Are you getting started with gardening but overwhelmed by where to begin? Whether you're familiar with gardens or not, taking care of your own plants can be intimidating. It's hard to make sure that your flowers and crops are given the right environment to thrive.
We've put together a list of some of our favorite books for beginning gardeners. Each has a slightly different perspective on the gardening trade. They all have vital information about how to create and sustain your first garden.
Note that we also have a beginner's guide you can follow!
Top 5 Gardening Books For Beginners
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This is a great choice for any beginning gardener. The title, Plants You Can't Kill, refers to how easy these plants are to grow. They tend to grow in a variety of different climates and conditions, and they need minimal maintenance to grow.
If you're a gardener who is intimidated by the thought of caring for plants, this book may have all the tools you need to get started. It lists 101 total plants that are easy to care for.
The contents are also well-organized, with plants belonging to a variety of categories to meet different people's needs. There are grasses that can be planted on your lawn, as well as shrubs and trees that you can plant in a full garden.
The guide differentiates between lists of annual and perennial flowers. It also gives you good houseplant suggestions and suggestions for what to plant in a new vegetable or herb garden.
The book has a quick start guide that walks you through different aspects of gardening. It teaches you about the resources you should use when picking plants, including the knowledge of local gardeners and maps from the USDA. It includes a map of hardiness zones that you can use to determine your climate.
The author also recommends that people choose plants based on their personal preferences. The book covers a huge range of different options, from vegetables that can be eaten to colorful flowers. Whether you want a garden for the aesthetic or the practicality, there are options in here to get you started.
At the beginning of each category, the author provides a fun little intro that explains what the plants are used for. It's a factual book that's easy to read and has a friendly tone, which can take a lot of the pressure away. You don't have to feel like an expert to get started gardening using this guide.
The section will then list each of the plants in a numbered list. If you have the digital eBook copy, you can use the hyperlinks to jump to the section of your choice. The paperback and hardcover copies have page numbers to guide you instead.
Each plant comes with a unique photograph, so you know what to expect. If you prefer plants with a certain color or appearance, you can page through the book until you find the ones that suit your taste. The photos also make it easier to look for the right flower, shrub, or herb when you visit a garden center.
Every entry starts with a basic profile. This gives you facts about the plants. For example, you'll find out how easy they are to grow from seeds, how cost-effective the purchase is, and how good the plant is for pollenators. You might also learn trivia about how the plant is used or whether you can grow it in an indoor container.
The entry will then give you statistics about the plants. These include the common and scientific names, the average height, the average spread, the colors of the plant, and the amount of light needed. Most of the plants in the guide need full sunlight, with just a few needing shady conditions.
Each plant will then have a "green thumb tip." This is a special gardening tip that will teach you about how to make the species thrive. For example, if plants are vulnerable to a certain type of disease, there may be disease-resistant strains recommended. If plants are often eaten by beetles, there may be bug-deterring suggestions offered.
Finally, each plant will have one more section with fun facts or suggestions. For example, there may be options for unusually-colored strains of flowers to buy. Or you may learn about the history of how this plant has been cultivated and used by different cultures throughout the centuries.
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For beginners who are invested in the science of gardening, this book is a must-have. Rather than listing plants by whatever's easiest to grow, the book gets deep into the facts about how plants thrive and why. It aims to give you all the knowledge you need to become an expert gardener, but you don't need the botanical degree to match.
The book is divided into nine chapters. Each talks about a different scientific aspect of plants. The author discusses what plants look like below a microscope, what they need to thrive, how plants understand the changing of seasons, and how plants convert sunlight into the nutrients they need to grow.
Ultimately, this is a great tool for both beginning gardeners and experts who want to learn something new. It starts from a place of little knowledge and then goes very in-depth, taking you from a beginner in these concepts to an expert section by section.
Linda Chalker-Scott, the book's author, is an expert in plants who brings decades of experience to the table.
She began her career studying botany in college. Her first specialty was working as a plant physiologist, someone who studied the ways that plants are influenced by their environments. Then she became an urban horticulturalist who specialized in building green areas in concrete jungles. Finally, she became a specialist in plants at Washington State University.
She structured this book with a slightly different perspective than many gardening books have. First of all, she brings an academic focus to the table. But instead of focusing on isolated parts of plant anatomy, she discusses how plants as a whole are influenced by their environments.
The book is specifically geared toward gardeners who want to understand how the choices they make affect the lives of their plants. Each chapter opens by discussing an actual scenario that the author has faced when gardening.
These scenarios are common enough that they'll probably be familiar to the average gardener. And if you've never gardened before, you'll be grateful to have the knowledge for when you are faced with such a circumstance.
