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All Things Garden,  Beginner Basics

16 Best Gardening Books + Other Homestead Guides

When it comes to homestead or gardening books, I’m asked two questions all the time: what are my favorite or go-to garden resource books, and when am I going to write one myself? Lol! Well, between my full-time job, this blog, and life in general, let’s just say that little adventure is tucked on the “one day” shelf for now. I hope our website provides you with ample garden information and inspiration in the meantime. Yet I absolutely understand that there is something special about holding and reading a physical book. In the winter off season, cozying up with a garden book is the perfect way to feel connected to the outdoors, learn something new, and make plans for the warmer days ahead. Plus, gardening books also make great gifts!

Please enjoy this list of our top 16 homestead and gardening books. This list contains a variety of beginner-level books along with more detailed resources. Some of the books are about gardening in general, while others provide an in-depth look at a particular sub-category. For instance, on compost, permaculture, or herbs. Last but not least, I included a few of my favorite garden-to-table recipe and preservation books. That way, you can put all those homegrown vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs to good use. Don’t miss that list at the end!


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products for your convenience, such as to items on Amazon. Homestead and Chill gains a small commission from purchases made through those links, at no additional cost to you!

The front yard garden is shown with a large pink zinnia as the focus with a monarch butterfly resting on one of the flowers. Beyond is an explosion of colors from the various plants from orange marigolds, borage, zinnia, and verbena to only name a few. A gravel and paver lined pathway leads to the house beyond.


TOP GARDENING BOOKS


1) The New Self-Sufficient Gardener

This extensive gardening guide has a little bit of it all: on planning, growing, storing, and preserving your own garden product. It includes illustrations to go along with every plant, concept and project! It’s fairly hefty and contains an immense amount of useful information. Yet is easy to understand, flip through, and pick out the sections you wish to focus on at a time! It covers the essentials of growing particular vegetables, along with tips on specific garden tasks such as proper tree planting, how to weave a wattle fence, grow in a greenhouse, or lay a brick garden path. Tucked towards the end of the book, there are also instructions for beekeeping, making cider and other preserves, and raising chickens or rabbits. 

A two page image collage, the first image shows the inside of a book that is describing different types of herbs, from marjoram to mustard and nasturtium. The second image shows the same book open to a different page that shows different types of pruning techniques along with the various tools used for the job.
A peek inside the New Self-Sufficient Gardener


2) Medicinal Herbs Rosemary Gladstar

If you don’t yet know Miss Rosemary, you’re in for a treat! Rosemary Gladstar is the unofficial Queen of Herbs. Her book ‘Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide’ was one of the very first herb books I ever bought, and I still reference it all the time. The beginning of the book provides an excellent introduction to herbal medicine in general, such as when and how to harvest herbs, what a tincture or infusion is, and basic tips on how to make each. Then, the book dives into an overview of every common (and some not-so-common) herb. It includes their general preferred growing conditions, medicinal properties, and a few examples or recipes of how to use each. We adapted both our homemade fire cider and elderberry syrup recipe from this book!

A medicinal herbs book is open to a page about Holy Basil. Recipes are include for a Holy Basil Tincture as well as a Holy Basil Long-Life Vinegar.
What to expect inside Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs book: an overview of each plant profile, plus a few home remedies to use it in.


3) Teaming with Microbes

‘Teaming with Microbes’ is another one of my old favorites. I think I picked up this gardening book back in college, yet it is still revered as one of the must-reads for any serious organic gardener. It will make you look at soil (and all the critters living inside it!) in a whole new and important perspective.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one focuses on the science behind the soil food web: how nutrients, worms, microbes, fungi, and other microorganisms work together to sustain soil and plant life. It’s detail-oriented, but fascinating and easy to follow. Part two of the book then digs into how you can nourish the soil food web and maintain your yard or garden without harsh chemicals, relying on practices such as mulch, compost tea, and a no-till approach. If you’ve read a few of our gardening articles here on Homestead and Chill, those ideas should already sound familiar! 


4) Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on a ¼ Acre

This is one of the very first homesteading books we got when we bought our first (current) property, a modest ⅕ an acre. The book provides background and how-to’s on a number of farming techniques that can easily be applied on a compact scale. For example, as preparing garden beds, starting and saving seeds, composting, crop rotation, and pest control. Beyond growing plants, Mini Farming also has chapters about raising poultry, canning, freezing, and even selling excess produce for income. It’s a great outlook on the potential to live a self-sufficient lifestyle even on smaller lots, and source of inspiration for new small-scale homesteaders.



