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Are you thinking about trying your hand at gardening? If so, you'll be part of a bumper crop of new enthusiasts. More people are growing their own food, planting flowers, and tending to their house plants. In addition to being a good workout, gardening can give you a real sense of accomplishment, when your flowers bloom or you grow the perfect red tomato.
Gardening is a learning process, and with so many sources of information to help and guide you, it can be hard to know how to begin or where to look to learn more. We decided to dig in and hit pay dirt to find the most outstanding books on gardening and plants.
Read on for a list of the seven best gardening books for 2021.
Best for Beginners: Rodale's Basic Organic Gardening at Amazon
"This gardening book...covers topics like soil, compost, seeds, pest control and weeds, using easy-to-understand language that won’t confuse novices."
Best for Vegetable Gardens: The Vegetable Gardener's Bible at Amazon
"Can teach you everything you need to know to grow beautiful veggies, from basics like tomatoes and carrots to more unusual varieties of produce."
Best for Flower Gardens: The Flower Gardener's Bible at Amazon
"Contains a wealth of expert advice, addressing everything from how to pick the best growing site to tips on maximizing the lifespan of your plants."
Best for Small Spaces: All New Square Foot Gardening II at Amazon
"The top-rated gardening guide...will teach you how to create an amazing garden in just a few square feet."
Best for Indoor Plants: The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual at Amazon
"Includes personality profiles, growing needs, and troubleshooting tips for 160 common indoor plants, from ivy to bonsai trees."
Best for Vertical Gardening: Vertical Gardening at Amazon
"Delves into vertical growing strategies using string supports, trellises, pergolas, raised beds, skyscraper gardens and more."
"This kid-friendly gardening book will help you teach your children the basics of plants while providing innovative ideas for fun outdoor projects."
Best for Beginners: Rodale's Basic Organic Gardening
If you’re new to the world of trowels and trellises, you’d be wise to invest in Rodale's Basic Organic Gardening, a comprehensive guidebook for new gardeners. This gardening book for beginners will answer all your questions, no matter how simple, helping you start your very own organic garden.
Rodale’s covers all the essential knowledge you’ll need to delve into the wonderful world of gardening. There’s a skills section that tackles questions such as “How do I plant a seed?” and “What’s the best way to dig?” and the book also covers topics like soil, compost, seeds, pest control and weeds, using easy-to-understand language that won’t confuse novices.
Further, more than 100 basic gardening terms are defined throughout the text, ensuring you feel confident when you head out into the garden. This gardening book contains projects, plant guides, sample garden layouts and more — it really has it all! Reviewers say this book has really helped their gardening endeavors, anticipating and answering their questions thoroughly.
Best for Vegetable Gardens: The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, 2nd Edition
Want to make a salad purely from homegrown produce? The Vegetable Gardener's Bible can teach you everything you need to know to grow beautiful veggies, from basics like tomatoes and carrots to more unusual varieties of produce. This book on growing vegetables is well-suited for both beginners and experienced gardeners, all of whom can learn something from the author’s high-yield gardening methods.
This book is based on Ed Smith’s W-O-R-D gardening system, which he claims will work in all North American regions. W-O-R-D stands for wide rows, organic methods, raised beds, and deep soil — four gardening strategies that will help increase your harvest when used correctly. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible includes thorough profiles of hundreds of popular vegetables, giving you all the insights you need to successfully grow them at home. Further, you’ll find tips on how to succeed with fussy plants, grow unusual varieties and extend your growing season.
Reviewers write that this book contains everything you could ever want to know about vegetables, and even more, experienced gardeners say they still use The Vegetable Gardener's Bible for reference. Overall, this book is a must-have if you’re serious about planting an impressive vegetable garden.
Best for Flower Gardens: The Flower Gardener's Bible
On the other hand, maybe you’re just interested in filling your yard with beautiful flowers. In this case, you’ll find The Flower Gardener's Bible to be an incredibly valuable resource as you plant your gardens full of colorful blooms.
The Flower Gardener's Bible: A Complete Guide to Colorful Blooms All Season Long will help you plant vibrant, flourishing gardens that bloom all season long. The book contains a wealth of expert advice, addressing everything from how to pick the best growing site to tips on maximizing the lifespan of your plants. In addition to stunning images, you’ll find actionable advice on how to improve soil, fight off pests, arrange your gardens and make 400 types of flowers bloom with radiant color — essential information for any serious gardener.
This book is appropriate for both beginners and advanced gardeners, and reviewers say it contains lots of good information and resources to help you identify dozens of different flowers. However, make sure you buy a physical copy, as many say the Kindle version is poorly formatted.
Best for Small Spaces: All New Square Foot Gardening II
Not everyone has a spacious yard to call their own, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your gardening dreams! The top-rated gardening guide, All New Square Foot Gardening II, will teach you how to create an amazing garden in just a few square feet.
The gardening techniques in this book have been around since the 1980s, and they’re still every bit as useful today. The updated guide explains how you can create a small plot close to your home and use vertical gardening techniques to grow beautiful, healthy plants. What’s unique about the methods in this book is that there are no complicated tools or ingredients. You just need the basics, which makes it a perfect guide for beginners!