The author has also attempted to include every topic that you'd usually find in a botany textbook. While there is some scientific language, it's significantly more accessible and easy to understand than the average academic textbook. The hands-on approach also allows you to use the book more like a guide than a static instructional tool.
All of the science also comes with photographs, explanations, and examples. This helps you to apply the teachings to your actual gardening, rather than just using them as theory.
The beginning of the book explains the different parts of plants and how they work together. The first chapter covers plant cells and their mechanisms, while the second discusses how plants work underground. The third chapter discusses the blend of nutrients that is most important for plants to survive.
The fourth chapter discusses photosynthesis. In the fifth and sixth chapters, the author describes how plant pigments change according to the seasons, along with the ways that different pigments help the plants thrive.
The seventh chapter discusses the ways that plants grow into optimal conditions. For example, they grow in ways that help them avoid predators and gain maximum sunlight. It also explains how you can prune plants that end up in areas you don't want them.
The eighth chapter has to do with the ways that gardeners control plant growth. It explains the reactions of plants to being staked or pruned. Finally, the ninth chapter is about how plants produce seeds and propagate so they can bloom again in the future.
One very helpful aspect of this book is the advisory sidebar. This area includes quick tips on gardening practices that work. Perhaps even more importantly, it also tells you what not to do when gardening, so you can avoid making a lot of rookie mistakes.
In addition to photographs, many of the chapters include explanatory diagrams similar to what you'd see in a textbook. They label different parts of a plant, show you the process of photosynthesis, or explain how different plants use the same processes to gather nutrients.
The book is definitely more dense than a lot of other gardening texts. It has an academic tone and focus despite being easier to consume than a lot of textbooks. The author's expertise shines through every page.
Because of this, it's excellent for gardeners who want to understand the science behind gardening. Learning about this will help you to problem-solve in the future, and it will teach you how to build a garden with even stubborn plants.
On the other hand, if you want a book that will just tell you how to do things, this one might not be for you. Rather than having step-by-step guides for how to plant different species, it teaches you about the act of gardening itself.
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The Truth About Garden Remedies is an entertaining book with information that's helpful for beginners and experts alike. It talks about some of the most common urban legends and home remedies related to gardening, along with whether or not they work.
This is a great book if you want to learn some folklore about your gardening skills. It's also a good tool if you want to unlearn any potentially harmful gardening practices, or you just want to know why that thing your grandma did worked so well.
Author Jeff Gilman is a horticulturalist with a strong background in plant science. The book is compiled using information gleaned from scientific studies and from original experiments that Gilman performed himself. More than 100 gardening practices have been evaluated, from the common to the surprising.
The book is well-organized, and it's easy to find what you're looking for. Each section covers myths and facts related to different aspects of plant care.
The first chapter goes over the basics of plant growth. It explains what you need to know about plant nutrients and taking care of plants. The second focuses on gardening practices related to soil, fertilizers, and less traditional means of providing nutrition.
The third chapter discusses how to water plants, including things like using hydrogels, planting sponges that retain water, and using gravel to create drainage. There's also advice on how to combine all of these things to create an ideal moisture environment for your plants.
The fourth chapter focuses on biostimulants. These cover everything from acids to extracts to sounds that help plants grow. The goal is for the substances to stimulate plant growth. The author explains which substances actually work, why they work, and how to create the best setup for your garden.
The fifth chapter talks about different insecticides, including hot peppers, tobacco, garlic, and dish soap. It discusses which natural remedies work, which drive away pollinators, and which are a bad idea altogether. At the end of the chapter, there's advice for creating an environmentally sound insecticide.
Similarly, chapter six gets into fungicides and medicines that help prevent disease. Fungal growth can kill a garden. The author discusses the effectiveness of different household fungicides and gives advice for which to use for different types of gardens.
The seventh chapter deals with herbicides. The eighth gets into other pesticides, and the ninth covers commercial pesticides. This includes information on choosing a pesticide that will work for your garden.
The tenth chapter talks about things to avoid. The eleventh and final chapter has important information on what you should remember for the future, along with some scientific tables and data.
The table of contents also explains exactly which sections are in every chapter, so you know what remedies will be discussed before you get there.
Every entry in the book has five sections with helpful information. The first section explains how the remedy or setup is used. Another section discusses the theory around the practice, and a third discusses how this is relevant to your gardening today.
The most important section is the one that talks about the actual science in question. It delves into scientific studies and the results of scientific experiments, some of which were conducted by the author himself. It also explains how you can use the findings and apply them to other aspects of gardening.
The fifth section is a quick summary, which is ideal for when you're just scanning the book. It talks about the effects that a certain material or practice has on a garden, when you should use this practice, and when you shouldn't use this practice.
