The best compost books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about compost and why they recommend each book.

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Common-Sense Compost Making

By M.E. Bruce,

Book cover of Common-Sense Compost Making: By The Quick Return Method

I love how Maye thought deeply about nature and this had originally led her to the pioneers of biodynamic gardening in 1920s Austria. Then she became disillusioned with what she felt was too strict of adherence to every word of Rudolf Steiner’s writing. Like me, she wanted to try new approaches. After moving back to the UK in the 1930s, she developed her own methods of organic gardening which centred on making top quality compost, using herbal stimulants which she worked out herself.
She was a true scientist and helped me to understand not to trust “accepted views” which can become authoritarian. Plus I learnt about making great compost, in particular the roof she used to keep rain off her heaps.

Who am I?

Since 1979 the life of soil and plants, and how they link to our own lives and health, has fascinated me. In the 1980s I was a maverick because as an organic market gardener, my work was mostly seen as irrelevant to society, producing food that was expensive and for only a few people. That changed from 1988 when the BBC filmed my garden, and green consciousness developed. Since then I have gone from being zero to hero and especially with regard to soil because since 1982 I've been gardening with the no dig method. My experience allows me to direct you towards these gems, which I'm sure you will find useful and enjoyable.


I wrote...

No Dig: Nurture Your Soil to Grow Better Veg with Less Effort

By Charles Dowding,

Book cover of No Dig: Nurture Your Soil to Grow Better Veg with Less Effort

What is my book about?

Charles has brought the value of no dig to a worldwide audience. In this book, he brings you the knowledge and techniques you need for successful vegetable growing, based on his decades of experience. 

Charles’ desire is to save you time and that you succeed all the time. He advises on how to create planting plans, succeeding with succession and reducing rotation, saving seed, propagation, multisowing, spacing for all common vegetables, methods of harvesting and how they influence growth, watering both when and how much, and using covers for warmth as well as pest protection. He also describes winter gardening, growing perennial vegetables, and new ways to increase growth quickly and cheaply. 

The Informed Gardener

By Linda Chalker-Scott,

Book cover of The Informed Gardener

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.


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 No Dig Organic Home & Garden

By Charles Dowding, Stephanie Hafferty,

Book cover of The No Dig Organic Home & Garden: Grow, Cook, Use, and Store Your Harvest

Organics, raised beds, permaculture, vertical gardening: there are plenty of exciting new ideas coming out of the veg patch. One of the most persuasive is Charles Dowding’s no-dig brigade. Many of my ‘can’t dig’ friends are joining up too, prevented from wielding a spade by sore backs, arthritis, and other such ailments. This regime of hand weeding and hoeing, and freshening the soil with generous helpings of homemade mulching composts is so much kinder to the planet than plastering it with artificial fertilisers.


Who am I?

Veg. I grow it; I nurture it; I shield it from cold winds, protect it from voracious pigeons, warm it against sudden frosts. And then I share it with friends, family, and neighbours… and we eat it. In between times I might write something gardeny or historical, but you’ll usually find me back on my veg plot, a little urban allotment in the west of England. I do a lot of reading there too! 


I wrote...

Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History

By Bill Laws,

Book cover of Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History

What is my book about?

We give flowers. We spend hours nurturing our gardens. We use plants in dyes, construction, cosmetics, and medicines. And we don’t give them a second thought. 

Here’s the irony – we are entirely dependent on them. Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History examines some of the plants that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. It’s a useful reminder that we should never take plants for granted.

Square Foot Gardening

By Mel Bartholomew,

Book cover of Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work

This book cracks the code on how to get the most veggies out of a small, raised bed gardening system. It is no surprise that this book seems to have spurred a whole movement and fundamentally changed the way many people garden. I really appreciate how Bartholomew lays out the steps and techniques to consider and gives the spacing needed for specific types of plants. He also incorporates compost into his raised beds, so he gets a high five from me.


Who am I?

For me, backyard composting is more than just a way to lessen how much waste I send to the landfill. When you compost you transform items that many people consider garbage into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. You are creating something with real value that can help plants thrive and act as a carbon sink to help reduce negative impacts of climate change. Composting is so easy and rewarding that I really want to see everyone give it a try.


I wrote...

No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

By Michelle Balz,

Book cover of No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

What is my book about?

In No-Waste Composting, you’ll discover the hows and whys of composting and find over a dozen practical step-by-step plans for building both indoor and outdoor composting systems that require a minimal amount of space. Build a DIY worm-composting system for a cupboard or garage. Craft a layered, composting system from terra cotta pots.  Construct a simple outdoor compost bin from repurposed wooden pallets. Use upcycled wire fencing to build a mobile composting system on the driveway.

Whether you’re just starting your no-waste journey or you’re a seasoned recycling and repurposing pro, No-Waste Composting is an invaluable tool to have at your side. This book is part of the Cool Springs Press No-Waste Gardening series, which also includes No-Waste Kitchen Gardening and No-Waste Organic Gardening.

Veg in One Bed

By Huw Richards,

Book cover of Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month

A well-followed YouTuber, Huw Richards is a relative newcomer to the vegetable garden, one of the new generation. I like the way he explores the rich potential of the raised bed – that’s right: just one. And he manages to incorporate every backyard trick from harvesting pea shoots to making compost. As ambitious as it’s appealing, his Veg in One Bed will probably persuade most backyard veggie growers to expand their plots before the first season is even over. 


Who am I?

