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There is Organic Gardening magazine which seems to be recycling the same articles it was running 40 years ago. Not that this is bad. Are they the single best source for organic gardening know-how these days, especially for someone new? If your friend told you they were going to plant an edible organic garden in their backyard but didn't know how, where would you point them?

asked Jan 22 '13 at 13:09

Kevin%20Kelly's gravatar image

Kevin Kelly

This answer could go on for pages and pages, but in short, I would recommend old-fashioned books. Websites that deal with organic gardening still aren't well organized. There is also a wealth of information that isn't about Organic Gardening per se, such as Permaculture books. I like:

  • The New Organic Grower (or anything by Eliot Coleman)
  • Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier (he has a new book coming out next month, too)
  • Roots Demystified by Robert Kourik
  • Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway
  • Many old Rodale standbys, such as their books on Organic Gardening, Compost, Natural Pest Control, etc

If you need internet help, the forums at GardenWeb are the best.


answered Jan 22 '13 at 16:52

bengarland's gravatar image


edited Jan 22 '13 at 16:52

As a former organic berry farmer I second Ben's sentiments. Newer content is primarily just old content that's been repackaged, and often watered down with more emphasis on photos and attractive layouts than on substantive content.

I haven't found any single book more useful than a Rodale Organic Gardening from somewhere in the mid-60s to mid-70s (I don't have it in front of me so I'm not certain about the date, but it was definitely published before 1980.) Some of the information is a bit idealistic and best-case-scenario, but not any more so than any other organic gardening books I've read. Also, since it's from an era closer to the pre-chemical farming days, much of it is common-sense good agricultural practice; much of that knowledge has been forgotten in the decades since. More recent Rodale books are disappointing in comparison.


answered Jan 23 '13 at 18:02

FunGuy's gravatar image


I have several hundred books on organic gardening and farming, permaculture and homesteading, narrowing it down to a few is tough. Ben Gardland's recommendations are spot on, I especially like Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables. I've read through it several times, my wife calls it my "fantasy farming" book. A few more I would add:

  • Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew is excellent for beginners. Mel's a former engineer, he breaks it down very simply.
  • The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe. Not for beginners, but focused on 5 primary staples: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and duck eggs. Carol's a Harvard PhD trained plant breeder, tao te ching translator, and a great writer.
  • Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik is finally back in print. So much information is packed into this book, and it's a little more expensive, but it is worth it.
  • You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise by Joel Salatin. Written in 1998, before Joel become a locavore celebrity, I think it's his best book. Focused more on farming than gardening, there is more wisdom than technique in this book, especially on business and entrepreneurship (and on how to relate with neighbors in the countryside), but very readable and highly recommended. The chapter on Soil Fertility is excellent.

I could go on, but if someone read half of these books and planted something every year, it wouldn't take more than half a lifetime to know what they were doing growing food. :-)


answered Jan 26 '13 at 09:57

christopherpeck's gravatar image


John Jeavons is kind of the thought leader on this topic. How to Grow More Vegetables is my bible.


answered Jan 30 '13 at 10:45

S_W's gravatar image


Consider the Organic Growers School (OGS), an Asheville, NC based non profit which has been educating about organic farming and gardening for 20 years. The OGS annual Spring Conference, and associated online library of resources, are chock full of information for organic growers. OGS also publishes a monthly newsletter with gardener advice column (also archived online), and recently began maintaining a blog.


answered Jan 24 '13 at 10:06

meremckissick's gravatar image


A number of years ago, I got started with two books. You Can Farm by Joel Salatin and The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. Smith's book was a great way to get started with the basics. As in "this is how you make soil; this is how you plant a seed." As intro's, great. Granted I've not gone through most of Rodale's library, and gone as far as partially digesting Jacke and Toensmeier's two volume Edible Forest Gardens. But that's kind of hardcore.

Also books are a good way to learn anything outside (as opposed to online stuff). Don't want to get your laptop covered in compost.


answered Jan 26 '13 at 13:43

Marktropolis's gravatar image


Three books not already mentioned which I've found to be highly useful in my 'kitchen garden': Four Season Harvest by Coleman The Humanure Handbook by Jenkins The New Seed Starters Handbook by Bubel


answered Feb 05 '13 at 07:35

dachaman's gravatar image


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Asked: Jan 22 '13 at 13:09

Seen: 2,676 times

Last updated: Feb 05 '13 at 07:35

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