All in all, this is a very handy little book that compiles a great deal of research about the science of gardening itself. While the previous book's science was based around plants, this one is based around different gardening techniques. For this reason, it's ideal for beginning gardeners who want a scientific approach to their practices.
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For those who are starting their first vegetable garden, the Vegetable Gardener's Bible is one of the most important investments you can make. The book talks about how to plant your garden according to the best practices for your specific region. It also has detailed information about every single growing region in North America.
The book is written by Ed Smith, who has a lot of experience with both gardening and farming. He talks about his WORD system: wide rows, organic practices, raised vegetable beds, and deep soil. The book discusses why these things matter and how to implement them in a practical fashion.
The item is thick and packed with information about growing and harvesting crops. It is divided into three parts.
The first talks about how to plan and plot your garden, along with how to tend it so that you get the maximum number of vegetables without doing extra work. The second talks about the components that go into a healthy garden. These include the soil, the types of compost used, and pollinators and other insects who help with the growth.
The third part is an index. It has an A to Z list of all the vegetables and herbs that you might want to plant, along with important information about each. This is invaluable to vegetable gardeners who might not be sure where to begin.
The author also includes a lot of information about his own experiences with gardening. He explains how he came up with his system of gardening with wide, raised beds, and how the results differed from flat and shallow beds. He describes the methods that he uses to plant different kinds of vegetables in different growing seasons.
The book also has a lot of educational diagrams and pleasant photographs to break up the text. These help explain important things about how vegetables grow and what a finished garden should look like. There are photos showing how gardens are cared for throughout different harsh growing seasons.
The text helps walk you through how to set up an ideal garden by explaining how much space you'll need, how much sun you'll need, and how much shade you'll need. Then the author gives you freedom to be as creative as you want with the shape. If you're not having good results with your first try, there are also troubleshooting remedies that can help solve potential issues.
Each section also comes with its own tips boxes. These have quick bullet lists of important things for gardeners to keep in mind. So even if you don't have the attention span to read through dense blocks of text, you can still glean the most important takeaways.
One of the most important things about this book is that it brings you through every step of the gardening process. It teaches you how to maximize your space and create the right beds for your vegetables before it even begins to explain the planting process.
Then it provides details on how to plant your veggies, care for them, and enrich their growth throughout the process. It teaches you about how to understand growth cycles in your climate, when to harvest your crops, and how to make improvements for the next growing season.
Whether you're planting a vegetable in a small suburban backyard or creating a larger plot on lush farmland, this book has the tools you need to get started. And it's easy to understand, so you don't need to have a strong academic background to do so.
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This is another one of the best resources for beginning vegetable gardeners. Even expert gardeners can use the information to streamline their growing seasons and ensure that they get the maximum yields with the most efficient choices.
The big selling point of this book is that it's a comprehensive guide that doesn't require a lot of research. The handbook comes already prepped with information about what to do, to-do lists for every week, and details about how to prioritize your schedule.
The week-to-week process takes you from the planting to the harvesting process. It also covers things throughout the growth cycle like checking for disease and insect damage. If you do find that your garden is vulnerable to damage, the book has important tips for how to mitigate that moving forward.
Each growth cycle is based around the frost periods, rather than the dates. This means that people can create their gardens even when their area has seen unusual weather patterns. The advice is also good for a variety of different climate zones.
The cycle starts two weeks after the season's last frost. Then it walks you through the entire growing season, up to two weeks prior to the next season's last frost. Every week of the year is accounted for. Even if you don't follow the schedule exactly, the book has valuable information about when you should be planting (and not planting) certain crops relative to frost.
The introduction to the book comes with important information about how to set up your garden. It explains the important components when getting started, where you should put your focus, and how you can enrich your soil. The section after that has detailed explanations of how to create your outdoor garden by choosing the right space and tending it properly.
The bulk of the book is made up of week-to-week planning for your garden. Then there are some important final notes to take away and consider during the winter. Also included at the end of the book is a list of important resources to use for other information, as well as an index of all the terms and plants discussed.
At the beginning of the garden planning section, the book's authors explain how to use maps and charted data to find your first and last frost dates. There's no way to guarantee a frost date, but you can use the book's guidance to find the average date for your area and use it as a rule of thumb.
Once you've figured out your frost date, you can get started with the weekly to-do lists. There are blank spaces in the book for you to write down the dates for each week. You can also check off each section as you go, assuming you don't mind writing in the book.
Each to-do list is divided into sections. For example, the first has "General," "Maintenance," and "Seed Starting" sections. Each section is broken down by the specific crop being tended, with easy to-dos written for every one.
