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How Does Your Garden Grow?

I live in a three-story wood-frame house on the North Side with my partner, two dogs, and a lot of plants. We have a fairly large yard–it’s one of the reasons we chose this particular house–but we’re still talking square feet instead of acres. We moved in two years ago this month, and I’ve been very slowly redesigning the front garden and planning where I want to put some fruit trees.

Several things are helping me through this process: my grandmother and mother’s advice, my garden journal packed with notes and observations from the past few years, and lots and lots of books on gardening in general and garden design in particular. I can’t provide you with a grandmother or a pre-filled garden journal, but I can share the books that I’ve found most helpful in my garden design process.

My focus has been on creating a garden that’s both productive and beautiful. I want to grow food, and I want it to look good while it’s growing. Turns out I’m not the only one. Here are a few of my favorite books for creating an enchanting vegetable garden.

cover for How to Plant a Garden

How to Plant a Garden by Matt James: This coffee-table appropriate book runs the reader through basic design principles and then applies them to the garden. It walks you through how to plant for year-long interest and how to select the best plants for your goals and planting site. It also offers a primer on garden styles, such as cottage, formal and urban. Plus, this book was published by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society, so you know you can trust the information.

cover for the Beautiful Edible Garden

The Beautiful Edible Garden by Leslie Bennett: Once you’re familiar with the basics of garden design, I’d suggest checking out this book that specifically looks at designing gardens with plants that produce edible fruits, leaves, tubers and other tasty bits. It provides helpful suggestions on what productive plants make good hedges, backyard trees, vines and ground cover. Some of the suggestions aren’t applicable to Pennsylvania because of our cold winters, but there’s still lots of good information and ideas (and pictures!).

cover for Creative Vegetable Gardening

Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom: This is another title that puts the focus on the vegetables but teaches you how to use perennial and annual flowers to enhance your vegetable garden and provide consistency throughout the season as you harvest some crops and plant others. Larkcom also spends a good deal of time on the practical aspects of vegetable gardening–how to prepare the soil to ensure a good harvest, how to deal with pests and knowing when and how much to water.

What are you growing this year? What are your favorite gardening books? Let us know in the comments!


Grow your own garden; beautiful, productive or both!

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Kelly reads, writes and sometimes sews, always with a large mug of tea. She is the Managing Editor of Eleventh Stack and Clerical Specialist at CLP – West End, both of which give her plenty of ideas for stories that find homes in obscure literary magazines.

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