24 of The Best Gardening Books for Beginners (That’ll Quickly Make You an Expert)

Cheryl Spencer from Simply Smart Gardening
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!

(This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase. I only link to products I use and recommend.)

best gardening books for beginners sitting next to a vase of lilacs
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero

What makes this list of gardening books different?

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

I’m pretty obsessed with gardening books and have read hundreds of them.

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

A gardening library filled with quality gardening 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 Plants You Can't Kill. If you get just one book on gardening for beginners, this should be it!

Plants You Can't Kill: 101 Easy-to-Grow Species for Beginning Gardeners
Buy on Amazon

2. How Plants Work by Linda Chalker-Scott

This book will change how you garden! Understanding how plants work is vital to being a successful gardener.

And How Plants Work, 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.

How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do (Science for Gardeners)
Buy on Amazon

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! The Truth About Garden Remedies offers something for all gardeners, no matter how experienced you are.

The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why
Buy on Amazon

4. The Month By Month Gardening Series (for U.S. gardeners) by various authors

Written for gardeners in the U.S., these regional garden guides 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:

Prices last updated on 2021-04-10 at 14:08

 

Best 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. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible includes almost every vegetable and culinary herb you can think of and has detailed growing information.

This organic gardener’s guide tops the list of my favorite vegetable gardening books.

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed's High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil
Buy on Amazon

2. The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook 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, The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook might not work for you.

The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season
Buy on Amazon

3. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

Learn Niki’s simple techniques for growing vegetables year-round. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener is a fantastic guide to growing vegetables 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.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
Buy on Amazon

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 Growing Perennial Foods 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.

Growing Perennial Foods: A Field Guide to Raising Resilient Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables
Buy on Amazon

Related: The Ultimate List of the Best Vegetable Gardening Books

 

Best 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 The Flower Gardener's Bible that’s loaded with expert advice for new and experienced flower gardeners. Learn how to plan for all-season bloom, prepare your soil, and care for your flower garden.

The Flower Gardener's Bible: A Complete Guide to Colorful Blooms All Season Long: 400 Favorite Flowers, Time-Tested Techniques, Creative Garden Designs, and a Lifetime of Gardening Wisdom
Buy on Amazon

2. Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location by The Smithsonian

With more than 2,000 plant recommendations in the Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location, 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. 

Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location: Featuring More Than 3,000 Plants
Buy on Amazon

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 Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs. Learn how to use color in your garden, select the right plants, and where to place them.

Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs: 377 Flower Varieties for a Vibrant Garden (Creative Homeowner) 600 Photos and Over 40 Step-by-Step Sequences to Help Design, Improve, & Maintain Your Landscape
Buy on Amazon

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 Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses. Adrian supplies growth, care, and design tips that you can use, no matter the size of your garden.

Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses: Expert Plant Choices and Dramatic Combinations for Year-Round Gardens
Buy on Amazon

Related: The Ultimate List of the Best Succulent Books for Beginning & Experienced Growers 

Best 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 than in The Garden Primer. If I had to recommend only one gardening book to beginning organic gardeners, this would be it!

The Garden Primer: Second Edition
Buy on Amazon

2. Weedless Gardening: The Hassle-Free All-Organic System by Lee Reich

While there’ll always be some weeds in your garden, the simple and easy methods taught in Weedless Gardening 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.

It’s the perfect introduction to organic vegetable gardening!

Weedless Gardening
Buy on Amazon

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. Be sure to leave space on your shelf for Let it Rot.

Let It Rot!: The Gardener's Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey's Down-To-Earth Guides)
Buy on Amazon

4. The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line by Jeff Gillman

The Truth About Organic Gardening 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.

The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line
Buy on Amazon

 

Best garden maintenance books for beginners

1. The 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, The Perennial Care Manual should be it!

The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do & When to Do It
Buy on Amazon

2. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust

Absolute newbies may find The Well-Tended Perennial Garden 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.

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques, Third Edition
Buy on Amazon

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 Homeowner's Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook includes more than 350 plant profiles and discusses the best cultivars. You’ll also learn how to care for your selections.

The Homeowner's Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook: The Essential Guide to Choosing, Planting, and Maintaining Perfect Landscape Plants
Buy on Amazon

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 do are detailed in Tending Your Garden: pruning trees and shrubs; planting, staking, and dividing perennials; and edging, deadheading, and weeding. You’ll also get many tips for reducing garden maintenance.

Tending Your Garden: A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance
Buy on Amazon

 

Best 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 Weeds of North America? It has close-up photos, which makes identification easy!

Weeds of North America
Buy on Amazon

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.

Garden Insects of North America 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!)

Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs - Second Edition
Buy on Amazon

3. What's Wrong With My Plant? by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth

It can be difficult to diagnose and deal with a sick plant when you’re new to gardening. What's Wrong With My Plant? 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.

What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?): A Visual Guide to Easy Diagnosis and Organic Remedies (What’s Wrong Series)
Buy on Amazon

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 the deer love the most. With 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants 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.

50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants: The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don't Eat
Buy on Amazon


Share your pick for best beginner gardening book

Did I miss any great books? What do you think is the best gardening book for beginners? Share in a comment below!

Hi! I’m Cheryl.

Cheryl Spencer, certified gardener

I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it.

I’ll show you how easy it can be to have a garden that fits into your lifestyle, wows your neighbors, and makes your family say “more veggies, please!”

Cheryl Spencer, Certified Gardener Hi, I’m Cheryl. I’m a certified gardener, bird lover, and spreadsheet enthusiast. I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it. I teach online gardening courses and write articles that help you save time and money in your garden. Join my mailing list, and as a bonus, you’ll get a helpful checklist that’ll tell you what to do in your garden right now.

2 thoughts on “24 of The Best Gardening Books for Beginners”

  1. I love the Perennial Care Manual and you are exactly right, everyone trying to grow Perennial’s should own this 🙂

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