For people who want to practice the organic and permaculture style of home gardening in the manner that is done on this site, it is always nice to have a few companion books to keep around the house.
We decided to take a look at the top 5 best selling organic gardening books on Amazon to see if they were in line with the methods we practice on this site. The star ratings and reviews reflect the opinions of the author of this article, and if you disagree or want to add something, please drop us a comment.
1. Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre
Author: Brett L. Markham
Our Rating: (3.5 / 5)
Our Review Summary: Good reference text that covers a lot of different topics with some great charts and tables, but not a good how-to guide for the beginning small space organic gardener. Impersonal tone.
Our Review: This book is the number one selling book on organic gardening at Amazon. It is written in what I would describe as a textbook style, overview format. Although it covers a wide range of great topics that readers of our website are interested in, it really doesn’t walk the reader through how to actually do things in a step-by-step manner. In checking other reviews of the book, many have described it is impersonal and not very fun to read, and I would have to agree.
The author clearly has a wealth of information on the topic of small space home gardening, and there are a ton of topics covered, but most of them are just touched on. Having said that, the book is great to keep for a reference because there is a lot of great information on soil diseases, times to maturity, tips for building various types of trellises, beds, stuff for chickens, etc.
For me, this book is great to read through from time to time to get ideas about things I could be doing differently. The topics mentioned are all solid concepts, and definitely fit with what we are trying to accomplish in our gardening. I have gotten some great article ideas from it, because it brings up things that I think are great, but that need to be explained and fleshed out for the average gardener to be able to understand.
With regard to the claims of making money from selling one’s produce, I would say that things are never as easy as they look on paper, and one should be into this hobby to produce their own high quality produce. I would strongly caution a person who doesn’t know much about gardening to think that they can somehow follow this information and suddenly have a successful business.
2. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd ed.
Author: Edward C. Smith
Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)
Review Summary: The name says it all. This is one of the best organic gardening books ever made and we fully endorse it.
Our Review: This book is a true classic and provides a complete resource for traditional organic gardening. There is a ton of information on garden beds, plant positioning, bed depth, blocking wind with trellises, seed selection, tips on what to grow, simple and effective crop rotation strategies, companion planting, planting diagrams, seed starting & transplanting, weeding, watering, the best tools, mulches, when to harvest, storing the harvest, tons of stuff about soil health, compost, pests and disease control, and much more.
There are a lot of very helpful charts and tables, and the final section has a huge amount of information and details about how to grow every garden plant imaginable. There are 840 pages and the book includes a huge and very handy index. Every organic gardener should have a copy of this book at home. One issue is that he advocates a lot of rototilling, and we don’t, but that is the only thing I find that I disagree with.
3. The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming
Author: Jean-Martin Fortier
Our Rating: (2 / 5)
Review Summary: Highly technical description of how a full time farm in Canada operates its growing business. Involves techniques that are mostly not practical for the home and hobby grower.
Our Review: To be clear, this book is for people who want to go into the full time business of farming for profit on a small scale, and it is not for the home gardener who wants to grow quality produce and maybe sell the rest at the local farmers market. So, therefore, it is not for us or the majority of our readers.
This book is basically a well laid out explanation of how this particular small scale farm in Quebec does things. Unfortunately our us, they way they do things involves tilling, buying super composts, applying bio pesticides (which they hate to do but still do anyway), and burning weeds with special torches. The home gardener and urban farmer is not going to want to do these things, nor will they likely want to follow the very technical and scientific systems such as their complicated fertilization systems and 10 year crop rotation tables.
It would be a great book for perhaps an already established full-time farmer who wants to convert over to some more organic methods, but it is not for us, and it is surprising to me that this book sold so many copies.
4. Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening
Author: Louise Riotte
Our Rating: (3 / 5)
Review Summary: Reference manual for almost every plant imaginable with respect to suggested companions as well as plants that may not work well interplanted with them. Very specific with regard to companion information but not very helpful to overall organic gardening or the home gardener.
Our Review: This book would be good for people who are really interested in companion planting, but for me, it is just way too much information on this topic, so much so, that I lose interest almost immediately. The majority of the book is a listing of every plant in alphabetical order within broad categories, such as vegetables, herbs, fruits, etc. with a brief description of what plants do well planted with it and which plant may hinder it, along with some brief reasons why. The rest of the book covers some great gardening topics, but does not go very deep at all into any of them. I was hoping for some really cool companion strategies, diagrams, and plans for where to place plants, but for the most part, in my opinion, that is not present in this book. There is a section on garden plans, but it is far too broad to be of real use to the home gardener. Reading this whole book and taking in all of the information of what helps what and what hurts what, leaves this reader feeling confused and overwhelmed.
5. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition
Author: Toby Hemenway
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
Review Summary: A must own for home organic and permaculture style gardeners. This is the best book ever written on gardening.
Our Review: Hemenway fully explains permaculture and how it can be used in the home garden. He outlines how the garden is an ecosystem, discusses blending the many functions of plants, and goes in depth on microclimates, hugelkultur, attracting insects and wildlife. The book proposes ingenious interplanting systems using plant guilds, and offers step-by-step instructions for designing specific bed systems and what to do from seed to harvest. The book shows anyone how to take the garden from a bare lawn to a food forest. There are tons of home garden designs that work in multiple ways, urban gardening tips, and many charts, tables, and diagrams as well as beautiful pictures of thriving home gardens. The book is a must have for any gardener.
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