My “Go-To” Books for Garden Planning

It’s February. It’s been a weird, mild sort of winter, even for Southern Ontario and it’s making me itchy to get outside. The sun is getting higher in the sky, the days are getting longer and I keep looking out the window at the breenish (brown-greenish) lawn and the remnants of plants in the gardens, dreaming of the upcoming season.

This is will be our third summer here. This will be the third year that I’m almost as excited about planting season as I am about Christmas. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering. Every year, I find new books to read on all topics gardening, permaculture, chickens and homesteading so my collection is growing nicely. Notice I didn’t say it’s getting out of hand.

When it’s time to bring out the graph paper and coloured pens to plan my garden (yes, I’m kinda old-school), there are a few books I always have on hand. I’ll tell you what they are, but you’ll notice no affiliate links. I don’t know how those work, and really, I’d love for you to find a local bookstore and support them instead. There may be better books out there, and by all means, share those titles with me. There’s a reason I said my collection of books is growing – I’d love some new suggestions.

  • Gardening Manual for Canada by DK Publishing


I had this book long before we even owned our first house. In fact, this edition is now out of print. I pored over this book for years and years, dreaming of future gardens and it’s likely partially to blame for my un-ending scheming in the garden. While it doesn’t delve into vegetable gardening or homesteading, it gives a great overview of gardening in general and has been my go-to for flower information.

  • The Backyard Homestead by Storey Publishing


This book jumped onto my wishlist the very first time I spotted it. It was the second homesteading book I ever picked up and I loved it right away. I could likely write an essay on all it’s virtues, but really, it’s simply great because it touches on everything. I wouldn’t call it “the-only-homesteading-book-you’ll-ever-need” because there are things like chickens that need entire books written about them, but it’s great to add to a growing collection. This book is filled with handy charts and drawings and tips and ideas and really, you should run out and buy it today.

  • Little House in the Suburbs by Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin


This is the book that made me believe we could do this too. We were living right in the middle of town when I first read this book, but it got the wheels turning and it was after we read this book that we ripped out half the flowers and built raised beds in the only sunny spot on our property. Like the previously mentioned book, it touches on many topics, so is not the expert on one subject. My absolute favourite part of this book is the Companion Planning Chart that’s filled with smiley faces to let the reader know which families of plants get along. I’m amused by simple things and this brings me joy every time I read this book. The authors write a blog by the same name (, so you can visit them there for more information.

  • All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew


His book is particularly popular for small space gardeners and even though I have a large garden, I really like this book. He covers everything from building projects to pests to soil building to water. The last section of the book is filled with pages of info on planting and harvesting the most popular veggies, herbs and flowers, as well as handy charts on continuous planting and indoor seed starting. It’s my go-to guide for plant spacing  to maximize every inch of our garden.

  • The New Vegetable Growers Handbook by Frank Tozer


This book has no pictures. Except for the ones on the cover. This would usually deter me from buying it, but it was the required text for an online course I took. There are some simple drawings inside though, to break up all the writing. Really, I’m not doing this book justice. Ignore the lack of pictures and embrace this book. This is the book I pick up most often. Why? Because it is loaded with information about every vegetable and some herbs. This book discusses growing from seed or buying plants, when and what to start indoors, when to plant outdoors, and what to direct seed. It includes pest and disease information, preferred soil pH levels, watering preferences, ease of growing, harvesting and storage info and recipes. It even includes a brief history of each plant. So, even if it’s not the prettiest book you’ve ever read, it’s invaluable to your garden.

Well, there you have it. These are the books I use for planning, for now. As I’ve mentioned, the collection is always growing. We’ve recently added several books to the “homesteading” shelf and I’m hoping to read them in the coming weeks. It’s possible that one of them will bump one of the five above, but more likely, I’ll just keep adding to the stack of books I need to plan the garden. In a few years, I may be so surrounded by books, the only way you’ll know I’m at the table is by the sound of my pen scratching on the graph paper.







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