The gardening books I live by

26 July 2011
I'm really pleased that vegetable gardening has become popular again because my optimism for the future grows when I think of it. I often receive emails from readers who ask me to recommend a good all-round gardening book. That's difficult to do because we all come from different climates and there are a variety of ways to garden and levels of experience. I am an organic gardener and have been for about 30 years. We had a vegetable patch and chooks in our last home, and when we moved here in 1997, I wanted to keep the vegetables growing and maybe expand a little. I was lucky, just before we moved, in 1996, Linda Woodrow produced her very influential book, The Permaculture Home Garden. I had already toyed with the idea of permaculture, bought Introduction to Permaculture and later The Permaculture Designer's Manual by Bill Molleson but they didn't grab me. Interesting yes, but not enough to get me to think more about a Permaculture garden. Then I picked up Linda's book.

I was hooked ... from the first sentence of her perfect introduction: This is a book about saving the planet and living to be one hundred, while throwing very impressive dinner parties and organising other creatures to do most of the work. How could anyone resist that!

The cover has changed but it's still a great book. I looked, and Linda's book is available on Amazon and at Fishpond.

From the time I bought Linda's book in early 1997, right up until we moved in November of that year, I read her words over and over again. By the time we'd arrived here I was ready. I can't say I do everything recommended in the book and we don't have a permaculture garden, but I am what I would call Lindaesque. Linda Woodrow's book is at the heart of my gardening philosophy. When I want to do something new, even now, I go to this book and see what Linda has to say about it. I know now that I liked this book from the beginning because it connects the vegetable garden to real life. It makes sense of food production in an ordinary backyard, and without being rigid and pedantic, it sets out a clear pathway. I love this book not only for it's pathway but also because it motivated me in a way no other gardening book ever did.  Linda's blog:

Linda reads here now and she doesn't know how highly I regard her book, or her, so I hope it's a pleasant surprise. Congratulations on being in print for 15 years, Linda. That is a rare achievement.

The other book I would recommend, should you ask, is Lyn Bagnall's Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting. This book taught me things I didn't know about plants and is full of the knowledge of a very experienced organic vegetable farmer. This book is about the organic production of vegetables, fruit and herbs, and if you plant by the moon, there is a planting guide up till 2013. There is no better book for the whys and wherefores of organic gardening.  Lyn sent me a signed copy of her book when it was published and I treasure it. She has the most helpful blog: where she shares her vast knowledge with all who go there. If you want to buy Lyn's book, you can do that from her blog.

BTW, neither Linda nor Lyn know I'm blogging about this today. Neither of them asked me to promote their book, nor did their publishers.

So that's it, short and sweet. I have a lot of cook books but I only have two gardening books. I guess that says it all.


  1. thelittleblackcowblogJuly 26, 2011 5:54 am

    My Linda Woodrow book never ends up in the book shelf is always being read and reread and I am always discovering something new in it. I think the great thing about the book is that she makes everything 'doable'and without a great deal of expense.It is also very dogeared now but I love it still.It was like a light came on in my head when I read it.
    My other favourite books are Jackie French's garden books with lots of great self suffiency tips.
    Great post - important to keep passing the gardening message on and the books you recommended may well get someone else gardening.

  2. For all the beginner gardeners out there, I would like to recommend,KITCHEN GARDEN COMPANION by Stephanie Alexander, she provides simple gardening advice on commonly grown vegetables WITH multiple simple recipies on what to do with the produce once harvested. A combined gardening/cookbook, I for one love it, and refer to it alot.

  3. Sounds like two fantastic books. I will be on the lookout !!
    Have a wonderful day.

  4. I absolutely LOVE the first book. I bought it a couple of months ago and it's currently doing the rounds of my gardening group. We call it 'The Book'.

    Everyone who reads it races off and buys a copy. I just want them to hurry up and read it so I can get it back!

  5. Linda's blog is also excellent:

    Cheers, Lee.

