There are literally hundreds of gardening books out there. It’s easy to look at these massive mountains of tomes and wonder which are the best gardening books… or at least, the ones that you should seriously consider picking up at some point.
So we sat down and considered this issue, and we’re breaking these down into various categories. Everything from the must-have books for your permanent collection down to the esoteric is somewhere on this list.
Sure, it doesn’t contain every single book out there. But it contains what we believe is the best of the best, and the information you’ll find here will propel your gardens to previously-unknown heights!
Must-Have Staples For All Gardeners
Field Guide To Urban Gardening: How To Grow Plants, No Matter Where You Live
by Kevin Espiritu
We couldn’t write a piece like this without mentioning Kevin’s truly epic guide to urban gardening. It’s the best gardening book for beginners, laying everything out in an easy-to-understand format. And sure, we know there are other urban garden books out there, but we happen to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this one’s fantastic.
Kevin’s helpful reference guide is chock-full of projects, everything you’ll need to know to get your garden started, and information for both novice gardeners and experienced gardeners alike. His expert advice will ensure you’ll get the most out of your gardening space, no matter if it’s on a balcony, in a yard, or indoors.
Grow Bag Gardening: The Revolutionary Way To Grow Bountiful Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Flowers in Lightweight, Eco-friendly Fabric Pots
by Kevin Espiritu
Let’s not forget that Kevin also wrote a fantastic book on getting the most out of grow bags! This epic compilation of all things fabric pot explains every element you’ll need to maximize your harvest using fabric containers. Whether it’s spacing, plant pairings, or even what plants are good for your grow bags, this compendium features it all!
Like the Epic Guide to Urban Gardening, this book has its own collection of projects and hands-on information for both experienced and new gardening fans. You’ll learn how to care and maintain for your grow bags, what growing medium you should be using, what best to put into them — and how to keep them flourishing year after year!
All-New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition
by Mel Bartholomew
This is truly a classic amongst gardeners. Mel’s method has revolutionized the backyard garden in ways that we couldn’t have dreamed of before it was released back in 1981. Compact garden spaces have always been challenging, but with the insight you’ll find here, you’ll learn how to pack the most into every square foot of space.
There’s absolutely no question that this is one of the best books on gardening. It deserves a space on your bookshelf, but be prepared to have it right at hand’s reach. You’ll find yourself thumbing through it often. And besides, it includes the recipe for “Mel’s Mix”, a potting blend that’s out of this world.
Raised Bed Revolution: Build It, Fill It, Plant It… Garden Anywhere!
by Tara Nolan
Raised bed gardening is hugely popular (and we love it, too!), and Tara Nolan’s book takes a deep dive into all things raised bed. Growing medium options, rooftop gardening, cost-effective gardening solutions, planting tips, watering strategies, and more are all covered in depth throughout this insightful offering. High-quality photographs illustrate all elements of this fantastic book.
Looking for insight on constructing your raised beds, the materials you could use, or even vertical gardening solutions? This book can provide them to you. We encourage anyone who has questions about raised beds to pick up a copy and read more about the wonderful benefits of elevated garden spaces!
Kitchen Garden Revival: A Modern Guide To Creating A Stylish, Small-Scale, Low-Maintenance, Edible Garden
by Nicole Johnsey Burke
Once upon a time, the kitchen garden was a staple part of the early American or European landscape, but when industrialization began, it fell out of favor. Right now, we can see ample benefits and rewards to returning to this treasured tradition — and in reclaiming a form of sustainability that starts right at your door!
Author Nicole Johnsey Burke shares characteristics that kitchen gardens share, insight on what crops are best for your garden, and a start-to-finish planting to harvesting plan developed by a true professional. It includes in-depth season-by-season growing guides to help you start nourishing your family by making use of your landscape. There is, in fact, a better and more beautiful way to grow food, and you can learn more about it here!
Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia Of Organic Gardening
When they say “ultimate”, they mean it. This massive compendium goes deep into organic technique, providing you with a wealth of gardening tips. One of the best gardening books you’ll ever have the chance to own, it breaks down problems you will find in different climates from the desert southwest to the snowy northeast and finds viable solutions to each one.
