I was browsing through the Amazon best-selling gardening books, thinking of possible gifts for gardeners. So many of the books are truly beautiful and full of information, but information isn’t as hard to find as it used to be. A quick Google search can teach you all you really need to know about growing, say, brussels sprouts. So I asked myself the question, what are the best ways to learn to be a better gardener.
The common denominator of the gardening resources I continue to learn from is that they are based on observation and lots of practice. The writers or researchers have spent a lifetime observing plants or soil or the gardener and have used careful observation backed with science or practice to come to good recommendations.
Here are my favorite sources that I refer to year after year:
For tending flowers and perennials, the best book is Tracy Di-Sabato-Aust’s Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques. Her advice on pruning and grouping plants and deadheading creates long seasons of spectacular color.
For winter gardening, Eliot Coleman is the man. If he can grow fresh vegetables year round in Maine without supplemental power, you can too. His Winter Harvest Handbook explains it in great detail.
For dealing with pests and bugs, an online source is my go-to place. UC-Davis maintains an extraordinary database of “integrated pest management” that has cultural and organic and traditional chemical ways of treating almost every problem you could have. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/
For planning your vegetable garden, John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables, Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) continues to be the best way to design your vegetable garden and decide what and how much to plant to become self-sufficient.
And finally, to prepare your food, I have old favorites and an online favorite. Rosalind Creasy’s 1982 Cooking From the Garden is a constant source of inspiration. Her latest book “Rosalind Creasy’s Recipes from the Garden” has excellent recipes for turning your garden produce into culinary delights.
My second favorite inspiration is the New York Times’ many food columnists. Recipes are all conveniently online.
If you prefer to use these sources, you can have the things people most often want from their gardens: More Color. More Beauty. Healthy Food, and Easy Recipes to turn their produce and fruit into sublimely Delicious Food.