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24 Gardening Books That’ll Quickly Make You an Expert

by Sep 20, 2019Garden Tools and Supplies, Gardening Basics0 comments

Inside: The best gardening books for beginners.

We live in an era of instant everything. Instant rice, instant communication, and most importantly … instant-dry nail polish!

But one thing that can’t be sped up is your garden.

I learned that when my fourth-grade teacher had us start sunflower seeds in a paper cup.

I woke up each morning, excited to see how my seeds were doing.

Had they sprouted overnight? Did they need to be watered? When would they be ready to go outside? When would they finally have a flower? How would the sunflower seeds taste when they were ready to be harvested?

That experience taught me hard lessons about patience in the garden. No matter how hard I wished my plants would grow faster, they wouldn’t.

But at the end of summer, when those seeds had morphed into 6-foot tall sunflowers, with blooms as wide as dinner plates, I became a passionate gardener.

And maybe you want to grow a garden for the same reason.

Or maybe you want:

  • your family to have greater access to healthy, high-quality food, and know where their food comes from
  • to spend more time in nature, put your hands in the soil, slow down, and reduce your stress
  • to give your kids the same experiences you had as a kid – like picking ripe raspberries with jammy red hands, eating just as many as you put in your bowl

Or maybe you simply want to bring more beauty into your world.

And even though your garden, like my fourth-grade sunflowers, can’t be rushed, there’s one thing about gardening you can accelerate.

You can become a gardening expert sooner by investing in a few good books that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence you need to succeed.

And even though this list of gardening books is perfect for new gardeners, experienced gardeners will also learn a lot from these books.

As Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Well, everything except the instant-dry nail polish!

best gardening books for beginners sitting next to a vase of lilacs

This post may contain affiliate links to products I use and recommend. Read my full disclosure.

What makes this booklist different?

This isn’t a compilation of other people’s reviews of gardening books, like other lists you may see online.

  • I’m pretty obsessed with gardening books and have read hundreds of them.
  • I own and have used all the books on this list.
  • And I have high standards for what makes it onto this list. There are puh-lenty of so-so gardening books out there, but you won’t find them here!

Having your own gardening library made up of high-quality, useful books will improve your gardening skills no matter how long you’ve been gardening.

After all, no one’s born knowing how to garden!

Best Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. Plants You Can’t Kill: 101 Easy-to-Grow Species for Beginning Gardeners
    by Stacy Torino
    Think you have a black thumb? Get ready to change your mind! Stacy gives you practical advice about the most dependable plants you can grow. With more than 100 easy to grow vegetables, flowers, herbs, trees, shrubs, and even houseplants to choose from, there’s something for every newbie in this book.
  2. How Plants Work
    by Linda Chalker-Scott

    This book will change how you garden! Understanding how plants work is vital for being a successful gardener. And this book, written by a horticultural expert, is easy for non-scientists to understand. It has a conversational style and is filled with interesting and useful information that’ll help you make more informed choices in your garden.
  3. The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why
    by Jeff Gillman
    If you’ve spent any time online searching for answers to your garden problems you’ve seen plenty of home remedies out there. But which ones really work? Is Epsom salt a miracle cure like some claim? What about using vinegar on weeds? And does corn gluten really work? You’ll get answers to these questions and more! This book offers something for all gardeners, no matter how experienced you are.
  4. The Month By Month Gardening Series (for U.S. gardeners)
    by various authors

    Written for gardeners in the U.S., these detailed books tell you what to do month-by-month in your state or region. They cover flower gardens, lawns, vegetable gardens, and shrub and tree care. Find your state or region in the list below.

Vegetable Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible
    by Edward C. Smith
    Learn how gardening in wide rows using organic methods in raised beds with deep soil will make your garden more productive. This is the vegetable gardening roadmap you need if you’re a newbie or have been gardening for a few years, but don’t feel like you’ve gotten the hang of vegetable gardening. And almost every vegetable and culinary herb you can think of has detailed growing information.
  2. The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season
    by Jennifer and Ron Kujawski
    For vegetable gardeners who live in cold climates (zones 4-6), you’ll learn how to manage your schedule and prioritize what’s important in your vegetable garden. You’ll always know what to do and when to do it. If you live outside zones 4-6, this book might not work for you.
  3. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
    by Niki Jabbour
    Learn Niki’s simple techniques for growing vegetables year-round. It’s a fantastic guide whether or not you’re interested in gardening year-round. She profiles vegetables from asparagus to zucchini and gives you a timeline for planting. You’ll learn when to start seeds indoors, transplant, or direct sow in both spring and fall.
  4. Growing Perennial Foods: A Field Guide to Raising Resilient Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables
    by Acadia Tucker
    While designed for gardening newbies, this book will appeal to experienced gardeners who want to widen their garden palette to include these more resilient crops. Depending on where you live, some of the plants listed in the book won’t be true perennials for you, but many will be. And as a bonus, after each plant profile, there is an easy, yet delicious recipe that’ll encourage you to eat what you’ve grown.

Flower Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. The Flower Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Colorful Blooms All Season Long
    by Lewis and Nancy Hill
    Grow the flower garden of your dreams with this guide that’s loaded with expert advice for new and experienced flower gardeners. Learn how to have all-season blooms, prepare your soil, and care for your flower garden.
  2. Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location
    by The Smithsonian
    With more than 2,000 plant recommendations, gardeners in every situation will find ornamental plants that’ll work in their garden. With detailed descriptions and beautiful photography, this enormous book deserves a place on every flower gardener’s shelf.
  3. Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs: 377 Flower Varieties for a Vibrant Garden
    by The Editors of Creative Homeowner
    You’ll learn how to improve your soil, design your flower garden, and plant and care for your flowers in this guide that has more than 600 photos and step-by-step instructions. The garden design section alone is worth the price of the book. Learn how to use color in the garden, select the right plants, and where to place them.
  4. Bloom’s Best Perennials and Grasses
    by Adrian Bloom
    How do you know you’re making the right choice when selecting perennials and grasses for your garden? With 250 choices that are reliable, beautiful, and easy to maintain, you’ll find answers in this book. Adrian supplies growth, care, and design tips that you can use, no matter the size of your garden.

