Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones
If you live in my neighborhood, I guarantee you saw me out as early as February, pacing lazy circles around my barren yard and muttering to myself. Not, as it might appear, doing anything nefarious or unhinged (at least not to date).
No, I was mentally mapping where in the garden the perennials would reappear and where between them the new year’s plantings might go. Next, of course, I was wandering the perimeter of the raised beds, plotting out this year’s vegetable rotation. Thankfully, after a few years now, my neighbors know the drill and are no longer worried for my sanity. As soon as the ground thaws, I’m itching for it: cutting in compost and starting seedlings and feeling the soil under my fingernails. Waiting until the correct time to plant before hitting the local nursery to browse is an exercise in self control I have yet to master.
Thankfully, the wait is over. The last frost date is just around the corner, so it’s time to dust off our rakes and hoes and fill the world with green things. Not only will you get some gorgeous blooms and delicious veggies for your efforts, but our pollinator neighbors will reap the rewards too. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener looking for some new ideas or someone who’s never grown a single tomato, we’ve got some great books to get you outside and growing. See you out in the sunshine!
Plant Grow Harvest Repeat: Grow a Bounty of Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers by Mastering the Art of Succession Planting by Meg McAndrews Cowden
Discover how to get more out of your growing space with succession planting — carefully planned, continuous seed sowing — and provide a steady stream of fresh food from early spring through late fall.
Drawing inspiration from succession in natural landscapes, Meg McAndrews Cowden teaches you how to implement lessons from these dynamic systems in your home garden. You’ll learn how to layer succession across your perennial and annual crops; maximize the early growing season; determine the sequence to plant and replant in summer; and incorporate annual and perennial flowers to benefit wildlife and ensure efficient pollination. You’ll also find detailed, seasonal sowing charts to inform your garden planning, so you can grow more anywhere, regardless of your climate.
Plant Grow Harvest Repeat will inspire you to create an even more productive, beautiful and enjoyable garden across the seasons — every vegetable gardener’s dream.
Pollinator Gardening for the South: Creating Sustainable Habitats by Seth Danesha Carley and Anne M. Spafford
This step-by-step guide will answer all of your questions about how to create beautiful gardens designed to welcome beneficial pollinators across the South. Combining up-to-date scientific information with artful design strategies, Danesha Seth Carley and Anne M. Spafford teach gardeners of all levels to plan, plant and maintain successful pollinator gardens at home and in shared community sites. Everyday gardeners, along with farmers, scientists and policy makers, share serious concerns about ongoing declines in bee and other pollinator populations, and here Spafford and Carley deliver great news: Every thoughtfully designed garden, no matter how small, can play a huge role in providing the habitat, nourishment and nesting places so needed by pollinators. This book explains all you need to be a pollinator champion.
• Covers USDA hardiness zones 6, 7, 8 and 9, including 12 Southern states.
• Explains what makes pollinators happy — bees, for sure, and many others, great and small.
• Brings science and art together in gardens of all types, including urban, food, container, community, school and large-scale gardens.
• Provides step-by-step instructions for choosing locations, preparing soil and garden beds, selecting the best plants, considering seasonality in your garden design, managing your garden throughout the year and much more.
• Richly illustrated with photographs, design plans, and handy charts and lists.
Grow More Food: A Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Getting the Biggest Harvest Possible from a Space of Any Size
by Colin McCrate and Brad Helm
Just how productive can one small vegetable garden be? More productive than one might think. Colin McCrate and Brad Helm, former community supported agriculture growers and current owners of the Seattle Urban Farm Company, help readers boost their garden productivity by teaching them how to plan carefully, maximize production in every bed, get the most out of every plant, scale up systems to maximize efficiency and expand the harvest season with succession planting, intercropping and season extension.
Along with chapters devoted to the Five Tenets of a Productive Gardener (Plan Well to Get the Most from Your Garden; Maximize Production in Each Bed; Get the Most out of Every Plant; Scale up Tools and Systems for Efficiency; and Expand and Extend the Harvest), the book contains interactive tools that home gardeners can use to assist them in determining how, when, and what to plant; evaluating crop health; and planning and storing the harvest. For today’s vegetable gardeners who want to grow as much of their own food as possible, this guide offers expert advice and strategies for cultivating a garden that supplies what they need.
Grow Now: How We Can Save Our Health, Communities, and Planet — One Garden at a Time by Emily Murphy
Did you know you can have a garden that’s equal parts food source and wildlife haven? In Grow Now, Emily Murphy shares easy-to-follow principles for regenerative gardening that foster biodiversity and improve soil health. She also shows how every single yard mirrors and connects to the greater ecosystem around us.
No-dig growing, composting and mulching smartly, and planting a variety of edible perennials that attract bees and butterflies are all common-sense techniques everyone can use to grow positive change. You’ll also find detailed advice on increasing your nature quotient, choosing plants that cycle more carbon back into the soil, selecting a broader variety of vegetables and fruits to improve overall soil fertility, rethinking space devoted to lawns, and adding companion plants for pollinators to “rewild” any plot of land.
Exquisitely photographed and filled with helpful lists and sidebars, Grow Now is an actionable, hopeful and joyful roadmap for growing our way to individual climate contributions. Gardening is climate activism! OH
Shannon Purdy Jones is store manager and children’s book buyer for Scuppernong Books.