|Some of the books on this list and some that will be added soon.|
Becoming Native to This Place, Jackson, Wes, © 1994 University of Kentucky Press, One of our most brilliant thinkers in agriculture today, Jackson founded The Land Institute in Salina, KS. His work is leading to the development of perennial wheat that will mimic the native grasses of the Great Plains, enabling them to hold the soil in place – a farsighted goal by any measurement. This seminal work introduces the 'native' of the place he wants you to imitate.
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving, Deppe, Carol © 2000, Chelsea Green Publishing, Don't let the title send you running for the exits. The first half of this book, all about breading your own veggies; he second half is on seed saving, she switches gears and it reads at times like well-written poetry. I have read most of this part many times since getting it in 2008. If you are interested in seed saving or breeding your own vegetable varieties (Hint: you can and it's not that hard!), this book needs to be on your shelf!
Gardening With a Wild Heart, Lowry, Judith Larner, © 1990 University of California Press Nothing to do with food gardening, but a lot to say about why plant California Natives near your food garden – I totally agree.
Good Bugs for Your Garden, Starcher, Allison Mia, © 1998, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Allison Starcher is an artist who grows in Santa Monica. This book's illustrations were drawn in her garden and that means this book is written for those of us in Southern California. A delightful book, you can learn from it and use it to teach children about insects in your back yard. Out of print – but you can find it used.
Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History,Weaver, William Woys © 2003, BookSales Inc, Originally published in 1997, it is now out of print and getting a copy is expensive. The book sells for almost $300 used on Amazon! It is a wonderful book that needs to be put back in print because the research he put into the book allows this to be one of the most informative books on heirloom vegetables that has ever been published. Good luck in finding it, I'm sorry to say. The entire book is on CD-ROM from Mother Earth News.
How to Grow More Vegetables, Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You ... (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains,) Jeavons, John © 2012, 8th Edition (so far, it seems to be close to an annual event) Ten Speed Press, Jeavons has research to back up his assertions but he's not intimidating by facts proving him wrong either. I do not agree with him on many thing, but the tables that tell what you need to feed a family of four translated into square feet of garden space are worth the books cost.
Making It; Radical Home Ec for a Post-consumer World, Knutzen, Erik and Coyne, Kelly © 2010, Rodale Press Local heroes both, their blog Root Simple has interesting topics and I've learned a lot from both of them. Gardening and cooking and all things home ec are included – it's a great book if conserving everything is on your mind!
Out of the Earth; Civilization and the Life of the Soil, Hillel, Daniel © 1991 Free Press This is probably the best book to read to get introduced to the soil we use for our gardens. What a tremendous book with such an authoritative presentation, so thorough and yet accessible at the same time! This is a wonderful introduction to soil without a lot of hoopla. I have enjoyed re-reading this book several times
Pests of the Garden and Small Farm © 1998, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR), One of many books that are a part of my gardening reference bookshelf. I can't remember all these pests and if I could only have one book on pests, this would be one of two. With Trowel and Error (below). (Their entire catalog is worth a look: http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/default.aspx )
Save Three Lives; A Plan for Famine Prevention, Rodale, Robert © 1991 Sierra Club Books, Bob Rodale was killed before this book made it to print. We lost a leader in compassionate food production when we lost him – we lost a visionary and a solid business man that took over his father's publishing company and turned it into a (if not 'the') powerhouse in the organic farming/healthy eating field. When ever I go to countries struggling to feed their population, I always have copies of this book with me. I think it is golden.
Shattering; Food, Politics and the Loss of Genetic Diversity, Fowler, Cary and Mooney, Pat, © 1990 University of Arizona Press Though somewhat dated (1990 seems like a million years ago!) this book is still worth the time to read. Showing the way to becoming the man that would one day spear head the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Fowler in 1990 is already formulating the framework and vision that will be required to lead such a profoundly important seed saving enterprise.
