Garden Books Galore

Annotated map of our yard.

Detail of keyhole beds from Gaia’s Garden.

Tasha Tudor Reminding me that skirts and dirt go well together.

The stacks of our public library yielded this inspiration:

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway is the best home permaculture book I’ve found. Hemenway carefully builds a framework (or should that be layers a sheet mulch?) of how to understand and create an “ecological garden.” Why to mix perennials and annuals, how to layer plants, the importance of building soil, the role of observation in the garden, and so much more. This is one of the best gardening book’s I’ve ever read.

Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World by Wendy Johnson is, simply, beautiful. For decades Johnson has tended the gardens at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County, California. Her writing is as skilled and mindful as the gardens she describes. One part poetic storytelling of a life of Zen meditation and turning dirt, one part highly thoughtful and comprehensive narrative of gardening lore. Anyone who likes to think about plants, gardens, meditation, compost, koans, and their kin will love this book. Even if you just love one of those things, Wendy Johnson will make you swoon for all the rest.

The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing the Green World edited by Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson isn’t a gardening book. It is a book about connection and relationship between women and plants, and ranges from the garden to the wilds, touching upon every aspect of green growing things. It includes essays and poems and stories by many writers you already love and others you will come to love, including Zora Neale Hurston, Isabel Allende, Alice Walker, Rachel Carson, and dozens of others. This book is an inspiration that will have you humming with appreciation for your particular plot of earth, the larger homeground beyond it, and the green tribes that fill your life. I revisit this book every year.

When I delve into a subject, I go full bore (a remnant of my interest-led unschooling years, perhaps?) I absolutely inhale everything I can get on the topic, applying it as I go and eventually moving on, a bit wiser for my efforts. A few other gardening books on hold for me at the library, or ordered through interlibrary loan:

How to Grow More Vegetables… by John Jeavons. A classic of bio-intensive gardening that everyone else seems to refer to.

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik

The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka

Gardening for the Future of the Earth by Howard Yana Shapiro and John Harrison

Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth

The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman

I told you, I’m voracious. Probably won’t get all the way through this list before the actual work of gardening takes hold of me and I turn to the plants and soil to teach me all I need to know. But I might get close. And there’s always next year. For now, I’ll plant the fertile beds of my imagination for whatever harvest lies ahead.

p.s. what are your favorite books?

10 Replies to “Garden Books Galore”

  1. oh, time and time again I turn to Carla Emery’s Homesteading book…
    We just planted a bit of lettuce and snap peas over the weekend… super early for way up here, but it has been unseasonably warm, so we shall see…
    Your selection of books are wonderful.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

    1. Ahh, thanks for the reminder about Carla’s book. I haven’t delved into it since canning season ended. Good luck with your sprouts!

  2. I’ve been reading Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate for a year. Her writing is so luscious and surprising and down to earth and gorgeous, I can just bite off small chunks at a time.

    Gaia’s garden and 4-season harvest were both super inspiring to me.


    1. I love our library, not least for the virtue of patience that it cultivates in me out of necessity. It is usually luck and providence when they have what I’m looking for. And I find ways to be content with what they do have, even when it’s not what I was looking for.

  3. Oh wow, thanks for putting up the picture of the keyhole gardens, I’ve never thought about gardening that way before. Very inspirational, right now I’m confined to patio gardening at my apartment but someday I’d love to create something like that. Happy Gardening!

  4. Hi Kyce,

    I just discovered your blog a few days ago, and love reading your posts randomly here and there. Beautiful writing. Thank you! – I don’t have a gardening book to recommend, but a great web article on gardening in New Mexico, which I think you might like. I try to get information on gardening appropriate for the climate that I live in (which is CO, so kind of close to NM). The best part of the article is the detailed information on each vegetable group toward the end of the article. Enjoy!

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