
Week by Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook, by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski.
This father-daughter duo have created THE book I needed to survive year round gardening. Don’t get me wrong,” Father” Coleman’s book, Four Season Harvest, lives on the shelf by my bed and I use it all the time. But I love having the Week by Week book on hand as a workbook without peer.
In fact, this book kind of follows me around the house – one minute in the bathroom, the next minute in the garage. I’m always wondering to myself, “Now where did I put the book?”
Not For Beginner’s, IMO
This book, much like Coleman’s, or any other on the topic of intense, bio-management of you land are a bit too daunting for the beginning gardener. If you’re still in the first stages of planting a garden and remembering to water it all season, try reading Mel Bartholomew’s book, The Square Foot Gardener. You can also try Gardening all-in-one for Dummies, or even Barbara Damrosch’s The Garden Primer, which is a little more advanced.
But, if You’re Ready…
If you’re ready to move beyond the basics, go buy Week by Week! This book is full of information on what you should be doing through every season of the year.
It also has a space at the top of each section for you to pencil in your own dates to be able to follow along each week. For instance, on page 38, in the section labeled “14-10 weeks before average date of last frost” it has a space for me to do the math, count backward from my average last frost date and write in the time frame for each section. In 2012, for this page, I have written February 12th to March 11th.
Those dates, according to the plans I wrote in book, found me sowing broccoli, kale and the like for transplanting outside later on. I was also, apparently, tuning up any power equipment I have, building cold frames and using the sprouted onion tops from my winter storage onions in various culinary delights.
Ok, ok, I didn’t get around to half of that – some day I WILL have cold frames – but it was all listed for me in my book so that I didn’t have to think of it or remember it all! The book is full of how-to information, as well as fun garden anecdotes. I know of no other book that is so well organized on this topic and I highly recommend it.
A Few Extras for Fun
I don’t actually like to grow roses because they’re so high maintenance. However, I always end up with at least one in my garden that I can’t live without. Here’s a book on what to do with all those roses:
If you’d like to start gardening with herbs but are short on space, here’s our quick read e-book, Herbs in the Bathtub:
If you need even more ideas for gifting books for the DIYers on your list, try our post, Homesteading Books: Beginning Basics, that covers a lot of homesteading topics, not just gardening – click here.
Grateful attribution for cover graphic goes to Graphics Fairy.