The best organic farming books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about organic farming and why they recommend each book.

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The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping

By Rosalind Creasy, Marcia Kier-Hawthorne (illustrator),

Book cover of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques

Rosalind Creasy is one of my heroes. It was she who first turned me on to heirloom fruits and vegetables over 30 years ago, when I read her newly published Cooking from the Garden. That seminal tome celebrates the food garden’s bounty and uses in cookery. 

Creasy is best known as a pioneer in the field of edible landscaping aka foodscaping: the practice of integrating edible plants into the landscape for beauty and sustenance. Think yummy delicious arbors, allées, groundcovers, borders, hedges, espaliers, foundation plantings, and potted plants. She spells out all the how-to’s, wheres, and whyfors in her first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping; and updates it all in the second edition, Edible Landscaping. If you’re looking for practical advice, detailed instructions, design schemes, and recommended plants to feed body and soul, then allow me to point you in Ros’s direction.

Who am I?

Amy Goldman is a gardener, author, artist, philanthropist, and well-known advocate for seed saving, plant breeding, and heirloom fruits and vegetables. Her mission is to celebrate and catalogue the magnificent diversity of standard, open-pollinated varieties, and to promote their conservation. Amy gave up a career as a clinical psychologist to follow her first love which was kitchen gardening. In her own words from Heirloom Harvest: “I have romantic leanings and tend to follow my heart… In hindsight, I know my heart steered me straight, and toward a future I could never have imagined…My passion for the fruits of the earth has deep roots….”

I wrote...

The Melon

By Amy Goldman Fowler, Victor Schrager (photographer),

Book cover of The Melon

What is my book about?

Melons are the vegetable garden’s crown jewels – and Amy Goldman’s lifelong love and calling. Amy’s latest book, The Melon, will entice and educate, whether you are a gardener, a locavore, or simply delight in the inherent beauty and evanescence of the fruits of the vine.

Illustrated by Victor Schrager, a master of still-life photography, and many years in the making, this book is comprehensive and definitive. It includes portraits in words and photographs of 125 extraordinary varieties grown by Amy in her Hudson Valley garden, expert advice on picking and choosing melons and watermelons in the market, growing them in the garden, and saving pure heirloom seeds. Twenty delicious recipes and seed sources are included. 

Dirt to Soil

By Gabe Brown,

Book cover of Dirt to Soil: One Family's Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture

Gabe Brown didn’t set out to change the world when he first started working alongside his father-in-law on the family farm in North Dakota. But a series of weather-related crop disasters put Brown in desperate financial straits. He decided to quit the industrial model of food production and began experimenting with regenerative agriculture instead. He stopped using herbicides, insecticides, and synthetic fertilizers. He no-tilled diverse crops into his fields and changed his grazing practices. By doing so, Brown transformed a degraded farm ecosystem into one full of life. Brown has grown several inches of new topsoil in only twenty years and turned the farm into a diverse, profitable enterprise. This book is a great introduction for all readers.

Who am I?

I am an author and former environmental activist who dropped out of the ‘conflict industry’ in 1997 to start the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a radical center among ranchers, environmentalists, scientists, and others around practices that improve resilience in working landscapes. For two decades, I worked on the front lines of collaborative conservation and regenerative agriculture, sharing innovative, land-based solutions to food, water, and climate challenges. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I wrote...

Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country

By Courtney White,

Book cover of Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country

What is my book about?

Through my work, I learned we can potentially remove a significant amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through regenerative farming and ranching practices. These include no-till farming, climate-friendly livestock practices, restoring degraded land, and producing nutritious food. By re-carbonizing soils via photosynthesis and biology, regenerative agriculture can sequester atmospheric carbon underground, making it a low-cost “shovel-ready” solution to climate change. Grass, Soil, Hope takes readers on an entertaining journey on how all these practical strategies can be bundled together.

Regenerative agriculture is both an attitude and a suite of practices that restore and maintain soil health. It creates the conditions for life above and below ground by taking its cues from nature, which has a very long track record of growing things. It has multiple co-benefits, including the production of healthy, nutritious food. Each of the books listed below explore a different aspect of regenerative agriculture, all written by authors with ‘dirt under their fingernails.’