With in-depth information on pest control, water management, and more, this book will provide a wealth of knowledge you’ll need. I consider this one of my must-have garden books, and I think you will too.
The AHS Encyclopedia Of Gardening Techniques
The American Horticultural Society has always been a source for quality practical gardening knowledge. Here, they’ve compiled these tried-and-true techniques into a singular book from the world’s leading garden authority.
One of the best gardening books for beginners, the AHS will take you step-by-step through every aspect of your gardening endeavors. It covers topics from seed to compost in a way that provides you almost everything you need in one singular volume. If you have to pick one book, we’re going to recommend Kevin’s… but if you want two books, this is our second choice for novice gardeners.
Organic Gardening: The Natural No-Dig Way 3rd Edition
by Charles Dowding
Many of us are familiar with Charles Dowding because of his extensive YouTube video collection. He’s also written a number of books about his no-dig techniques, and this one has become much beloved by those familiar with his methods.
In this third edition of his gardening book, he explains the ins and outs of his technique. Here you’ll find plenty of insight about ways to grow fruits and vegetables using compost and manure to culture a living soil that will constantly produce for you year-round.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook
Vegetable gardening books are widely available, but the Old Farmer’s Almanac has been a staple for gardeners for literally centuries. You can now find all of the information from their experienced gardeners in this in-depth vegetable gardening book.
One of the best garden books you’ll pick up if you plan on growing your own food, this book shares methods to get you high yields and to reduce pest issues on your plants. It covers a lot more than more recent gardening books do, and offers you centuries of food-growing experience in a single book.
RHS Gardening Through The Year
While this compendium is geared towards the UK and its seasons, the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardening book highlights everything you’ll need to do throughout the year. The timing may be slightly off for those of us in the United States, but you can easily shift their to-do lists to suit your local climate. And those to-do lists are invaluable.
For beginners, you’ll find this to be one of the best gardening books to start you on the road to success. I definitely consider this a must-have for new planters!
Worms Eat My Garbage, 35th Anniversary Edition
by Mary Appelhof
The art of vermicomposting, or composting with worms, is spelled out in this book in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Long considered an essential gardening book, you’ll learn from Ms. Appelhof how to properly maintain a worm colony and how to harvest those precious worm castings for use in the garden. Anyone who’s planning to start worm composting needs a copy of this book.
Compost City: Practical Composting Know-How For Small Space Living
by Rebecca Louie
But what if you don’t have much space? That’s okay, you can still compost your waste products into something valuable in the garden. Spelling out methods that work for studio apartments or tiny houses right alongside those for larger spaces, Rebecca offers valuable insight into methods you need to know to successfully compost.
Redefine your living space to include one or many of the composting methods she describes. Not only will you have phenomenal garden amendments, but you’ll keep useful material out of the local landfill. And that in and of itself is worthwhile.
The Rodale Book Of Composting
Experienced or amateur, this book has something of value for you. This book starts with the history of composting and brings it all the way up to the modern day. In it, you will find techniques and everything you need to have compost glory. One of Rodale’s series of gardening books, the Book of Composting is definitely worth your attention!
The Science Of Gardening
Botany For Gardeners 3rd Edition
by Brian Capon
If you ever wondered how a seed can produce a massive tree, you’re not alone. Breaking it down in terms for the layman, Botany for Gardeners is an incredible insight into plant biology. Each term is defined and explained to more readily introduce the reader to the science.
Even those with lots of experience under their belt may find something of use in this gardening book, and it’ll make the next trip to the botanical garden that much more enjoyable!
How Plants Work: The Science Behind The Amazing Things Plants Do
by Linda Chalker-Scott
Have you ever caught yourself wondering why your plant did something, despite your attempts to give it the best of care? If so, the answers you seek may lie within this incredibly useful book. By learning why plants do what they do, you’ll be able to avoid potential problems before they begin.
Written in a real-life approach, Linda Chalker-Scott puts her Ph.D. to work to explain and solve many of your garden conundrums.
