Gardening Book Reviews

Here are a few books on Gardening and those related to Gardening that are in our library...

Sunset Western Garden Book

The New Sunset Western Garden Book

The bible of California Gardening from the Sunset Magazine staff. The first place I look up a new plant. Literally a tome, it is heavy, so consider a paperback edition. Detailed listings give information on plants which grow best in the Western United States. Like an encyclopedia of Plants for the West Coast and California. Absolutely Essential to a west coast gardener, it should be the first book you purchase.

The Maria Thun Biodynamic Almanac 2019 - North American Edition

by Maria Thun

The Maria Thun Biodynamic Almanac 2019 - North American Edition

If you are going to garden biodynamically you will need this calendar in some form. It’s comparable to the Farmer’s Almanac where there are auspicious days to perform different garden chores and to apply biodynamic mixtures or processes. To fully understand how biodynamic gardening works you will need the other book by Maria Thun, but you need to have this annual almanac as well.

There is a Worldwide edition here.

Gardening for Life - The Biodynamic Way: A Practical Introduction to a New Art of Gardening, Sowing, Planting, Harvesting

by Maria Thun, Angelika Throll-Keller (Compiler)

Gardening For Life The Biodynamic Way

This book contains the basics of biodynamic gardening from sowing seeds to harvesting. Maria Thun is an authority on the subject and it is very detailed in it’s descriptions and it is fully illustrated. To put your new knowledge into practice you will also need the Annual Calendar. The book is translated from German

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

by Suzanne Ashworth, Kent Whealy

seed to seed: seed saving and growing techniques for Vegetables Gardeners

This is an essential reference for wannabe seed savers and lovers of all heirlooms. I haven’t had a failure yet and it’s so much fun to plant last year’s favorite tomato or melon. I have even heard of people secreting seeds out of restaurant food into napkins to propagate at home. Well written and great info. Note: I own the earlier edition of this book.

Second Nature

by Michael Pollan

This book was recommended to me or else I would never have considered it. While I enjoyed it, I must put a caveat on it that Michael Pollan tends towards excessive narration and deals too much with things too trivial for my taste; he just takes too long to make his point.

Second Nature A Gardener's Education - Michael Pollan

The focus of the book is it’s subtitle, A Gardener’s Education, and it is a story of his tussle with nature. I just don’t find Mr. Pollan as interesting as I need to, to find the book compelling. I did pick up a couple of useful tips and was offered some thoughtful insights on gardening that otherwise I might have missed. So I will leave it up to you to make a call on his writing style.

Garden Seed Inventory: Inventory Of Seed Catalogs Listing All Non-Hybrid Vegetable Seeds, Available in the United States and Canada

by Kent Whealy (Editor)

If you search out seeds and collect or follow heirloom varieties then you need this book as an essential reference. It contains a complete list of all seeds listed in North American seed catalogs that are not hybrids – 8,500 varieties. The guide also contains an extensive index of mail order companies/catalogs. If you seek the perfect tomato and you can’t find the seeds anymore this reference guide should be able to help. Looking for some new varities to grow? This guide is inspiring as well as informative. The catalog has just been updated (March 2005).

Fruit, Berry and Nut Inventory: An Inventory of Nursery Catalogs Listing All Fruit, Berry and Nut Varieties Available by Mail Order in the United States

by Kent Whealy (Editor)

If you seek unusual varieties of fruit nut or berry producing plants or collect or follow heirloom varieties then you need this book as an essential reference. If you seek the perfect apple or pear or peach this reference guide should be able to help. Looking for some new varieties to grow? This guide is inspiring as well as informative. The guide also contains an extensive index of mail order companies/catalogs.

Growing Unusual Vegetables: Weird and Wonderful Vegetables and How to Grow Them

by Simon Hickmott

This guide is written by the Owner of a company in the Ok called Future Foods. the company specializes in rare, unusual edible plants. The guide divides plants up by type: leaves, roots, seeds and fruits.

The plants which are profiled in the book are chosen because they can thrive in a cool temperate climate like the UK. As a result the guide offers a good selection of unusual plants which can be added to a US garden.

Some plants will seem familiar like Purslane, Okra and Chickpea. Others will be likely new to the reader drawing from plants native to Central and South America and from other regions as well like New Zealand and Turkey.

Listings are outlined by Origin and History, Uses, Cultivation and Varieties. The profile also lists essential Information like Latin Name and Hardiness. The accompanying illustration is a black and white line drawing. I found the profiles aptly descriptive and helpful. Planting seeding and harvesting times are also included.The information presented was a useful reference- such as the listing for Miner’s Lettuce (easy to find wild in Northern California) and I can see myself pulling this book out to inspire new additions to our garden, as I’ve bookmarked pages to return to.

The not-so: Plant and seed sources references are entirely UK oriented. The book is expensive for a paperback at its original price and I'm not sure that the reader would get the value from just a casual perusal.

The Elements of Organic Gardening

by HRH The Prince of Wales

The Great: On first pass, this gorgeous book comes off as purely coffee table material. However, on closer inspection there is something to be learned. For instance, I didn’t know that I should be using the dreaded Comfrey I keep pulling out as soil strengthener. (I've since started my own comfrey tea.) I, too, was impressed by the concepts of organic gardening that are used at Prince Charles’s properties, including the value of leaf mold. The list of plants discussed (and many are illustrated) makes for an exciting shopping list for the nursery and the list includes plants chosen by knowledgeable gardeners. Then, of course, there are the fabulous, inspiring photos that show a variety of gardens, fences, and garden ornaments.

The Not So: The cost really is the delineating factor here. The knowledge in the book is overshadowed by the large pictorials which makes it of limited interest to those seeking instruction in organic gardening. In the same way, those looking for general garden sense of the Prince’s properties will be disappointed that more of a complete and comprehensive view of the gardens isn’t offered. However, I still love the book.

Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles

by Eric Toensmeier

The Great: I ended up making pages for vegetables to seek out which were new to me! It covers unusual vegetables that grow perennially, making me re-think the garden and get excited. Its coverage of each vegetable family is descriptive and informative at a scholarly level. This book educates, is well indexed, and has color photos of many selections.

The Not So Good: Sorry - I can’t find anything not to like.

Melons for the Passionate Grower by Amy Goldman, Photos by Victor Schraeger

Amy Goldman is passionate about melons and she wants everyone to know. She is also obviously  passionate about beautiful photography as the photographs by Victor Schraeger are perfectly gorgeous.

This little very focused book has a hefty price tag and frankly I really wondered at the point of owning it until I saw it  - the photographs are so simply stunning and the attention to detail in cataloguing and featuring the melons is done with such care, one can not easily put it down.

These are not the hybrid melons of the grocery store but the rare and wonderous heirloom varieties to seek out. In fact this book may make you run to the car and head out to interview farmers or find the seeds to plant in your own garden.

There are practical chapters on seed saving, growing, hand pollinating, harvesting as well as seed source and resource pages. There is a mission behind Goldman’s passion - to save the heirloom varieties and encourage interest in doing so. Kudos to her for following her passion. Recommended.

A great book on companion planting is:

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

by Louise Riotte

It outlines which vegetables planted together help each other and which do not grow well with each other. For example, I now always under-plant my tomatoes with carrots and I know to keep the onions away from the peppers and that corn and sunflowers and beans are great together. We harvested our summer planted carrots this winter and they were fantastic.

A great book on flower companion planting is:

Roses Love Garlic

by Louise Riotte

Roses Love Garlic is a great book that focuses on which flowers to plant together. For example, Garlic (and Alliums) naturally deters bugs, which cause trouble with roses, like aphids, so under-planting them is beneficial.