* For beginners and others: Mel Bartholomew, 'Square Foot Gardening'. Very valuable for beginners; I like the older book better than his newer one, which is called 'The All-New Square Foot Gardening'. If you get the older book, be sure to check his website as well: he has changed some of his recommendations. One change is substantial and makes the whole thing a lot less work, as he used to recommend that you dig down into the ground and now recommends building specially-mixed soil up on top of the ground (much easier): www.squarefootgardening.com
* For container gardening: McGee and Stuckey, 'Bountiful Container'. If you want to grow edibles in containers, buy this one for sure!
* For season extension: Eliot Coleman, 'Four Season Harvest'. Indispensable unless you live in a four-season gardening area. It tells you how to harvest fresh veggies through fall and into winter.
* For general knowing what to do and when to do it: 'The New Victory Garden', Bob Thomson.
* For starting seeds: Nancy Bubel, 'The New Seed Starter's Handbook'. Another indispensable book.
* For the wonderful world of Asian vegetables: Joy Larkcom, 'Oriental Vegetables'. And yet another indispensable book!
* For growing culinary herbs: Amanda Smith, 'Your Backyard Herb Garden'. No mystical herb arcana, just how to grow them and how to use them, a very nice book.
* For general knowledge of herbs: 'Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs'. I do not like this book, I don't like the way it is written, but I don't know of any other one that I like better that covers so many herbs.
* For high productivity in a small space: John Jeavons, 'How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine'. Jeavons advocates biodynamic gardening, which is a very productive method. This is a somewhat technically-written book, probably good for ex-computer people, engineers, etc. I use it too: it has figures on yields that I like.
*Fairly decent book with some good suggestions: Marjorie Hunt and Brenda Bortz, 'High-Yield Gardening'.
*For people who want to be inspired and love to read about gardening: Sylvia Thompson, 'The Kitchen Garden'.
*For seed saving plus some growing directions: Suzanne Ashworth, 'Seed to Seed'. Another indispensable book. Get the second edition, the first edition doesn't have the growing information.
*For diagnosing and coping with insects and diseases: Roger P. Yepsen, Jr., Editor, 'The Encyclopedia of Natural Insect and Disease Control' (published by Rodale Press).
I have all these books, plus quite a few more. But the ones above are the ones I think are really important.
You can buy almost all of them quite cheaply, used of course, and some of them are very cheap now. I use Amazon, or a book search engine: (http://www.addall.com/used) to locate the cheapest available copy. I've bought some really excellent books for less than a dollar, way less sometimes. I still must pay the shipping, darn it. 'Seed to Seed' is probably expensive even used, possibly a few more are expensive too. But mostly these should be very cheap.
Or you can get them on Inter-Library Loan, hopefully, from your public library. I often do this to evaluate a book before I spend money on it; then I can decide if I want to buy it or not.
If you can get hold of copies of the *old* 'Organic Gardening' magazine, pre-1990 or thereabouts, they are invaluable. The magazine of today is almost completely useless in my opinion. Sometimes sets of old ones are sold on Ebay.
If you want to make a 'trial run' at growing all your own food, get some of the pamphlets here: http://www.bountifulgardens.org. Specific recommendations for pamphlets, etc., are on my blog, and located here: http://entire-of-itself.blogspot.com/2006/05/growing-all-ones-food-on-as-little.html
PS - Also see my book review of 'Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers: Using Ed's Amazing POTS System,' by Edward C. Smith, which is on my blog as well, and located here: http://entire-of-itself.blogspot.com/2006/10/book-review-and-discussion-self.html.
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