Decoding Gardening Advice: The Science Behind The 100 Most Common Recommendations
by Jeff Gillman & Meleah Maynard
We’ve all had gardening advice passed along to us… but which of it is useful, and which is junk? The most common recommendations are covered in depth in this useful book. With scientific explanations for everything covered, you’ll rapidly be able to discern which of those tips you’ve run into that will work, and which won’t.
Growing Food In A Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons From Desert Farmers On Adapting To Climate Uncertainty
by Gary Paul Nabhan & Bill McKibben
Those of us who live in dry climates can still grow things, but it takes a little more preparation in advance. In this book, desert gardens are discussed at length. Methods of increasing the soil’s moisture retention capabilities are paired with methods to protect your plants from damaging winds or flash floods to make desert gardening viable. You can build your own desert oasis, and this book will help you to do it!
Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide To The Soil Food Web, Revised Edition
by Jeff Lowenfels
Teaming With Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide To Optimizing Plant Nutrition
by Jeff Lowenfels
Teaming With Fungi: The Organic Gardener’s Guide To Mycorrhizae
by Jeff Lowenfels
I’m going to cover all three of the “teaming” series as a single unit, because that’s the way I believe they should be purchased. If you get one of them, you’ll want to get all three.
And in them, you’ll find a wealth of information on mycorrhizal fungi and how to get them to work symbiotically with your plants. You’ll discover how soil microbes work to break down organic matter and prepare it into fine plant cuisine. And you’ll learn why and how fertilizers work, and how your plants can absorb them — both with and without the aid of soil microbes and fungi.
It is worth picking up all three of these books. The science behind the soil is absolutely fascinating, and it will improve your gardening capabilities exponentially.
The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, And Why
by Jeff Gillman
Does beer make plants grow? Will playing music for your plants encourage them to bloom? There’s a lot of psuedoscience in the world today, with folk remedies for everything from pests to poor harvests. Jeff breaks down many of the most common garden myths and reveals which work and which don’t.
The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, And The Bottom Line
by Jeff Gillman
The term “organic” does not always mean 100% safe, and nowhere can you find that more eloquently revealed than in Jeff’s book. By exploring what the term “organic” means and what each product sold under that moniker is, he explains what’s of use and what’s not. While he concludes organic gardening is generally better than the alternative, he explains when things work to accomplish the goals you’ve set and when they won’t.
Gardening Myths And Misconceptions
by Charles Dowding
Some rules are made to be broken, and that includes a lot of the ones discussed in this book. By dispelling many of the misconceptions that have evolved over time, Charles aids gardeners to find new ways instead of the stodgy old methods that have been perpetuated for generations. It’s the perfect pocket companion to a day in the garden.
The Informed Gardener
by Linda Chalker-Scott
What’s the best time of day to water in hot weather? Are organic products better or safer than synthetic ones? These, and many other questions, are covered in depth in Linda’s original educational book. Dispelling a myriad of gardening myths, this book is based on basic, applied research from landscape and industry professionals, university faculty, and more. It’s well worth the read.
The Informed Gardener Blooms Again
by Linda Chalker-Scott
One book couldn’t cover all the garden myths that exist, so Chalker-Scott wrote a companion book that addresses even more. Questions about whether compost teas suppress plant diseases, about whether ladybugs are truly effective as pest control methods, and more abound in this second informed gardener book.
Proper Pruning And Planting
Pruning & Training, Revised New Edition: What, When & How To Prune
by Christopher Brickell & David Joyce
Originally published as the American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training, this is essentially the ultimate book on proper pruning techniques. Including both basic and advanced techniques, this is one of the best gardening books you’ll find. It covers everything from shrubs and small plants all the way up to full-sized trees. Definitely an invaluable addition.
How To Prune Fruit Trees, Twentieth Edition
by R. Sanford Martin
A classic, this book goes into the hows and whys of proper pruning for fruit-bearing trees. Maximize your fruit production in your own home orchard by utilizing some of the techniques described in this essential fruit tree guide. For the home fruit farmer, this may be everything you need to know to guarantee sweet success.