  6. We loved Lind's book so much that we designed our Market garden around her mandala system. We have 7 mandalas ie 7lots of 7 so 49 circles with 4 chook domes. And we met Lyn at her book launch here on the farm at a Hunter Organics Society field day. We were lucky enough to have her and her husband stay the night here and we were given a signed copy of the book also. Beautiful people. 2 great books.

  7. Linda' book got me inspired as well. It's easy to read and makes loads of sense. The book I use for local conditions here in Tasmania, is Peter Cundall's Year Round Gardening which is printed in plastic so the book can go out into the garden with you and not deteriorate if left outside. My copy has been in action since 1985.

  8. I know it's an English book and focuses on decorative potagers but it was 'Creative Vegetable Gardening' by Joy Larkcom that introduced me to the possibilities of vegetable gardening and the amazing variety of edible plants that could be grown together. I was inspired by this book to search out more unusual plants at the farmers markets for my own garden.
    For herb gardening my favourite reference is Jekka Mc Vicar's Complete Herb Book.
    For practical help I frequently refer to my stack of Organic Gardener magazines, so many useful articles.

  9. I've never read either of these, but I'm going to keep an eye out for them. My favourite gardening author is Jackie French. I also have the bonus that she owns a property not too far from here, so her advice is very fitting for our area.

  10. Thank you for this Rhonda. I have one permaculture book - "You can have your permaculture and eat it too" by Robin Clayfield... which is full of good recipes etc, but I have been looking for another way "in" to permaculture, short of doing a course, so Linda's book may be just the thing.

    Can I also just tell you today how much I love visiting your blog Rhonda?!There's always something that grabs my interest. To be honest, I can't say that about all the blogs I read. Many are hit and miss for me, but yours always delivers. So, thank you.

    Have a great day.

  11. That 2nd book looks interesting - will have to see if my library has it. I've got to make it a point to read up on things before taking the plunge - my poor tomatoes are doing horribly this summer - I think it's blossom end rot. I've fed them some epsom salts liquid but am not expecting much. Will probably have to pull them in order to plant something for the fall.

  12. Thanks Rhonda and everyone else as now I can get myself a copy of a book or two suggested here and as the weather improves so will my sad attempt at establishing two large veggie patches.

  13. I've borrowed Linda's book from the library but I already owned Rosemary Morrow's 'Earth user's Guide to Permaculture' , the reprinted 1994 version by Kangaroo Press. Both books use references from Bill Molleson's books. I don't know if Rosemary's book is still available.
    Thanks so much for the links.

  14. Good Morning Rhonda,
    I bought Lyn Bagnall's Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting book 3 years ago and haven't put it down since.It is the mosted treasured book I own and I would recommend it to anyone. Regards

  15. My husband has the permaculture book, but I haven't heard of the second one. I'm off to see if it's available through my library now. Thanks!

  16. I have and love Linda's book too. I also love Jenny Allen's permaculture book as it is all about her story of establishing a great garden and really gets you to think about the whole area you have to work with - much easier reading than the more technical aspects!

  17. For me, Jackie French 'The Wilderness Garden'. I have had the good fortune to work with Jackie and open her garden for once a year workshops with visitors in a previous life. The weekend spent with her and Bryan was always the highlight of my year. And you can't go past Elliot Coleman's New Organic Gardener or the Allsun Farm cdrom.

  18. Rhonda, I too, have owned and used almost exclusively, Linda's great book since 1997. What a wealth of experience she has. I shall check with my library tomorrow as to whether they have Lyn Bagnall's book.
    Linda, I read somewhere that you have a composting toilet. We do too, and I consider them one of the best water saving means that there is.
    Love how you share your lifestyle and simple ideas with us, Rhonda. Hope you can for many years still.
    Many thanks to you both.
    Lyn in Northern new South Wales.ble

  19. Anything by Eliot Coleman, or Charles Dowding, his British equivalent. Both market gardeners first, writers as a consequence of their ability.

    I also have a collection of original Dig for Victory books which were aimed at beginners and are as clear and precise as you could wish for. Obviously, you have to edit out of your mind the various poisons they advocate, but otherwise they are priceless.



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