The best books for gaining garden know-how

Pam Peirce Author Of Golden Gate Gardening,  The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area & Coastal California
By Pam Peirce

Who am I?

When I was studying plant science in graduate school, I realized that what I really wanted to do was not lab research but to help people understand plants better so they could grow more beautiful and bountiful gardens. To this end, I have written several books, founded the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), taught horticulture at City College of San Francisco for several decades, and, since 2006, written a column on gardening for the SF Chronicle. My list of books about gardening know-how will painlessly prepare you to grow plants well.


I wrote...

Golden Gate Gardening, The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area & Coastal California

By Pam Peirce,

Book cover of Golden Gate Gardening,  The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area & Coastal California

What is my book about?

Now in its third, revised edition, Golden Gate Gardening introduces readers to food gardening in California from Eureka to San Luis Obispo, and from the coast inland to the edge of the Central Valley. This mediterranean-climate region is like no other in the U. S. Summers vary from cool at the coast to hot inland, with rain only in winters. The whole region allows year-round production of vegetables, herbs, fruits, edible, and cutting flowers.

This book is an indispensable source of information on all the topics you need for success: what to plant and when, how to start seed, prepare the soil, conserve water, control weeds, and manage pests in less-toxic ways. It is a clear, friendly book that will guide you to garden success and enjoyment.

The books I picked & why

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Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees

By Ann Ralph,

Book cover of Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees

Why this book?

Ann Ralph, formerly in charge of the fruit tree section of Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, has written a short, easy to use, book on caring for fruit trees. It should come with every fruit tree sold, since its text and illustrations so effectively teach the methods of planting, pruning, and ongoing care that will produce delicious fruit. 


Roots Demystified: Change Your Gardening Habits to Help Roots Thrive

By Robert Kourik,

Book cover of Roots Demystified: Change Your Gardening Habits to Help Roots Thrive

Why this book?

Once you have looked at the root drawings of common garden edible and ornamental plants in this book, you will become able to imagine what is going on in the underground part of plants. This ability will help you water by hand or set up a drip system. It will also help you to plant successfully, mulch well, and use the best weeding methods for different plants. The book includes text and diagrams that teach how to set up a drip irrigation system. 


My Weeds: A Gardener's Botany

By Sarah B. Stein,

Book cover of My Weeds: A Gardener's Botany

Why this book?

While you will learn much about the nature and management of weeds from this book, you will also find yourself painlessly learning the basics of botany-- the parts of plants, how they live, how seeds evolved, how ecosystems evolve. While she keeps weeds at bay, Stein favors a garden, as do I, in which the desirable plants may self-sow a bit. It is a gardening philosophy that is current and can produce lovely, serendipitous gardens. 


The Informed Gardener

By Linda Chalker-Scott,

Book cover of The Informed Gardener

Why this book?

The author, who was for many years an extension urban horticulturist and associate professor at Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, does gardeners a great service by taking on common garden myths about fertilizer, mulch, transplanting, staking, compost tea, watering and many more potentially confusing topics. In this and her subsequent books, she skillfully debunks myths with current research and her professional experience.


The Climate Conscious Gardener

By Janet Marinelli,

Book cover of The Climate Conscious Gardener

Why this book?

This little book, part of a series put out by the Garden, will show you the best ways to offset climate change in your gardening and landscaping. It includes tips on materials, energy efficiency, and increasing carbon sequestration. A chapter by Amanda Knaul and Susan K. Pell covers the climate footprint of homegrown food. 


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