The New Seed-Starters Handbook
by Nancy Bubel
One can’t become a successful gardener if they don’t know how to coax a seed into a living plant. With this book, Nancy Bubel takes you from soil to stunning plant, guiding you carefully through every stage of the germination process. Definitely an excellent focused study on seed starting!
The Well-Tended Perennial Garden
by Tracy Di-Sabato-Aust
Perennials are occasionally tricky, but here you’ll find all the tips you’ll need to develop your own expert flower gardens. Book was originally published in 1998, but has been updated to include even more in-depth information you’ll need to bring your flower garden into full bloom.
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets Of Companion Planting For Successful Gardening
by Louise Riotte
Companion planting is an artform, and this book provides insight into the method. While we wish it went more in depth into dense plantings and understory plantings, this book provides the basics which start a new gardener off into the wonderful world of pairing plants properly.
Straw Bale Gardens Complete
by Joel Karsten
If you have a couple bales of straw, you can have a garden. With the complete edition of Joel Karsten’s Straw Bale Gardens, it takes you from a brand-new bale all the way through curing the bale, planting it out, and maintaining it through the season. Don’t let your lack of planters prevent you from a gorgeous garden.
No-Dig Organic Home & Garden: Grow, Cook, Use & Store Your Harvest
by Charles Dowding & Stephanie Hafferty
As a companion guide to Dowding’s original No-Dig technique book, this expands further into methods to use and store your resulting produce. It does not focus as deeply on Dowding’s method as much as on the rudimentary basics, but it does provide fantastic recipes and storage techniques which were left out of his original essential work.
The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book: Secrets Of The Famous Year-Round Mulch Method
by Ruth Stout & Richard Clemence
Ruth Stout is a legend in the home gardener landscape, and her no-work garden served her well. At eighty years young, she paired up with a co-author to write the essentials of her method down in the mid-1970’s, and these tried-and-true mulching methods work to this very day. One of the best gardening books you’ll find, old or new, this book is a true classic and getting hard to find.
The Mother Earth News Guide To Vegetable Gardening
Mother Earth News itself is a magazine oriented towards sustainable living methods. It should come as no surprise that their guide to vegetable gardening highlights sustainable, useful methods that will produce great results. A handy guide for organic gardeners!
DIY Projects You’ll Use
Trellises, Planters & Raised Beds: 50 Easy, Unique, and Useful Projects You Can Make With Common Tools & Materials
Fans of DIY will love this pattern book. While it focuses on simple projects and repurposed materials, you’ll be able to build a wealth of supplies for your own garden and save money while doing it. Turn your leftover supplies into future garden centerpieces!
The Vegetable Gardener’s Book Of Building Projects: 39 Essentials To Increase The Bounty And Beauty Of Your Garden
Another compendium of projects to fulfill your DIY urges, this book goes slightly more into intermediate techniques. The patterns are generally easy enough to give you the gist of what you’re doing, although novices might find a few too complex for their skillset. Overall, it’s a great selection of projects to suit multiple garden styles and needs.
Black & Decker Complete Guide To Greenhouses & Garden Projects
Black & Decker produces not just quality garden tools, but quality garden plans. For those who want to DIY a greenhouse or other large garden project, this book will provide in-depth information and detailed photos for every task. It’s great for both beginners and experienced DIYers, and will be worth every cent you spend.
Fascinating And Fun
The Drunken Botanist
by Amy Stewart
Have you ever wondered how many plants people have found a way to make alcohol from? In this fun, entertaining read, you’ll learn the history of alcohol from their plant origins. Whether it’s rice used to make sake or corn turned to bourbon, agave to tequila and more, you’ll be surrounded by fascinating details on how some of our favorite plants become our favorite drinks. A perfect gift for the garden party bartender in your life!
Plants Are Terrible People
by Luke Ruggenberg
We all make mistakes in the garden. Luke teaches us how to laugh at them and turn them into a hilarious story to tell later. This is not truly a gardening book per se, as it doesn’t really educate us on planting or caring for our growing garden. Instead, it’s a hilarious romp through relatable stories for gardeners to chuckle at. Take this out to your seat in the garden to read between weeding sessions and enjoy.
Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects, and Recipes for Families
by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
When my daughter was young, this was the book that she loved most of my gardening books. Michael Caduto shares traditional tribal gardening methods, pairing them with Joseph Bruchac’s retellings of the oral histories of tribal people in story form. An ideal book for time with the kids in the garden, and a fun way to teach both history and botany to your children.
Botanical Shakespeare: An Illustrated Compendium Of All The Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Trees, Seeds and Grasses Cited By The World’s Greatest Playwright
by Gerit Quealy & Sumie Hasegawa Collins
Read this book, and you’ll understand how to Master Shakespeare a rose by any other name might not smell so sweet. In this fascinating history, Gerit Quealy – a master of Shakespeariana – pairs his skills with Japanese artist Sumie Hasegawa Collins to create a true masterpiece.
Anyone who is trying to recreate the English cottage garden of bygone days will find this work to be of infinite use. Even if you’re merely a fan of the local Renaissance faire, you will enjoy reading the references of our favorite plants and how they were utilized in the Bard’s plays.
The Homebrewer’s Garden 2nd Edition: How To Grow, Prepare & Use Your Own Hops, Malts & Brewing Herbs
by Joe Fisher & Dennis Fisher
With the advent of the craft beer industry, many gardeners aspired to grow their own brewing supplies. With this book, you’ll be able to discern how to support those insanely-tall hop vines for best harvests, or how to grow a chocolate malt for the darkest of brews. An excellent guide to anyone who wants to use their harvest to brew a hearty draught to enjoy long after the fall has gone by.
How To Grow & Make Tea In The United States 2nd Edition
by Steve Lorch
Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, can be a lovely shrub or hedge. In this book, Steve Lorch introduces us to this magnificent and variable plant and its care. He also discusses methods of harvesting and processing your tea leaves for later use. Considered to be an essential comprehensive guide for the tea industry, this book is worth tracking down for your collection.
Planting The Natural Garden
by Piet Oudolf & Henk Gerritsen
Piet Oudolf is world-reknowned as a master gardener, and has started many botanical gardens’ natural collections. The late Henk Gerritsen is often referred to as the founder of the New Perennialist movement in garden design. Between them, this book of their favorite plants to use in a naturalistic landscape is a beneficial guide to lesser-known wild plants used in a garden context.
Do not expect to find much of Piet’s design techniques in here; this is not one of the best landscaping books. However, it is a wealth of information for anyone who wishes to convert their yard into a New Perennial Movement-style natural garden space.
West Coast Flair
The Timber Press Guide To Vegetable Gardening In Southern California
The Timber Press Guide To Vegetable Gardening In The Pacific Northwest
Both of the Timber Press Guides I’ve cited above are extremely valuable for regional gardeners. If you don’t live on the West Coast, don’t fret; Timber Press also publishes regional garden guides for most other areas of the United States, and they’re all worth getting your hands on.
Packed with insight for the region the book is focused on, these guides will tell you which vegetables will grow, and which won’t, in your unique climate situation. Keep in mind that microclimates still exist, so you may be able to bend the boundaries a bit further. However, as a starting spot, these will assuredly aid the new gardener in that particular area of the country.
The Drought-Defying California Garden: 230 Plants For A Lush, Low-Water Landscape
by Greg Rubin & Lucy Warren
Drought-tolerant landscaping is becoming a major trend in water-stressed California. Here you can discover a list of plants that are ideal for low-water gardens, along with information on proper care techniques for them. Annuals, perennials, trees or shrubs, succulents or flowering plants… they’re all covered in this in-depth drought-resistant plant guide.
Designing California Native Gardens
by Glenn Keator & Alrie Middlebrook
Last but not least, we have this introduction into California’s native plant communities. Each chapter focuses on one of 12 different regions in California and the types of plants that grow there, including plans for gardens in each climate type. With more than 300 color photos highlighting over 600 species of California native plants, this is one of the essential flower gardening books for the California natural gardener.