Veg. I grow it; I nurture it; I shield it from cold winds, protect it from voracious pigeons, warm it against sudden frosts. And then I share it with friends, family, and neighbours… and we eat it. In between times I might write something gardeny or historical, but you’ll usually find me back on my veg plot, a little urban allotment in the west of England. I do a lot of reading there too! 


I wrote...

Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History

By Bill Laws,

Book cover of Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History

What is my book about?

We give flowers. We spend hours nurturing our gardens. We use plants in dyes, construction, cosmetics, and medicines. And we don’t give them a second thought. 

Here’s the irony – we are entirely dependent on them. Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History examines some of the plants that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. It’s a useful reminder that we should never take plants for granted.

Fruit Trees for Every Garden

By Orin Martin, Manjula Martin,

Book cover of Fruit Trees for Every Garden: An Organic Approach to Growing Apples, Pears, Peaches, Plums, Citrus, and More

Fruit Trees for Every Garden was an excellent guide for me as I dream of planting my small backyard orchard. You can tell by reading the text that Martin really knows his stuff and as you read it feels more like an old friend sharing their wisdom over coffee than reading a textbook. The photos are lovely and warrant checking out the book on their own. Martin also dives extensively into the importance of using compost when planting trees, so he earns big points from me.


Who am I?

For me, backyard composting is more than just a way to lessen how much waste I send to the landfill. When you compost you transform items that many people consider garbage into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. You are creating something with real value that can help plants thrive and act as a carbon sink to help reduce negative impacts of climate change. Composting is so easy and rewarding that I really want to see everyone give it a try.


I wrote...

No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

By Michelle Balz,

Book cover of No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

What is my book about?

In No-Waste Composting, you’ll discover the hows and whys of composting and find over a dozen practical step-by-step plans for building both indoor and outdoor composting systems that require a minimal amount of space. Build a DIY worm-composting system for a cupboard or garage. Craft a layered, composting system from terra cotta pots.  Construct a simple outdoor compost bin from repurposed wooden pallets. Use upcycled wire fencing to build a mobile composting system on the driveway.

Whether you’re just starting your no-waste journey or you’re a seasoned recycling and repurposing pro, No-Waste Composting is an invaluable tool to have at your side. This book is part of the Cool Springs Press No-Waste Gardening series, which also includes No-Waste Kitchen Gardening and No-Waste Organic Gardening.

The Weekend Homesteader

By Anna Hess,

Book cover of The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency

Even if you aren’t interested in becoming fully self-sufficient, this book is an eye-opening and exciting look at the possibilities available to us. Growing our own food (even some of it) can help us to reconnect with nature. It’s also very empowering.


Who am I?

Holly Worton is an author, podcaster, and speaker. She writes nonfiction books about her adventures to inspire people to get outdoors and reconnect with nature so they can reconnect with themselves. Holly enjoys spending time outdoors, walking and running long-distance trails, and exploring Britain's sacred sites. Travel is important to her: she's originally from California and now lives in England, but has also lived in Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Holly is a member of the Druid order OBOD, and nature connection is an important part of her spirituality.


I wrote...

If Trees Could Talk: Life Lessons from the Wisdom of the Woods

By Holly Worton,

Book cover of If Trees Could Talk: Life Lessons from the Wisdom of the Woods

What is my book about?

Holly Worton has spent the last few years talking to trees – the birches, the oaks, the beeches, and the sycamores. You’re probably wondering: How is it that trees can talk? Is this for real?

Trees are living, breathing organisms which humans are able to connect and talk to on a deeper level through silent, telepathic communication. Trees have a much broader perspective on life compared to humans. Trees can live hundreds and even thousands of years. This means trees have thousands of years of wisdom that we’re able to tap into. This book is meant to gently encourage you to get back to Nature and turn to the magic and the wisdom of the trees. By reconnecting to Nature, you can improve your relationship with yourself, which will help you make better, more aligned choices in your life.

101 Organic Gardening Hacks

By Shawna Coronado,

Book cover of 101 Organic Gardening Hacks: Eco-Friendly Solutions to Improve Any Garden

The ultimate DIY gardening book, author Shawna Coronado shares more than 100 quick and easy, practical and functional projects for the garden to save you time and money. From tips for a more bountiful harvest to mixing your own garden soil, repelling garden pests, or making a more attractive garden border, the author walks the readers through each project with simple step-by-step instructions.


Who am I?

I am a New Englander, born and bred. I am a 5th-generation chicken keeper and lifelong gardener. An author and Maine Master Gardener, I live on a small farm in Maine where I raise chickens, ducks, and geese and grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. My mom was a 3rd-grade teacher and my dad was incredibly artistic, so that combination resulted in me being an avid DIYer. I love to build and make and paint and raise and grow all kinds of things.


I wrote...

Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens

By Lisa Steele,

Book cover of Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens

What is my book about?

Welcome to a world where chickens and gardens coexist! Join Lisa Steele, chicken-keeper extraordinaire and founder of Fresh Eggs Daily, on a unique journey through the garden. Start by planning your garden and learning strategies for keeping your plants safe while they grow, plus the most valuable herbs, composting chicken manure, using chickens to work the soil, which plants to avoid and more. Then comes the fun part: enjoy the harvest, and even let the chickens graze!

Lisa's friendly writing, together with inspirational photos and illustrations, will have you rolling up your sleeves and reaching for your gardening tools. Whether you're an experienced chicken keeper, master gardener, or just getting into these hobbies, Gardening with Chickens is an indispensable guide for a harmonious homestead.

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