Small-Scale Grain Raising, Second Edition: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers, Logsdon, Gene 2nd Edition © 2009 Chelsea Green Publishing ANYTHING written by Logsdon is worth the investment of your time and money. I read this from its original 1970 Rodale Press printing and it is still an excellent resource if you become intoxicated with growing your own wheat and other grains. It takes more land than most of us have, but a small patch of wheat is a delightful experiment.
Sunset Western Garden Guide 8th Edition, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2007, Sunset Publishing All of the recent editions have their merit, but each successive edition has more plants and updates the scientific undergirding of gardening, so I encourage you to invest in the most recent edition you can afford (used copies are usually easy to find.) This is the number one go-to book for horticulture in Southern California; no other book is as authoritative as this one for our area.
Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition Lowenfels, Jeff and Lewis, Wayne, © 2010, Timber Press This book changed the way I garden. Forever. Their introduction to the soil is somewhat dry, but when you get to the modern scientific discoveries dealing with soil, you will be amazed!
The Resilient Gardener, Deppe Carol, © 2010, Chelsea Green Publishing, Deppe has written one of the few books to really teach me something about gardening in the last 15 years. I love her writing style, yes. But I love the depth of knowledge she possesses and her well-earned observations. Not all of her ideas translate readily to Southern California, but we can learn from her and adapt.
The Home Orchard, Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, © 2007, Another great ANR book.. This book is about the most thorough book on home orchards you will ever find - comprehensive and easy to follow. Valuable.
The Kitchen Garden, Thompson, Sylvia © 1995, Bantam Books, Sylvia is from our area (she has written for the LA Times) so she knows a bit of gardening here. This is a great book that I refer to frequently along with her Recipes from a Kitchen Garden.
The New Seed Starter's Handbook, Bubel, Nancy © 1988, Rodale Press There is no facet of seed starting that isn't included in this book. It is old, still the best. The only thing that has changed are the new super powerful lights for growing plants. Which aren't useful if you are just starting seeds indoors to be planted out in a few weeks.
The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener, Gershuny, Grace © 1992 Rodale Press I learned how to garden organically in the early 1970's with Rodale Press and I owe a lot to many of their different gardening titles. This is the most authoritative book on composting for the layman that has been published to date. Everything you want to know about composting is here.
The Soul of Soil: A Soil-Building Guide for Master Gardeners and Farmers, Gershuny, Grace, © 1999 Chelsea Green Publishing, One of my favorite books on soils, this was not written for gardeners but for farmers which limits its usefulness, but the principles are useful and she writes with passion and clarity.
Trowel and Error, Lovejoy, Sharon © 2002 Workman Publishing, this is really the only pesticide book I use, although, it is not strictly a pesticide book. She is a delightful writer with lots of humor and she has gem of a home-made this and that collection.
Uncertain Peril, Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds, Cummings, Claire © 2008 Beacon Press, presenting a scientific look at the shortcomings of genetically modified seeds and their shortcomings to their lofty goals. Especially good for the rebuttal of the Yellow Rice, poster child of what is supposed to be good about GMOs.
Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic, Prechtel, Martín, © 2011 North Atlantic Books, It took me a long time to get into this book, but once I was able to follow his narrative and understand his approach, I became mesmerized by his prose and the process. With the subtitles of The Parallel Lives of People as Plants and Keeping the Seeds Alive, he introduces us to the ancient way the people of Guatemala see the seeds and their world.
Where Our Food Comes From, Nahan, Gary Paul, © 2009, Island Press Nabhan is a glorious writer and in this case he has picked an equally glorious hero to follow in his journey to discover where our food really does come. Nabhan follows the footsteps of Nicolay Vavilov's travels over the world, finding the centers of discovery for most of our food today. Vavilov was so far ahead of his time, even though he died in Stalin's Gulag in WWII, the institute he founded which still bears his name, is yet one of the premier seed banks in the world. This is good reading – fast, yet profitable.