I've recommended The Vegetable Gardener's Bible more than once on Farmgirl Fare, and for good reason—it's an excellent source of information, especially if you're a beginning gardener. I recently came across a review I wrote when it was first published back in 2001. Five years later, everything still holds true—and this continues to be one of the few gardening books I find myself turning to again and again.
If you are only going to buy one edible gardening book, I encourage you to make it this one. It also makes a great gift. Need more convincing? Here's my original review:
I'm an avid gardener and confessed gardening book junkie. I never trust just one authority, preferring instead to consult several sources. But that was before I came across The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith. This is a book every gardener should own. It is the only publication an absolute beginner needs to start planting, while experienced growers will probably find their other gardening books gathering dust soon after buying it.
The basis of the book revolves around Ed's high yield "W-O-R-D" system: Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds, Deep soil. Ed, who gardens in brutal Northern Vermont, claims that anyone following his simple techniques—refined over 30 years—can grow their best gardens ever with higher yields and less work. And while his proven system (and arguments for applying it) make remarkable sense, the book goes far beyond simply describing high-intensity, natural gardening.
It's packed with practical information for gardeners of all levels, and manages to skillfully cover such wide-ranging topics as building raised beds and trellises, choosing a seed supplier, taking a soil sample, and making homemade bug spray—all in a highly approachable manner that is interesting and fun to read.
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1, From Seed To Harvest, explains Ed's W-O-R-D methods and shows you how to implement them. Part 2, The Healthy Garden, takes an in-depth look at soil, composting, and natural pest controls. Part 3, Vegetables & Herbs A-Z, is the most useful plant directory I have come across.
Along with detailed sections for each plant on sowing and growing, harvesting and storing, and the best varieties, there are helpful tips and a quick-reference "sow and grow" sidebox that lists everything from sowing dates and nutrient requirements to good and bad companions, rotation considerations, and seed longevity.
The text is supplemented with 550 color photos and several handy charts and lists. The sidebars of practical tidbits alone—how to sharpen a garden hoe, how to make your own non-toxic wood preservative—are worth the price of the book. The numerous ingenious—and seemingly obvious—ideas had me constantly saying, "Of course!"
And yet I'd never thought to weed around fragile seedlings with scissors. Or to put rampantly spreading mint plants in containers and then simply tuck the containers among my cabbages to deter cabbage moths. Or to lay out new garden beds with a sprinkling flour rather than lime, which I never have around. In fact, it was all I could do to keep reading; after every few pages I wanted to dash out to the garden and try another of Ed's suggestions.
Bound to become a perennial favorite, the word on The Vegetable Gardener's Bible is a resounding yes!