Off The Shelf

I have always had a passion for “useful” garden books. You know – books that hold the answers to questions that confront you as you ride the lifetime learning curve of a gardener. Questions like “Do Alpine Strawberries need to be stratified?” “What are good garden companions for cucumbers?” “Is Sweet Marjoram hardy in my zone?”

I constantly pull books off of my shelves for answers to gardening questions. My book collection fills many shelves and I always find answers. I totally get the fact that Google is a great research tool and I personally find some answers on-line. But – when push comes to shove, at least for me – I love to hold a book in my hands. We grow a garden. We can, freeze, dry and store much of our food. Collecting useful how-to books is another way for us to make ourselves less dependent.

I thought I would share a few of my favorite gardening question go-to books.

Ency. of Country Living

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery is the bible of homesteading/do-it-yourself books. This “Old Fashioned Recipe Book “is 885 pages of information. If you dream about living in the country and doing things for yourself then Carla Emery’s book is an essential resource. Want to know how to can or dry foods? Raise chickens, or goats, or catch a pig? Want to bake bread, make jellies or jams? Want to grow your own bread grains, vegetables, or fruits? Carla Emery DeLong’s (DeLong was her second marraige) book will guide you through your learning curve. The chapter on Garden Vegetables is loaded with practical advice. Mrs. Emery/DeLong began this wonderful tome in 1969 and from then until her death in 2005 continued to add and update information. I bought my first copy of this book in the ’70’s, loaned it to a friend, and never saw it again.The copy you see in the picture is the 1994 ninth edition. There is now a 10th edition and a 40th Anniversary edition available. Have a yen for do-it-yourself books? Gotta have this one!

seed to bloom 2

Eileen Powell has been my go to author for flower seed germination questions since I bought her 1995 book From Seed To Bloom. I loved this book and found it to be so useful I tore it apart, page-by-page, and put it all into a more accessible three ring notebook. For many years I glued in additional seed starting information and added many hand written notes. The page in the picture shows my collected information on growing morning glories. The glued-in type written note is from a gentleman that sent me a package of mixed morning glory seeds. His note shared his proven techniques for growing beautiful morning glories. This notebook is now my personal flower starting journal.

Powell and Denkla

In 2004 I bought Powell’s The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Flowers. This book is an alphabetical encyclopedia of annuals, perennials, and bulbs – and is filled with information about flower seed sowing, germination, transplanting, maintenance, propagation, and garden companions. It seems to be a concise version of Powell’s 1995 A-Z guide. I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves growing flowers from seed.

The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is by far my favorite book about growing healthy food. The book includes chapters on vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts. Information includes germination temperatures, soil and water needs, measurements in the garden, pests, and my favorite part, first seed starting dates and last seed starting dates. Reading this book is like having a discussion with an experienced gardener. I share this book with every seed starting class I teach.

Nancy Bubel

The Seed Starter’s Handbook is the book that kick started my love for growing from seed. My original copy of Nancy Bubel’s 1978 book is full of underlined sentences and scribbled notes proving that it was the book that guided me through my first steps of growing from seed. The New Seed-Starters Handbook – 1988 – is an updated version that includes an Encyclopedia of Plants to Grow From Seed. The title of this handbook could easily be Everything you Ever Wanted to Know About Growing From Seed. If you are building a gardening library this book belongs on your shelf.

seed to seed ashworth

Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed from Seed Saver’s Exchange is another “bible” that should be on every serious gardener’s book shelf. The author tells us, upon researching small scale seed saving and not finding a book on the subject, “What was needed, I realized, was a book that would . . . . . . . . facilitate small-scale seed saving of all common and obscure vegetables grown in the United Stated”. Her reference book is for anyone that wants to learn how to safely collect and save seeds from their garden. The book is divided into plant families and is plainly written and understandable to even the most inexperienced gardener. If you are trying to develop gardening independence Seed to Seed should be in your library.

Floras Plant Names

Flora’s Plant Names from Timber Press is a Dictionary of Common Names. This book is ALWAYS on my desk. Common names for plants are so confusing, after all, what are Fairies Thimbles? Flora’s tell us that the botanical name for this plant is Campanula cochlearifolia – a gorgeous blue fairy of a flower. Knowing the botanical name means I can search for seeds, research how to grow it, and be certain that the information I find will match the plant. I find this book especially useful while I plan my gardens. Knowing botanical names means I will end up with exactly what I want.

I found Flora’s Plant Names in the Edward R. Hamilton catalog of Bargain Books and bought 40 copies for my classes. Costs for catalog purchases include the cost of the books plus a $3.50 shipping fee – no matter how many books you order – checks only no credit cards. If you go to their site you can also order books on line with a credit card and an additional cost of $3.50 plus $.40 per item. Scroll to the bottom of the home page you can have them send you a catalog or catalogs about specific topics. I like their New Arrivals and Home and Garden catalogs.

Check with your local library for these books or go straight to Amazon and order them on-line. Look for future “Off The Shelf” posts about more of my favorite gardening and home food preservation books. I look forward to sharing!

Hey from the farm
Fran The Country Cousin

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