5) Gaia’s Garden

If you’re interested in the concept of permaculture, this is the gardening book for you. Toby Hemenway’s best-selling ‘Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture’ provides an in-depth but approachable look into sustainable permaculture design. The primary goal is to show the readers’ how to work with nature rather than against it, and harness the power of natural ecosystems to make gardening easy. For instance, implementing bioswales, laundry-to-landscape or other greywater systems, and encouraging beneficial insects, wildlife, native plants, and edible ‘food forests’ to work in harmony and create balanced abundance. With over 1000 reviews, this gardening book has a 4.8 star rating on Amazon.

A great gardening book about permaculture is open to a page showing a drawing, illustrating the garden as an ecosystem set up around a house. There are flowers, herbs and intensive garden beds close to the house. Shrubs and berries a little further away, followed by firewood and wild harvest even further. There are also fruit and nut trees, raised beds, a pond, chickens, and a food forest set up around the household.


6) Field Guide to Urban Gardening

This gardening book is ideal for folks who are working with a small garden space. Yet it provides tips, tools, and information that are easily applied to any size garden space! Kevin Espiritu’s ‘Field Guide to Urban Gardening’ is jam-packed with useful ideas for container gardening, vertical gardening, and other compact garden styles. It’s perfect for any patio, balcony, or even indoor situation. He also includes a section on hydroponics, if that strikes your interest! Kevin is the creator behind Epic Gardening, and has a popular YouTube gardening channel and Instagram as well.  


7) Year Round Vegetable Gardener 

The full title of this gardening book, ‘Year Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live’, says it all. Niki Jabbour, the inspiring author behind this book, lives and gardens in Nova Scotia. To overcome her challenging climate and naturally-short growing season, she has become an expert at pushing the boundaries and relying on cold frames, hoop houses, and other frost protection techniques to grow food all year round. The book isn’t just for cold-climate gardeners though! It also provides great tips on things like choosing vegetable varieties, succession sowing, and more. 


8) Rodale Book of Composting

This gardening book is the ultimate resource to everything you need to know about compost. And if you’re not yet composting at home, it’s time to dive in! Composting is the best way to sustainably divert food and garden waste from the landfill. Plus, you’re able to create free nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden.

The Rodale Book of Composting has tips for every level and type of composting, from small-scale worm bins to large windrow piles of compost you may see on a farm. It also provides an excellent in-depth look at various compost inputs, including what materials should or should not be composted and what nutrients they provide. At nearly 300 pages, it’s a fairly hefty book and loaded with information. So, I approach it more as a reference guide than one I would sit down to read cover-to-cover. It contains many helpful charts and diagrams, but not as many photos as the other compost guide mentioned later on this list.

A great gardening book, the "Rodale Book of Composting" is open to a section that is a chart showing the macro nutrient percentage composition of various materials along with wether it as a carbon or nitrogen source.
I love this extensive chart in the Rodale Book of Composting. It shows the carbon and nitrogen ratio of dozens of compost inputs, which helps you understand if it is considered a “brown” or “green” addition.



9) Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife

Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart. Coming from the experts themselves (the National Wildlife Federation), this wildlife-centered gardening book includes practical tips to turn any garden into a beautiful and functional habitat for wildlife as well. It provides background as to why native wildlife is so essential to the ecosystem, choice plants to grow to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, and eco-friendly landscape design ideas. The book also includes 17 step-by-step projects to do with your family – like DIY bird houses, feeders, and more.

If you tuned into our “How to Turn Your Garden into a Certified Wildlife Habitat” article, this is a great expansion on many of the ideas we covered there! 


10) Homegrown Herbs 

Compared to Rosemary Gladstar’s medicinal herbs book (listed above), Homegrown Herbs will teach you exactly how to grow various types of herbs in more detail. More specifically, this book “provides in-depth profiles of 101 popular herbs, including information on seed selection, planting, maintenance, harvesting, and drying”. The author also gives plenty of examples of how to use each herb. Like in a variety of meals, homemade natural medicine or body care products, or crafts. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or budding herbalist, this gardening book will inspire you to grow and use more herbs than ever before!


11) Edible Paradise

Vera Greutink, the author of ‘Edible Paradise’ is permaculture gardener, teacher, and designer based in the Netherlands. Vera’s 15 years of experience as an organic no-dig gardener demonstrates that gardens can be both beautiful and productive. This gardening book provides easy-to-follow information on growing food in containers, building raised garden beds, making and using compost, mulch, row covers, and more. Vera focuses on the concept of polyculture, or mixing flowers, herbs and vegetables in a small space. This provides for a robust harvest as well as natural pest control! The book is littered with eye-catching and useful photos, charts, recipes and more. 

