A Gardening Library – You Can Grow That!

Knowledge is power and, when it comes to gardening one of the best ways to increase one’s gardening knowledge is by cozying up to a good gardening book and absorbing its information from cover to cover.  A gardening library, You Can Grow That!


You Can Grow That! is a blog meme started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening. On the 4th of each month garden bloggers champion the virtues of gardening.  All of this month’s, as well as previous posts from gardeners in multiple zones, can be found at the You Can Grow That! website.

Outside of the shear pleasure of curling up with a good book on a cold, snowy winter’s day, using your gardening off-season or a period of unfriendly gardening weather to improve your gardening aptitude is a great way to avoid pitfalls.

Libraries and bookstores are filled with gardening books of all shapes, sizes and levels of expertise. Over time, I’ve collected many gardening books. Some of these have become go-to reference books … the books I reach for when I need a plant or design idea, more information about a gardening technique, or want to bone-up on a specific topic.


Two of Michael Dirr’s books serve as wonderful tree and shrub references – Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs and the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants – as do The American Woodland Garden by Rick Darke and Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Allan M. Armitage.

Want to know how to propagate just about any plant? Reach for Making More Plants, by Ken Druse. Perplexed by pruning? Peruse The American Horticulture Society’s Pruning and Training, by Christopher Bricknell and David Joyce.

I often flip through the pages of The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer when looking for design inspiration for a specific setting. Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra offer tried and true ideas.

New Englanders can read Ellen Sousa’s The Green Garden for advice on establishing habitat gardens. In Bringing Nature Home Douglas Tallamy helps all understand why it’s important to value native plantings for native insect and wildlife populations and to find out how to incorporate energy efficiency into your landscape read Sue Reed’s Energy-Wise Landscape Design.

In Teaming with Microbes, Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis explain the down and dirty of the soil food web and how vital healthy soil is to gardening and farming.

Nikki Jabbour’s The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener reveals how she grows edibles, all year, in her Nova Scotia gardens … she’s an inspiration to all who seek to grow some, or more of their own food.

What’s Wrong With My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?) is a step-by-step guide for what ails plants. In it David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth offer organic solutions for treating plant problems and honest advice on when it’s time to replace diseased greenery.

When Aunt Edna or a social media friend suggest a tried-and-true garden remedy, or you question the science behind the latest, greatest gardening tip, it’s likely that Jeff Gillman has an explanation in The Truth About Gardening Remedies. I likewise recommend reading Gillman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening. Though, as an Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) I don’t encourage or suggest non-organic gardening practices, I do encourage gardeners to ingest balanced information regarding organic and non-organic gardening techniques. Balanced, well-researched information is Gillman’s forte.

This short stack of books does not create a comprehensive gardening reference library but this list forms a good foundation. Gardening aptitude – You Can Grow That! Learning does not need to take a temporary vacation when hands-on gardening is impractical. We can all, seasoned and new gardeners alike, learn about gardening any time, in any climate, just by having a good reference book on hand.

After four decades of collecting and reading gardening books, my bookcase still has room for more … perhaps you have a suggestion or two that you find indispensible?

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5 comments for “A Gardening Library – You Can Grow That!

  1. January 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    What an inspired idea for You Can Grow That! I have most of the title you show but I do not have Making More Plants. Is it worth getting a copy? I’ve always wanted to learn more about plant propagation.

    • January 5, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Debbie, I think Making More Plants is definitely worth the expense. It’s one of the books I tend to peruse through whenever I feel I need a refresher in propagation and it’s definitely the one I reach for when deciding whether to try making more plants myself. I’ve had this book for probably 10 years and it still is one of my favorite reference books.

  2. January 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I agree with all the books you mentioned. But you might want to check out “All the Garden’s a Stage”, published by Schiffer Books. (Ok, this is a bit of shameless promotion!) I wrote it to be not only packed with information on planting and designing, but to be an alternative to dry gardening tomes. It is written in a whimsical tone, intended for entertaining reading, with my own cartoons and plenty of photos. The forward is by Shirley Bovshow (of HGTV Garden Police and now on the Home and Garden Show on the Hallmark Channel). It’s an analogy of casting the right characters, putting in the best systems and designing the most exciting sets to get a smash hit show from your garden. It took a year to write and a lifetime of learning. Unfortunately, my publisher had marketing issues when it came out a year ago and it didn’t get the exposure it needed. (Oprah was interested and they failed to follow up! Grrrrr.) It’s for sale in many book stores, on my site, at Schiffer Press and, of course, Amazon. Thanks. (I love your site!)

    • January 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Jane, thanks for the info and I’m so glad you love my site. I don’t at all mind that your suggestion is your own book. Sounds like you have had quite a journey writing, publishing, and promoting it. You should be proud of your accomplishments! I’ll try to pick up a copy.

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