The best books for beyond-organic gardeners

Anna Hess Author Of The Ultimate Guide to Soil: The Real Dirt on Cultivating Crops, Compost, and a Healthier Home
By Anna Hess

Who am I?

If I'm honest, I became a gardener because I like getting dirty. Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Tom Kitten is the story of my childhood (and my adulthood too, only now I don't have to pretend I'm going to stay clean). Of course, high-quality soil leads to high-quality produce, and I deeply adore the flavors of strawberries growing in deep, dark soil. Biting into a juicy, homegrown tomato still warm from the summer sun is bliss.


I wrote...

The Ultimate Guide to Soil: The Real Dirt on Cultivating Crops, Compost, and a Healthier Home

By Anna Hess,

Book cover of The Ultimate Guide to Soil: The Real Dirt on Cultivating Crops, Compost, and a Healthier Home

What is my book about?

Grow twice the fruits and vegetables in half the space on the farm, in the backyard, or in your window. Using simple techniques like soil testing, remineralization, no-till gardening, and soil amendments, The Ultimate Guide to Soil gives you the real dirt on good soil. Maybe next year your neighbor will be envious of you!

The books I picked & why

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Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

By Steve Solomon,

Book cover of Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

Why this book?

First, let me explain where I'm coming from – my husband and I spent over a decade growing nearly all of our own vegetables and a considerable portion of our other sustenance on our homestead. So even though our current smaller plot only feeds us a side dish or three per day, I tend to think of gardening as something that should be good for our wallets as well as our bellies and the earth. Gardening When It Counts is all that and is 100% based on the author's personal experience growing most of his own food. Highly recommended.


The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses

By Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch (photographer),

Book cover of The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses

Why this book?

If you only grow from the last frost to the first frost, your gardening season is extremely short. But a few simple season-extension techniques can mean you harvest fresh food nearly every day of the year. I've used Eliot Coleman's crop suggestions and his quick hoops and can say from experience that they make all the difference during the cold season.


The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

By Carol Deppe,

Book cover of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

Why this book?

I have a love/hate relationship with permaculture. I adore the concept...and when I put most authors' assertions into practice, I find that I get a much lower yield than doing things the old way. That's why I enjoy books like this one from gardeners who walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Warning: You will be sorely tempted to buy ducks. Resist, resist!


The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

By Ben Falk,

Book cover of The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

Why this book?

This book has all of the same selling points as Carol Deppe's but is geared a bit more toward those with larger homesteads rather than a simple backyard plot. Even if you're an urban homesteader, though, the title is well worth a read to drum up outside-the-box ideas.


Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web

By Jeff Lowenfels, Wayne Lewis,

Book cover of Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web

Why this book?

This is a different type of book than the ones listed above but is nonetheless essential for the gardener who wants to enrich rather than deplete their soil. Once you learn about the beneficial fungi, bacteria, and other critters that make up the soil food web, you'll think twice about tearing up their landscape with a rototiller.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in flora, self-sustainability, and Vermont?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about flora, self-sustainability, and Vermont.

Flora Explore 17 books about flora
Self-Sustainability Explore 8 books about self-sustainability
Vermont Explore 21 books about Vermont

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The No Dig Organic Home & Garden: Grow, Cook, Use, and Store Your Harvest, Organic Gardening for Everyone: Homegrown Vegetables Made Easy - No Experience Required!, and The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency if you like this list.