A gardening book is open to a section about "Extending the Seasons". One page is a full photograph of garden beds, some are left uncovered while others are covered in row covers, and some have wire trellises.
A peek inside Edible Paradise. We love our hoops and row covers here too!


12) Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden

If you’re dreaming of a vibrant, gorgeous, overflowing cut flower garden, then you need a little Floret in your life. This gardening book provides useful information on how to plant, maintain, and harvest flowers. It also includes a section that will teach you how to design and arrange cut flowers too! Erin, the author of Floret: Cut Flower Garden, is a leader in the flower farming industry and shares experience from her successful flower seed farm in the Skagit Valley of Washington. She is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the world of flowers – and it shows!



13) The Complete Compost Gardening Guide 

Aside from the Rodale Book of Compost (mentioned above), this is my other favorite composting resource. Part one of ‘The Complete Compost Gardening Guide’ starts off with compost 101 basics to get you acquainted with the benefits of composting, choice compostable materials, and useful tools. Part two explores several different types of composting methods and how to use compost in your garden. For instance, classic compost piles, bins, banner batches, trenches, enclosed bins, and worm compost. The third and final section provides tips on how to grow dozens of vegetable crops utilizing homemade compost. If you’re into colorful photos, easy-to-digest information, and ample examples, this is an excellent gardening book for you. 


14) A Woman’s Garden

The byline of this book title is “grow beautiful plants and make useful things”, which is exactly what it will teach you to do. It contains helpful growing advice and step-by-step instructions for creating over 35 inspiring projects, edibles, and art from your garden. At the time I am writing this article, ‘A Woman’s Garden’ isn’t yet available (coming February 2021). Yet you can pre-order now! My talented and incredibly knowledgeable friend Tanya from Lovely Greens is the author behind this beautiful book. And guess what? Yours truly is featured in the first chapter: kitchen gardens.


15) Natural Disease and Pest Control

I’ll admit that this is one on the list that I don’t have… yet! This Rodale gardening book (the same folks behind my favorite compost book) on organic pest control sounds absolutely phenomenal.  According to the description on Amazon, this “plant-by-plant guide features symptoms and solutions for 200 popular plants, including flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs, and fruits”. It includes an encyclopedia of insects and disease, including photos, detailed descriptions, and visual symptoms to watch for.  


16) The One-Straw Revolution

This is a great one if you’re interested in passive natural farming or no-till gardening. The book is written more like a non-fiction paperback novel than a detailed “how to” gardening book. In it, the author Masanobu Fukuoka (Japan’s most celebrated alternative farmer) explores the ties between farming, consuming food, and human relationships with the natural world. The One-Straw Revolution will change the way you look at our traditional agricultural systems, and way we live in general! Fukuoka shows that we can achieve high yields and vibrant, productive farms with less inputs than ever.

DeannaCat is holding the book, "One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukiuoka. Beyond lies a yard space with rosemary, foxtail ferns, a pepper tree, and various other plants.



BEYOND THE GARDEN


Well, that concludes my top-choice gardening books, but how about some final tips for how to use your homegrown goodies? Below is a list of some of our favorite books for garden-table recipes, herbal medicine, and natural skin and body care products. I also tossed in a few guides on popular homesteading hobbies, such as sourdough, beekeeping, and booch-brewing. 


Garden-to-table books & other homesteading resources


And there you have it! I hope a few of the books on this list caught your eye. As a last bit of advice to new gardeners: go easy on yourself. There is SO much to learn, and I realize it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Just take it one day, plant, lesson, book or page at a time. Even after 15 years of gardening, I still learn something new every single day. Enjoy the process and soak it all in. Perfection is never the goal. Just grow a little something!

Please add any of your favorite gardening books that I missed in the comments section! Also feel free to spread the love by sharing or pinning this article below. Thanks for tuning in!



DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


2 Comments

  • Jess

    Welp, what an amazing summary!! Books like these provide inspiration during the winter months and serve as great resources during the summer season. Thanks for making my family’s Christmas shopping (for me) so easy! But ordering #9 asap. Can’t wait, won’t wait. LOL.

  • Couryney

    What a great article…at the perfect time. Deanna always does such an in-depth dive into each topic she writes about, and this one is no exception. Thank you for the amount of work you pour into these articles. I now have a couple new books on my Christmas list.

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