You can use the book on a year-to-year basis as well. There's a page after each weekly spread with sections for you to write journal notes for up to three different years. These are great places to keep notes on both things that have worked and things that haven't, so you can improve them for following years.
Gardening books are a great resource when you want to create a garden that flourishes. No matter where you live, how much space you have, or how much time you can devote to your garden, there's a book out there that will help you create the best option.
For people who are worried about killing their plants, the Easy-to-Grow Species book is a great starting point. It tells you about more than 100 different plants that are easy to cultivate even in difficult growing areas. Each entry gives you gardening tips for the plant along with general information about how much light the plant needs, practical uses, and other trivia.
This is also an ideal choice because of how versatile it is. In addition to covering annual and perennial flowers, the book has information about vegetables, herbs, trees, and shrubs that can be easily grown and tended.
For beginning gardeners who want to know more about the science behind plants, How Plants Work is a perfect starting guide. The author brings three decades of academic experience studying plants to the table. She explains how plants function, how their environment affects them, and how this relates to you as a gardener.
Another science-based book is The Truth About Garden Remedies. This book focuses more on gardening techniques than on the actual plants. It explains how different folk remedies and gardening methods work, how effective they are, alternatives you can use, and what the best gardening tools are for your particular circumstances.
This book is especially valuable for those who want to learn the science behind gardening so they can apply it to their future projects. The things you learn will help you evaluate future gardening techniques, even if they're different from the ones described in the book.
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible is a must-have for all beginning vegetable gardeners. The author discusses important information about how to create vegetable gardens that thrive by planting wide rows, making sure the plants get sunlight, and providing deep soil.
This guidebook also goes through gardening tips for planting in different kinds of soil. It talks about how to prepare for the harvest season and tend your crops throughout different climate zones in all of North America.
If you want a book that can take you through your vegetable garden on a week-by-week basis, the Vegetable Gardener's Handbook is the right choice for you. It helps you to find the frost dates in your area so that you can plant at the right times during the growing season.
In addition to having weekly task lists organized by type of task and specific crop, the handbook has journal spaces where you can write about your experiences and results. You can catalogue your thoughts for up to three years, so it's easy for you to draw on past experiences to make future decisions about your garden.
Ultimately, the right book for you will depend on the information you want to learn and how in-depth you want your reading experience to be. All five of these books can work together to provide a comprehensive framework for gardening. Or you can pick just one or two to get started on your gardening journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you're planting your first garden, there are a variety of tips to keep in mind. As long as you choose the right place for planting, you'll set yourself up for success. The location of your garden matters a lot.
First of all, a garden should be planted in an area that's easy to access and see. That way, you'll be more likely to take care of it without forgetting about the crops. You should also be aware of how much sunlight the garden gets and use plants that adhere to that level of sun and shade.
The majority of edible herbs, fruits, and vegetables need to be given at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Make sure your house and other structures don't cast the garden in shade.
It's also helpful to plant close to a source of water. Even if you have a small garden, carrying a watering can back and forth can be a pain. It's a lot easier if you can thread a garden hose to your plot of land to water it.
Plants won't necessarily need to be watered every day, especially if you live in an area where it frequently rains. You can push your finger about a knuckle-length into the soil and see if it's dry. If you aren't finding moisture, then the plants are due for a watering session.
Frost dates refer to the average day that the first frost occurs in a certain area in the fall, and the average last date that the frost occurs in the spring. These dates are important because they affect the growing season of different plants.
The USDA Hardiness Zone map is a map that divides North America into eleven different planting zones. Each of the zones has an average temperature of 10 degrees higher or lower than the next.
Different plants will grow in different hardiness zones. When people are in areas with very cold winters, they may not be able to grow crops that need more temperate climates.
It's easiest to choose a soil for your garden if you understand the different ingredients that make up different soils. The soil is where your plants will get the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Their energy comes from the sun, and their hydration comes from water, but the soil is necessary for food.
Your choice of soil will depend on the plant and its location. Some plants prefer acidic soils, while others prefer an alkaline or neutral pH value. Sunlight will dry the soil quickly, so plants that get full sun should have water-retentive soil. Meanwhile, shady plants might get too waterlogged with this kind of soil.
Potting soils are often designed so you can grow plants in containers. They have water-retaining ingredients that allow them to hydrate the plant. They also have drainage materials that help keep the plant from becoming too waterlogged.
Different potting soils have different fertility levels. Fertility refers to the blend of nutrients in the soil. Some mixes might use fertilizers that offer enough nutrients for one season, while others might use organic ingredients that break down and enrich the soil for long periods of time.
The soil's pH value refers to how acidic or non-acidic the soil is. Different plants thrive in different conditions. Finally, the texture of the soil refers to how large the particles in the soil are. Different textures will work better for different plants.