The Winter Harvest Handbook

By Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch (photographer),

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

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.

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 Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It

By John Seymour,

Book cover of The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It: The Complete Back-To-Basics Guide

I first got acquainted with John Seymour through the original version of this book, The Self-Sufficient Gardener. I was charmed by his earthy lore and practical tips – an author who truly knew his stuff. A plus was the beautiful illustrations in the book. Its new permutation, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It was been expanded to cover everything from micro-urban gardens to 5-acre homesteads. While gardening is the focus, the book includes plenty of information on butchering, brewing, canning—even spinning flax. What the book doesn’t include are plans and step-by-step photos for building structures, though it does include rudimentary information on metalworking and carpentry. Most importantly, Seymour has a lifetime of gardening and farming experience to draw upon. The reader reaps the benefit.

Who am I?

I started to garden seriously when we had three young kids and little income. We had limited space and had to be ingenious about how and what we grew. A flock of chickens soon joined the effort, adding fresh eggs, compost-fueling manure, and plenty of entertainment. As we moved, we always had a garden, adding structures like sheds, trellises, tomato cages, fencing, and chicken coops. My work writing books and articles about backyard homesteading gave me the chance to meet resourceful people with expertise miles beyond my own. I always came away from those encounters loaded with new ideas to incorporate into next year’s garden.

I wrote...

40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead: A Hands-On, Step-By-Step Sustainable-Living Guide

By David Toht,

Book cover of 40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead: A Hands-On, Step-By-Step Sustainable-Living Guide

What is my book about?

40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead is intended to provide do-able projects that can enhance sustainable living whether you live in an urban, suburban, or country environment. It includes the essentials for backyard farming—chicken coops and related shelters, raised beds, trellises, compost bins, beehives, sheds, fencing—plus background on more exotic things like aquaponics, hydroponics, and backyard-scale renewable power sources. Each project is designed with simplicity, convenience, and budget in mind. Guided by step-by-step instructions—with plenty of photos and illustrations—I hope you’ll find these projects achievable even if you are only moderately handy. In the process, you'll save money and have the satisfaction of doing it yourself—while providing pure and fresh food.

Epitaph for a Peach

By David M. Masumoto,

Book cover of Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm

I’m obsessed with the theme of living your calling to pay your bills, rather than exclusively chasing money. When I write books, I write to shift readers, rather than writing according to formulas that could sell more copies. So, I love Masumoto’s book on growing peaches that burst with flavor and sensual magic, even when others suggest he grow peaches that offer more sturdy shelf life. An artist-farmer, he takes the stand for one-of-a-kind quality and reveals a truly abundant life. Taking us directly into his intimate thoughts and decisions, this book is about living your destiny, choosing to work with natural forces, being insanely tenacious, and transforming your own life in the process. He “listens to his farm” and his writing is so beautiful we listen to it, too.  

Who am I?

I am moved by the deepest potential in all of us. Having graduated from Harvard Law School and working as an unfilled attorney, I finally left everything to follow my true desire to write. So, I know how vital it is to have support for our inspiration instead of our fears. That’s why I’ve written 5 books to champion visionary minds, creative souls, freedom junkies, and more. And as a TEDx speaker and USA Today featured visionary career coach, I am always reading for my own growth and for my students. I recommend these books because they helped me to trust in greater possibilities. I hope they support your dreams. 

I wrote...

This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love

By Tama J. Kieves,

Book cover of This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love

What is my book about?

For anyone who has ever yearned to discover or live the true work within them  In This Time I Dance! you’ll find the inspiring story of how Harvard lawyer Tama Kieves left her corporate life to discover her buried creative self and develop the livelihood that stirred her soul and paid the bills. Going beyond the “5 easy steps” self-help formula, Kieves offers you an intimate mentor to map out the real process of realizing your wildest dreams. With her startling honesty and edgy humor, she will stir you to realize your own astonishing capacities. Kieves begins by asking the question she answers with her life: “If you’re this successful doing work you don’t love, what could you do with work you do love?” 

