I have been growing vegetables for six years now. Each year I gather a bigger, better harvest and feel more confident in my abilities, but I still have SO MUCH to learn. Luckily, there are hundreds of gardening books available to help me. Here are my five favorite books:
Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardening Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski
My favorite aspect of this all-around-great book is that it is customizable for your growing region. Each section will give you specific advice for what to do, say, “2 weeks after average date of last frost” and next to it is a place for you to write in that date. While this may seem like a lot of work, you’ll quickly realize that it actually saves time and work throughout the season. In addition to being customizable, I love that this book gives very clear and specific advice for each vegetable for each week. For example, I know I need to make another sowing of cilantro six weeks after my average date of last frost (3rd week of July). Really helpful if you have a big garden and you need to be reminded that you even planted cilantro.
Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast by Marie Iannotti
This was my first gardening book and I still reread parts of it each year. Like the Week-by-Week book above, Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast gives timely advice for what to do each month. This book is a bit more general because it includes the whole Northeast instead of giving you the specific dates for your region and because it goes month-by-month instead of week-by-week, but it is a great book to get you started on your gardening journey.
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
Speaking of getting started, if you have never gardened before either because you a) are intimidated by the process or b) think it will take too many tools and materials, this is the book for you. Mel Bartholomew is renowned for making gardening accessible and almost foolproof, if you follow his directions. As a messy gardener, this system has a lot of appeal to me for its organization and, as a conservationist, it has a lot of appeal to me for its resource economy. My daughter and I planted a square foot garden this summer and, I have to say, this type of gardening is really great for kids. It does lack the wildness I love in my vegetable garden (I like to let volunteer tomatoes, flowers, and even giant sunflowers grow up wherever they do), but everything in the square foot garden is neat and tidy and easy to do and you can really grow a ton of foot in a small plot.
Vegetables Love Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler
This is my newest favorite gardening book because it introduced me to the importance of flowers in the vegetable garden. I’ll admit that before I heard about pollinator gardens, I thought growing flowers was kind of frivolous. But Lisa Mason Ziegler entirely convinced me that flowers are not only a wonderful crop to add beauty to your home all summer, but also incredibly important for a healthy vegetable or fruit garden. I intend to fill a small plot in the community garden with cut flowers next summer (in addition to all the wild violets, sunflowers, and calendula I usually let grow here and there) and I can’t wait to see the benefits abound.
Homegrown Pantry by Barbara Pleasant
No gardening book list would be complete without a book about eating all the wonderful vegetables and fruits we grow in New Hampshire. This book, subtitled “A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round”, fulfills its promise and then some. Once you get growing in earnest, its really important to start thinking about how many of each vegetable you need and how you’ll preserve your extras. If our great-grandparents (not to mention of great-grandchildren) could gift us a book, it would be this one!
I hope this list helps get you started on a garden planning for 2021. It’s not too late to plant some kale and other winter hardy vegetables now. You can also build yourself some raised beds and then cuddle up with some gardening books from the library now.