Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is an excellent resource for both new gardeners and experienced green thumbs. With hundreds of entries, from “Acer” to “Zinnia,” the book is organized in a classic encyclopedic format, alphabetically by subject. This book includes descriptions and care instructions for a variety of ornamental annuals and perennials, vegetables, herbs, trees, and shrubs. It offers instructions for dealing with pests, recommendations for garden planning and plant combinations, explanations of propagation and composting techniques, and much more. Recommendations and solutions follow an organic approach to gardening. It also includes a glossary of horticultural terms, additional resources, and a recommended reading list.
The Best Gardening Books for Improving Your Green Thumb
Gardeners never stop learning. These books help expand your knowledge and make you—or a friend or relative—a better gardener.
BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
- Best OverallRodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic GardeningCheck Latest Price
- Best For BeginnersVegetable Gardening For DummiesCheck Latest Price
- Best For Vegetable GardensThe Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener HandbookCheck Latest Price
Gardeners always want to know more about their favorite hobby. Whether looking for a new garden hose or the right kind of fertilizer, many people use the internet as their go-to resource. Internet resources can help with an immediate problem, but when building your knowledge base to improve your overall gardening skills, a good book is an excellent place to turn.
When building a new garden bed, gardeners need to know the best type of soil, the best way to haul mulch, the plants that will grow best, methods for controlling weeds, watering frequency, and much more. Rather than bouncing between websites, read a book. Moreover, for a good rainy day read or a gift for the plant lover in your life, a gardening book may be ideal. In this list, find recommendations for some of the best gardening books available.
- BEST OVERALL: Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Vegetable Gardening For Dummies
- BEST FOR VEGETABLE GARDENS: The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook
- BEST FOR FLOWER GARDENS: Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden
- BEST FOR INDOOR PLANTS: New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb
- VERTICAL GARDENING PICK: Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out
- ORGANIC GARDENING PICK: Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gardening Books
Attractive books about gardening are everywhere, but unfortunately, some are loaded with stunning images but light on detailed information. Other books might contain more details than a beginning gardener or food grower needs. The following criteria can help in the search for the right amount of gardening content.
First-time gardeners typically buy a few plants or seeds, plant them, and then learn as they grow. Most new gardeners have little interest in learning about Latin botanical terminology, advanced plant propagation techniques, fertilizer nutrient analysis, or the difference between a variety and a cultivar. At this stage, the best books are those that help gardeners solve common problems while inspiring them to learn more. These books are light on jargon and heavy on practical growing solutions.
Some gardeners enjoy exploring entry-level books within a diverse range of topics. Others stick with their original entry point and drill down on highly specialized information that meets their interests or growing conditions. Experienced gardeners are often more comfortable diving deep into books that include advanced horticulture terminology and practices.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Gardening
Although plants have the same basic growing requirements, indoor and outdoor gardening methods have few similarities. Outdoor gardens must balance climate and soil conditions with suitable plant selection. Indoor gardens must provide favorable, controlled conditions for many different kinds of plants.
The outdoor environment is not controlled, so the gardener must gain a greater understanding of elements such as weather, climate, soil, and pests. Outdoor gardening books focus on subjects like soil building, proper plant selection, plant maintenance timing and techniques, and environmental matters like irrigation and plant protection methods.
Indoor gardening occurs in a controlled environment with a greater focus on technology, and indoor gardeners must provide everything their plants need. Indoor garden books frequently discuss topics like lighting, display, pest management, moisture control, potting, and propagation.
Look for books organized according to plant type. The plants might be grouped according to botanical relationships or their growing requirements, such as “shade-loving perennial.” Books organized by growing requirements provide inspiration, suggesting varieties of complementary plants that grow well together. They often cover strategies for providing ideal growing conditions.
Books organized by botanical relationships detail the commonalities among the plant family members. Plants that are genetically related often have many of the same growth habits, nutrient requirements, pests, and other attributes. Yet they can differ in other aspects like hardiness, size, and bloom time. Readers of these books might discover specialized care or propagation techniques unique to a plant family.