Organic Gardening for Everyone

By Calikim,

Book cover of Organic Gardening for Everyone: Homegrown Vegetables Made Easy - No Experience Required!

CaliKim has created a large following on her YouTube channel for vegetable gardeners struggling to grow food in small spaces. Her book emphasizes her practical and direct approach to growing food, starting with tips on seed starting to ways of harvesting. Living in a dry climate, the book emphasizes ways to efficiently water veggies and deal with extreme weather for the best production. I like how CaliKim has good advice on ways to transplant and care for your garden vegetables.

Who am I?

I've been gardening my whole life, starting on my Italian grandfather's farm in Connecticut. As an adult, I've always been an organic gardener and constantly looking for new ways to garden more in tune with Nature, disrupting the soil less while still producing an abundance of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Certainly, I've learned from experience but also learned from my University education and 10 years of working for National Gardening magazine interviewing expert gardeners across the country. My wife Wendy and I are mostly self-sufficient in vegetables and berries from spring until fall. I also love trying new types of edibles such as honeyberries, tromboncino vining squash, and cucamelons in the garden.  

I wrote...

The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening: Grow Beautiful Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers - The Easy Way! Layer Your Way to Healthy Soil-Eliminate Tilling

By Charlie Nardozzi,

Book cover of The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening: Grow Beautiful Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers - The Easy Way! Layer Your Way to Healthy Soil-Eliminate Tilling

What is my book about?

With the step-by-step instructions in The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening, you’ll discover how to build healthy, easy-to-plant garden soil by adding layers of organic matter using one of several different no-dig techniques. This simple approach lets you grow more food and blooms than ever before, and leave the gas-guzzling tiller behind forever. Plus, when you don't disturb the soil, weed seeds stay buried deep where they can't germinate and carbon is kept sequestered in the ground. No-dig gardening techniques also lead to reduced watering needs and a healthy population of beneficial soil microbes that help feed your plants by breaking down organic matter and releasing nutrients. Produce fresh, homegrown veggies, herbs, and flowers for your table—with no back-breaking work required!

A Way to Garden

By Margaret Roach,

Book cover of A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season

Many garden books are structured in a classic four-seasons pattern, but this one goes beyond, by delineating the gardening year as steps in the essence of all living beings—from conception in January, adulthood in July and August, to death in December. This clever and thoughtful approach celebrates the fact that we are all woven into the fabric of the natural world. Add to that the author’s lifetime of good gardening experience and advice, and this book shows readers in intimate detail how to work with nature, not against her. 

Who am I?

I’m a person who thinks gardening could be one of the most important endeavors anyone can do. I’m a writer, a speaker, and the recipient of eight Garden Communicators International media awards, including a Gold in 2021 for my column, “Rooting for You,” on the Hartley-Botanic Greenhouse website. My byline has appeared in numerous magazines such as Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Sunset, and This Old House. I’m always interested in great ideas for problem-solving in the garden.

I wrote...

The Healthy Garden: Simple Steps for a Greener World

By Kathleen Norris Brenzel, Mary-Kate Mackey,

Book cover of The Healthy Garden: Simple Steps for a Greener World

What is my book about?

This book connects how we garden in our own backyards with what happens outside our fences—in our communities, our public gardens, and our wild places. With the added advice of twenty horticultural experts and glorious garden photography, The Healthy Garden demonstrates how nourishing a more resilient landscape has the power to transform, not only the garden and the gardener, but also, the greater natural world. 

The Soil and Health

By Albert Howard,

Book cover of The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture

Howard helped me to understand and appreciate the life in soil. How soil is more than an assemblage of chemical nutrients for plants, which was a predominant view when I started farming. 

He wrote: "The agriculturalist must obey Nature's rules,” which was radical in the 1940s! He started as an agricultural chemist but came to distrust synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. He valued and explains the importance of compost and mycorrhizal fungi, and coined a phrase that has become a mantra: ”Feed the soil not the plant”. I value his sincerity which shines throughout his books – they read as well now as when published, because these truths are universal.

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. 

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