Two Books to Get You Started with Your Victory Garden

Guest contributor Pamela Price is the founder of Red, White & Grew, a blog devoted to “Promoting the Victory Garden Revival and other simple, earth-friendly endeavors as bipartisan, patriotic acts in an age of uncertainty.”

A couple of weeks ago, I contemplated the role personality might play in how one approaches the creation and cultivation of a contemporary Victory Garden.

Because one reader expressed interest in a simple guide to creating a garden, I wanted to follow up with a couple of recommendations.

Keeping in mind the over-simplified contrast of messy vs. tidy (a contrast that I first started to contemplate by looking at these two books side-by-side!), allow me to suggest two very fine books for the newbie gardener’s shelf.  Together with Heather Flores’ outstanding Food Not Lawns, they are my favorite go-to resources.

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew – If you want simple DIY start-up information for your veggie bed, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything more straight-forward and accessible than this book. Bartholomew eschews traditional row plantings in favor of simple, tidy, organic raised beds divided into grids – a technique known as square foot gardening. He also advocates filling the beds with “Mel’s Mix,” a robust blend of compost, peat moss and vermiculite that limits the need for supplemental fertilizer. If money is really tight, you can find Bartholomew’s basic information online at www.squarefootgardening.com, but the slim volume is worth the investment.

The No-Work Garden: Getting the Most Out of Your Garden for the Least Amount of Work by Bob Flowerdew –  Like Bartholomew, Flowerdew is a proponent of fixed or raised beds over traditional digging techniques. Yet where Bartholomew is precise and pedagogical, Flowerdew’s writing is more rambling and philosophical. His style is also deliciously dry (he’s British, after all). Style aside, Flowerdew is quite knowledgeable. One of my favorite sections of the book is his discussion of companion planting, or the thoughtful grouping of mutually beneficial species such as corn, beans and pumpkins (a.k.a. a three sisters planting). A word of caution: much of Flowerdew’s advice is rooted in his knowledge of the British climate and is not always accurate stateside given the wider range of plant hardiness zones.

Do you have favorite gardening books designed for a national audience? Please share!

Photo from author’s private collection.

  1. William Furr

    Thanks Pamela!

    One of my coworkers actually has and uses Bartholomew’s original square foot gardening book. He produced some monster heirloom tomatoes last year using those techniques and some especially rich compost he made that year.

    I’ll definitely keep these in mind for next spring.

  2. William Furr

    My coworkers are quite amused. Even more so at GarlicMan76458’s on-the-nose characterization of me in a comment on the prior post. I’m actually a programmer by trade too. It’s been suggested to me several times now (here and elsewhere) to essentially “not program my life”.

    Anyway, thanks again! I’m looking forward to the rest of your guest series here on EDB.

  3. Dani Greer

    I just had my hands on a John Seymour book, updated and reprinted as The New Self-Sufficent Gardener. Lovely illustrations and a good gift-book for the new city gardener, although it’s probably more applicable to climates similar to English.

    Happy Day!


  4. Pamela Price


    Here’s some out of the box for you: I didn’t mention that one of the nice things about Bartholomew is he covers winter gardening advice. Depending upon your zone, climate, micro-climate…you might be able to get something growing sooner than Spring time.

    I’ve never had a winter garden, but am working on it this year…will make a point to let you know how it works out here at EDB!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.