Reviewers say that Mel Bartholomew’s methods really do work and are great for novice gardeners. Many note the book is easy to understand and that it has lots of useful information. However, the one downside cited by several gardeners is that the recommended soil mixture can be pretty expensive, depending on where you shop.
Best for Indoor Plants: The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual
Not all gardening takes place outside. Many people enjoy growing houseplants, but if you’ve ever tried to keep an indoor plant alive, you know it’s harder than it looks. Luckily, you can turn to The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual to figure out the best ways to grow more than 150 flourishing houseplants.
This book is a must-have for new plant parents. The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, written by expert gardener Barbara Pleasant, includes personality profiles, growing needs, and troubleshooting tips for 160 common indoor plants, from ivy to bonsai trees and everything in between. The guide is broken up into three sections: two directories with in-depth plant profiles, and a third that delves into proper care of indoor greenery. You’ll find answers to all your pressing questions, including important topics like acclimatization, watering, fertilizing and more.
Many reviewers praise this book, writing that their plants are thriving thanks to the tips in The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. Buyers also note that the book is well organized, easy to navigate, and full of essential knowledge — a worthwhile investment if you have a chronic brown thumb!
Best for Vertical Gardening: Vertical Gardening
If you’re pressed for gardening space or simply don’t want to care for a huge plot of land, you should read Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space. This gardening book delves into vertical growing strategies using string supports, trellises, pergolas, raised beds, skyscraper gardens and more, helping you save space while still cultivating happy plants.
Vertical gardening might sound complicated, but this guide makes it easy for even novice gardeners to understand. Vertical Gardening focuses on varieties of climbing plants, which are actually less prone to insects, diseases and animal pests, making them easier to care for. The various growing strategies use a mixture of DIY and commercial supports, and there are plenty of tips on how you can reduce work, increase yields and make harvesting easier.
Overall, this book is a hit among reviewers, who say it has great ideas that are very doable. They say Vertical Gardening provides excellent alternatives to traditional planting methods, and most are incredibly happy with the results they’ve seen.
Best for Kids: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children
What better way to peel your kids away from the TV than by getting them involved in the garden? If you’re looking for fun ways to get your children into gardening, you should look into Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children. This kid-friendly gardening book will help you teach your children the basics of plants while providing innovative ideas for fun outdoor projects.
In Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots, you’ll find 12 easy-to-implement projects, designed especially for kids. For instance, there are instructions for a “Pizza Patch,” where you create a wheel-shaped garden and each “slice” is used to grow an essential pizza ingredient, such as tomatoes or basil. Other projects include a “Moon Garden” of night-blooming flowers or a “Flower Maze” full of brilliant blooms. The book also provides care instructions, as well as a list of kid-friendly plants that are easy to keep alive.
Reviewers write that Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots is full of beautiful illustrations and wonderfully fun project ideas. However, a few note that you’ll need basic gardening knowledge to make the most of this book.
What to Look For In a Gardening Book
A good gardening book will tell you everything you need to know about your intended project. It will also show you a lot of what you need to know. Look for a book with plenty of illustrations and charts that is easy to read and understand.
Lists and Definitions
Your book should answer every question you might have and provide definitions for words you don't recognize. A book on a specific aspect of gardening, like vegetables or flowers, should provide lists, pictures and characteristics of commonly grown plants, and how to care for them. Many will include ideas for projects and step by step instructions on how to complete them.
Subject and Format
You will find gardening resources on-line, at the newsstand, and in bookstores everywhere. Some resources, especially those with diagrams and complex illustrations will work best in an actual book. Animated, dimensional illustrations and how-to videos are viewed easily on your computer.
Whether you want to grow flowers or create a water garden, be sure to choose the resource written about your specific topic of interest. A book about indoor plants probably won't help you figure out how to start vegetable seeds.
How do you get into gardening?
You're not alone if you want to get into gardening: according to the National Gardening Survey, 18 million people gardened for the first time in 2020. One of the easiest ways to get started might just be to chat with your gardening neighbor. Local garden clubs and cooperative extension offices offer information, programs and hands on opportunities. Community gardens also are growing in popularity. It’s a good idea to start small, with a few plants or a small plot. Once you learn the ins and outs of gardening, there is always more room to grow.
What are the easiest plants to grow?
This will depend somewhat on your USDA hardiness zone. Plants that grow outdoors in Florida might need to be grown as houseplants in Maine. Generally speaking, low-maintenance, easy-care plants will include annual flowers such as marigolds, and perennials like daisies and asters. Plants native to your area are often easy to cultivate. Although all plants need some attention, root vegetables like radishes, carrots and potatoes and annual herbs like basil, parsley, and dill are relatively low maintenance.
What are zones in gardening?
Originally created in 1926 and modernized in 1960, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones is a geographical map that divides the country into growing zones based on temperature. Its purpose is to help gardeners and landscapers determine what plants will thrive in their area of the country. Zones are determined by the average lowest winter temperature and separated by increments of 10 degrees F with Alaska as Zone 1 and Florida as Zones 9 and 10.
Why Trust the Spruce
Barbara Gillette is a Master Gardener and herbalist. She works with honeybees and other pollinators to grow organic fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs on her 8-acre hobby farm.