Let the Library Help You Get Growing!

Some selected books on vegetable gardening from the Mercer County Library System collection.

General Guides

General Garden Guides
The Vegetable Gardeners Bible by Edward C. Smith is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of growing vegetables and herbs. It discusses planning your garden, the tools you will need, soil preparation, and includes an introduction to composting and an illustrated guide to dealing with disease and pests. A series of plant and herb portraits follows the extensive introductory material covering guidelines on sowing and growing, how to plant, watering and sunlight requirements, suggested nutrients as well as some suggested varieties. These portraits range from one to several pages long and include color photography.

The Gardeners’ A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food by Tanya L.K. Denckla is another good general gardening guide. In addition to vegetables and herbs, this title includes a section on fruits and nuts and also covers planting and maintaining trees, bushes and canes. The plant portraits are similar in content to The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible but do not include photographs. There is also a large section on organic remedies for garden problems.

Burpee – The Complete Vegetable and Herb Gardener which, like The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, is a comprehensive look at growing herbs and vegetables, from soil preparation to harvesting. It also includes extensive color photography. It is the most encyclopedic in tone and approach.

In summary, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is probably the best for the beginner. It assumes nothing and walks the novice gardener through every step of the process but is also detailed enough for the experienced gardener. Denckla’s book is valuable in that it includes information on growing fruits and nuts. The Burpee book is encyclopedic in both the good and bad sense in that it lacks the personal tone of Smith’s book but covers a great deal of material.


Tantalizing Tomatoes
No discussion of vegetable gardening in New Jersey would be complete without tomatoes (yes, technically the tomato is a fruit but botany is not destiny). Smith’s book provides perfectly adequate coverage but, for those wishing to go into greater depth, there is Tantalizing Tomatoes, which is part of the 21st-Century Gardening series from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. This book covers tomato history and lore, explains the information on disease-resistance available on tomato seed and plant labels, describes sowing and growing and explains six ways to trellis tomatoes. It also includes a section of experts’ choices and provides brief summaries of the characteristics of many different varieties. Finally, there is a section with recipes and information on canning. The Total Tomato by Fred DuBose contains a brief history, gives a more detailed description of many different varieties and has a large section on cultivation.

Container Gardening

Container Gardening
For those with limited or no access to sunny ground, containers offer an alternative that allows them to grow many different vegetable, herbs and edible flowers. Edward C. Smith has a “bible” for this as well. The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible covers the same issues of selection and cultivation covered in his book on “flat earth gardening” but applies them to containers. While the book is oriented toward self-watering containers, its principles are generally applicable. The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey is a comprehensive look at the subject, with an initial discussion of equipment and technique followed by an extensive and detailed discussion of vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers suitable for this technique.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving
There are several guides concerning diagnosing and responding to problems such as pests, diseases and weeds. A fairly recent one is What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden by David C. Deardoff and Kathryn Wadsworth. It begins with a useful guide to garden problems - illustrated with photographs - of the symptoms, a diagnosis and a solution that directs one to general and specific guidelines. Another source is Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Fern Marshall Bradley. Following a brief introduction on soil, topics are arranged alphabetically with vegetable pests and subjects such as season extension intermingled. Several pages are devoted to each topic and some extend to five pages. Most topics are illustrated with drawings or diagrams.

Matt L.


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