Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >
May 3, 2010 02:21 PM

Beginner Gardening Books

We're buying a house in the Bay Area (California) and the previous owner has planted a large organic garden. I don't have any experience with gardening and am hoping I can keep the plants alive and have a great harvest. There are at least 30 plants (mainly tomatoes, peppers, corn, lettuce, squash). The temperature for the summer ranges around 70-90 degrees and dry. It'll get full sun for most of the day.

Can anyone recommend a good book or online resources for a new gardener?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The Sunset Western Garden Book (not just about vegetables) and Rosalind Creasy's Handbook of Edible Plants are both very useful and should be easy to find. You could also take a look at Sunset's website. Have fun. And be sure to mulch!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Glencora

      Glencora has steered you in the right direction with her recommendation of the Sunset books - they're geared to your climate. I live in Florida and our gardening needs are so different from anything north of us that I find state- or region-specific guides most helpful. Also check out your university extension sites for quite useful, California-specific information.

      For a more general guide on gardening, I found Barbara Damrosch's The Garden Primer very useful.

      1. re: janniecooks

        It does seem true that many gardening books and magazines have an East Coast or cold-climate bias. It can be frustrating and confusing when you're starting out. The timing is so different and some of their annuals are actually perennials for us.

        1. re: Glencora

          Thanks for the recommendations. My books are on their way!

    2. I recommend The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, by Edward C. Smith. Once you get past his corny humor it's quite useful, especially the second half, where he goes through different veggies one by one. I also live in the Bay Area and have found this book to be a nice resource. The Sunset books are good, too.

      1. The most valuable book for growing veggies in the Bay Area is Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Peirce:

        I too was perplexed by how different the seasons were here. Her book was a revelation! I now teach vegetable classes for the Master Gardener program, and I always recommend her book.

        The Sunset book will be a great reference too, especially for ornamentals. Do visit the Sunset grounds in Menlo Park someday, open to the public during business hours.

        I don't know which county you're in, but check your local and neighboring Master Gardener websites for info also.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Karen_Schaffer

          This book is really helpful! I'm in El Cerrito so I'll have more sunny days than I used to living in SF. I'm excited about the potential to have a year round garden. Thanks for the recommendation and suggesting the master gardening websites.

          California Master Gardeners County Links:
          Contra Costa:
          San Francisco/San Mateo:

        2. "The Gardeners Table" is perfect. ", although I'm not sure its "beginners". I believe the authors were in California which is nice climate wise. Really nice explanation of growing bulbing onions in our and other latitudes.I love Golden Gate Gardening too.

          1. I like the Sunset book too. For your area, go have a look at Golden Gate Gardening. it is an excellent primer. I forget the author. Also, take a look at a book called growing vegetables West of the Cascades. The weather is remarkably similar to yours and it was written by the good folks at Territorial Seed. you will know them well. They are soup to nuts and will help you sort things out.

            Have a great time in your new garden. You live in a bountiful place - as long as you have water...