As a topic, gardening covers an immense amount of ground. In addition to specific knowledge about hundreds of thousands of plant species, gardening includes soil science, chemistry, genetics, and many other disciplines. Some “how to garden” books discuss the basics of turning a patch of ground into a productive garden plot or ornamental landscape. Regional books highlight plants and techniques that thrive in particular locations and climates. Specialized books cover techniques like container gardening, hydroponics, bonsai, vertical gardening, and many more.
Our Top Picks
The best gardening books are those that give the reader actionable information. These books provide helpful answers to common questions, offer inspiration for future projects, and point to additional resources for even greater detail.
Vegetable Gardening For Dummies meets novice gardeners where they most need it most: in the vegetable garden. It’s a quick, easy read packed with the basic information a new gardener needs to know. Topics include gardening tools, layout of a garden bed, soil improvement, and specific growing information for the most popular garden veggies. The text is written in an approachable, engaging manner. The book’s organization leads the reader through the planning process, planting and care during the growing season, harvest and storage techniques, and season extension methods.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook is a specialized veggie gardener resource for both new and experienced gardeners. This book includes garden planning, start-up, maintenance, and harvest information to grow an abundant backyard (or balcony) garden. It also presents specific background and production information for more than 30 different crops. Tips on soil testing, disease and pest management, seed saving, composting, and many other vegetable gardening skills can help even the most experienced growers improve production in their gardens.
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden was written by a florist-farmer. She takes the reader through the stages of planning, starting, caring for, harvesting, and storing cut flowers. The author dedicates the first part of the book to planning and general production techniques. The second part is arranged according to the seasons. This includes segments dedicated to seasonal flower gardening tasks, the plants that bloom at specific times of the year, and floral projects.
The New Plant Parent introduces gardeners to a “plant parenthood mentality” that sets the stage for successful indoor gardening. New plant parents get information they need to understand the visual appeal of well-displayed, healthy plants and gain the satisfaction of learning and practicing competent plant care techniques. The book includes detailed advice on providing a healthy indoor growing environment, dealing with pests, and acquiring houseplants. It also includes detailed growing information for 20 different kinds of houseplants.
Vertical Gardening is for gardeners who are challenged by a lack of gardening space or who wish to enjoy gardening without as much bending and stooping. The book leads the reader through site and soil preparation before providing detailed instructions in various techniques, including arbors and trellises, planters and supports, hanging planters, and more. It details solutions to the challenges associated with vertical gardens, including plant selection, composting, pests and diseases, and seed starting, among others. It also provides helpful suggestions for incorporating annual, perennial, woody, and ornamental vines into gardenscapes.
Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening is a great resource for beginners or experienced gardeners who might be new to organic growing. The book is laid out in a logical progression that helps gardeners stay confident as they work through the book. The first two chapters familiarize readers with the concept of organic gardening and provide a strategy for getting started. The book then dives deeper into plant selection, garden care, soil health, and caring for starter plants. The helpful resource wraps up with discussions about troubleshooting and seasonal considerations in an organic gardening system.
FAQs About the Best Gardening Books
Perhaps you still have a few questions about the best gardening books. Keep reading to find the most frequently asked questions about the books along with their answers.
Q. What benefits do I get from gardening books?
Gardening books are a handy resource for inspiration, how-to information, and problem-solving. They also help you relax and learn by simply flipping through and picking out the parts that grab your attention.
Q. What is meant by “organic” gardening?
Organic gardening is a system that relies on good soil health and sound cultural practices to produce healthy plants without synthetic chemicals. Organic fertilizers are derived from composted manure, bone meal, kelp, cottonseed meal, and many other naturally occurring ingredients that feed and promote an abundance of beneficial soil microbes. Insect control and disease control are similarly derived from natural ingredients.
Q. What is the easiest vegetable to grow?
Beans and peas sprout quickly and grow well in nutrient-poor soil. They also improve the soil for crops that follow them.
Q. What vegetables should not be placed next to each other?
Separate botanically related plants to reduce pressure from common pests. For instance, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are all members of the nightshade family, and all are susceptible to damage from tomato fruitworms. Plant them in different areas of the garden to isolate fruitworm pressure. Refer to your garden books to learn more about plant families and companion planting.