Friday, March 11, 2011

A Gardening Book Round-Up

March is a tricky month.  Last week, my son and I enjoyed a picnic on our brown, somewhat soggy grass. It was sunny and the temperatures were hovering in the low 50s. Needless to say, after all those months of winter, it felt heavenly. Then it snowed within a couple days. The nice thing about snow in March, though, is that it usually melts within a day.  I don't mind winter at all, but by the time it's March, the frequent swing between winter and spring that's so typical of this month can take a toll on your spirits -- at least it does mine.  That's why I have a pussy-willow in my yard. The puffy little buds start to emerge in mid-February and they are my reminder that spring really is going to return and that the cold weather won't last forever.

Around the time the pussy-willow starts to blossom back to life is when I give myself permission to pull out my gardening books. If I do it before then, the winter just seems to drag more because I'm so excited for spring gardening. Although it's still a little too cold to start planting just yet (and I couldn't do yard work if I wanted to anyway -- only 10 days left until my due date as of this writing!), you can still work on your garden. To help you get you going, I thought I would share some of my favorite gardening books. Write down a few titles, hit the library or (my weakness), and get ready for your best growing season yet!

My Gardening Reading List

Martha Stewart Living -- The Gardening Issue
As you can see, this first suggestion really isn't even a book. It's actually the special gardening issue of Martha Stewart Living. I've said this before and I'll say it again, most of the time this magazine makes me feel like an unorganized slob. But, I get a renewal usually for free or at a very low rate when I renew my mom's gift subscription of it every Christmas. The reason why I always renew, though, is for the Halloween issue and the gardening issue. I love those issues.

I save my Martha Stewart Living gardening issues every year because they are full of awesome tips and gorgeous pictures. They really are a great resource. If you don't have or want a subscription to the magazine, you should at least pick up a copy every March (coincidentally, the gardening issue always arrives at about the same time I pull out all my other books).  Let me just say, too, that you really should get this month's issue (pictured at left) in particular because it has tons of great ideas for planting fruits and vegetables. One thing from the issue I'm particularly excited about: using window boxes for growing herbs. Why didn't I think of that?

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
When my husband and I first moved into our home almost six years ago, we both knew that we wanted to grow a vegetable garden in our yard. Granted, I was definitely more excited about it than he was, but he agreed that it was a good idea. Anyway, after some research, I came across the first edition of Square Foot Gardening. Not only did the author's idea of how to grow food in less space make a lot of sense, but it also made the prospect of growing our own food not so overwhelming. Mr. Bartholomew makes gardening approachable and possible for just about anyone. After I read it, my husband built the boxes and we've been using this method for most of our gardening ever since.  I love both editions of his Square Foot Gardening books for different reasons -- but if you want to read just one, go for the newer one. I can't recommend it enough.

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch
I actually just got my copy of The Garden Primer in the mail a few days ago. I found out about it in the aforementioned Martha Stewart magazine. Though I'm still busy reading and flipping through it, I could tell right when I opened it how this book really is, as the cover puts it, a "gardener's Bible".  This book is jam-packed with everything you could possibly want to know about gardening. It's not a book I'll read cover-to-cover, from start to finish. For me, it's more of a reference, a guide. Sure, I could just turn to the Internet and Google my question, but I like having a book ready to answer my questions, from an authoritative source. Whenever I have a question about gardening -- planting, pruning, fertilizing, anything -- I can already tell this will be my go-to book. I just wish I would have found this one sooner.

Sunset Western Garden Book
I don't mean to be exclusive by recommending a book meant for only the Western half of the United States, but I have to mention it. The Sunset Western Garden Book is a must-have for Western gardeners. This comprehensive guide contains information about every plant, flower, vegetable, tree, shrub you could possibly want to grow and it tells you, in detail, where they can grow, what kind of conditions they need, what diseases to watch out for, what to pair them with, everything. I use this book all the time - while I'm planning my garden, before I buy any plant for my garden, when I plant it, and I check back when I have questions about that particular plant. It's the perfect companion book to The Garden Primer -- I'll have my general gardening reference in that one and my detailed plant reference in this one. What can more can I say? It's such a great reference  -- I'm tempted to just recommend it to everyone, no matter where you live!

Garden Home: Creating a Garden for Everyday Living by P. Allen Smith
I love this book. It's seriously beautiful. Garden Home is different than the others I've mentioned in this post because it focuses more on landscape design principles, with explanations and examples of how to use shape and form, texture, color, rhythm, and other principles to make your yard beautiful. In the book, he shows how to create a space outside like you would inside. Just like a house has designated spaces for designated activities and functions, P. Allen Smith does this with the yards he designs. My yard isn't even close to being the "garden home" I want it to be, but this book always inspires me and gets me daydreaming.

What I'm Reading Right Now

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant & Deborah L. Martin
I also got this one in the mail recently (like I said, cheap books on are a weakness of mine) because my compost pile needs some help. I keep adding stuff to it and it's breaking down, but I'm not getting that awesome, black compost I want. I've already learned that part of my problem is that it's too dry (hence all the ants in it).  The Complete Compost Gardening Guide is a little overwhelming, I'll admit. Who knew there was so much to know about composting? I can tell, though, that I'll learn a lot from it. And once I get a handle on my compost and once I start getting the results I want, I will definitely pass the info on to you.

An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter
I started reading An Island Garden while the boy was playing out in the snow a couple weeks ago. I couldn't resist. I've been saving it for months. So I cleared off some of the snow at our picnic table, put down a towel for me to sit on, watched the boy do a few snow angels, and then I started reading. I first heard about this book when I read about in a bi-monthly journal called The Storybook Home. After reading an excerpt, I requested An Island Garden from PaperBackSwap and got it months ago. Let me just say, if you love to garden and get a little too giddy about the idea of getting dirt under your fingernails and picking out flowers at the local nursery, you should read it. The book is one-part practical manual, one-part love letter to the art of gardening.

Read a book or two. Get a notebook. Start planning things out. Spring is right around the corner.

{Do you know of any gardening books I should be reading? What are your favorites?}

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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