Organic Gardening Books for Beginners

  1. The Garden Primer
    by Barbara Damrosch
    You’ll find wise and practical advice on planning a garden, recommended plants, and the best tools to buy. Entire chapters are devoted to every type of plant from annuals to vines. While there are books that cover these topics in greater depth, you simply won’t find a better introduction to organic gardening. If I had to recommend only one gardening book to beginning organic gardeners, this would be it!
  2. Weedless Gardening: The Hassle-Free All-Organic System
    by Lee Reich
    While there’ll always be some weeds, the simple and easy methods taught in this book will show you how to keep them to a minimum by ditching the conventional advice to till your soil. You’ll also learn how to reduce your water use, protect your soil, and grow healthy plants. And you get helpful information about growing vegetables and ornamental plants.
  3. Let it Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting
    by Stu Campbell
    All organic gardeners should know how to make good compost. But a lot of information about composting can seem intimidating to the first-time organic gardener. How do you get the carbon, nitrogen, moisture, oxygen levels right? This easy to understand guide breaks everything down with no fluff added, and tells you what you need to know to get started.
  4. The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line
    by Jeff Gillman
    This book takes a nuanced approach to the common belief that all organic products and practices are “good” and all conventional ones are “bad.” You’ll learn how to think about what you’re doing in your garden, and why you’re doing it. And in the process, you’ll make well-informed, more effective choices for your garden.

Garden Maintenance Books for Beginners

  1. Perennial Care Manual
    by Nancy J. Ondra
    If you grow any perennials, you should own this book! This book is written in an approachable style for new gardeners and gives general perennial care advice in addition to detailed information on 125 popular perennials. You’ll learn what perennials to choose for your garden, and how to take care of them. If you only own one perennial care book, this one should be it!
  2. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques
    by Tracy DiSabato-Aust
    Absolute newbies may find this book intimidating. But once you get your feet wet with growing perennials, it’s an excellent companion to the Perennial Care Manual. It includes thorough details on the essentials of perennial care—included deadheading, pinching, thinning, and dividing. But it also covers detailed growing information for many perennials and includes a monthly planting and maintenance schedule. One of the best features of the book are the thirty-six different lists of plants by maintenance requirements. These allow you to choose plants from a particular list (tolerates clay, drought, deer, etc.) and then go back to the alphabetical listing for more information about that plant.
  3. The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook
    by Penelope O’Sullivan
    Have trees or shrubs in your yard, or want to add more? Then you need this essential guide to choosing, planting, and maintaining trees and shrubs. With a focus on selecting the right plant for the right place, you’ll learn how to add texture and shape to your garden with trees and shrubs. The book includes more than 350 plant profiles and discusses the best cultivars. You’ll also learn how to care for your selections.
  4. Tending Your Garden: A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance
    by Gordon and Mary Hayward
    Learn how to keep your garden looking its best year-round. All the seasonal tasks you’ll need to learn are detailed in this book: pruning trees and shrubs; planting, staking, and dividing perennials; and edging, deadheading, and weeding. You’ll also get many tips for reducing garden maintenance.

Books About Weeds, Insects, Diseases, and Pests

  1. Weeds of North America
    by Richard Dickinson
    Every garden will have some weeds. And to defeat your weeds you have to be able to identify them. That’s where this book has your back. It covers more than 600 species from 69 plant families at every stage of growth. My favorite thing about this book: It has close-up photos, which makes identification easy!
  2. Garden Insects of North America
    by Whitney Cranshaw
    This is the most comprehensive guide to the insects you’ll find in your garden! Featuring 3,300 full-color photos and detailed descriptions, this book covers the hundreds of species of insects (good and bad) that you’ll find on any plant in your garden. The book tells you where you’re most likely to find the insects, which is helpful for identification. Dr. Cranshaw was one of my instructors when I became a certified gardener, so I can tell you first hand he knows his stuff!
  3. What’s Wrong With My Plant?
    by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth
    As a new gardener, it can be difficult to diagnose and deal with a sick plant. This book will help you get to the cause of the problem quickly, and suggest solutions. It also includes photos of common plant problems, which makes identification easier for newbies.
  4. 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants
    by Ruth Rogers Clausen
    As a new gardener, your first thought when you see deer in your yard might be “Bambi’s come to visit!” But after they’ve chewed your precious plants to the nub you’ll start wondering why hunting isn’t allowed in the city limits. The problem? You’ve most likely planted some “deer candy” – the plants deer love the most. With this book by your side, you’ll discover what deer do and don’t like to eat. Plant more of what they don’t like, eliminate their favorite treats, and they’ll stay away.

It’s Your Turn

Do you already own any of the books on this list?

What do you think of them?

And what’s your favorite gardening book for beginners? Share in a comment below!


Cheryl Spencer

Growing a beautiful and productive garden doesn't have to be mysterious, difficult, or overwhelming.

All you need are proven techniques and simple but smart strategies that'll help you become a better gardener faster.

You CAN have a garden that fits into your lifestyle, wows your neighbors, and makes your kids say "more veggies, please!" And I'll show you how easy it can be. Get ready to grow your best garden ever!