If you want to read up on gardening in raised beds, you probably already know it means less work than growing in a traditional row garden and way more production in the same amount of space. But getting started—whether you plan to build your own raised beds or have them installed for you—can be a little overwhelming, even stressful.
Fortunately, there are a lot of books filled with expert advice on the topic. One of the best ways for beginner gardeners to learn how to garden is through education, and these books offer plenty of that. I’ll start off with my top three books that are specifically geared toward raised-bed gardening, and then I’ll suggest some books that have lots of practical advice to help you grow your favorite plants organically.
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THE BEST GARDENING BOOKS FOR GROWING IN RAISED BEDS
- Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
- Kitchen Garden Revival: A modern guide to creating a stylish, small-scale, low-maintenance, edible garden by Nicole Johnsey Burke
- The Vegetable Gardening Book: Your complete guide to growing an edible organic garden from seed to harvest by Joe Lamp’l
Let’s look at why you might want to check out each of these excellent books.
START HERE: NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING BY MEL BARTHOLOMEW
Square Foot Gardening is the number-one-best-selling gardening book for good reason. This was the first book I ever read about gardening, and it gave me a great foundation for vegetable gardening in raised beds. It taught me about plant spacing, soil requirements, vertical gardening, organic pest control, garden covers, and so much more.
If you’re not familiar with Mel Bartholomew, he’s actually an engineer who took up gardening and decided to apply some things he’d learned from his day job. He came up with a method of covering the entire raised-bed garden space in a grid system to help you space out your plants.
Selling Points for Square Foot Gardening
- This practical guide makes gardening really accessible for new gardeners because Mel has a way of simplifying everything. It’s a great starting point for beginners to read so that they can get set up and growing quickly.
- If you’re a more experienced gardener but you don’t have much time to come up with your own planting plan, you can use the planting charts to just get something in the garden for the season.
- Mel dives into the importance of filling your raised beds with nutrient-rich garden soil that will not only support your plants but also provide good drainage. We cover Mel’s recommended soil recipe (which he calls Mel’s Mix) in this post.
- He includes 42 veggie-specific planting, growing, and harvesting guides.
- He has detailed instructions for setting up the raised bed and even installing your own automatic watering system.
If you’re not sure whether the Square Foot Gardening Method is for you, check out our sample planting plans for a 4′ x 4′ raised bed. That should give you a feel for this type of planting. You might not follow his method forever. I didn’t. I learned a lot and then took the things I loved most about his method and made them my own.
THEN READ: KITCHEN GARDEN REVIVAL BY NICOLE JOHNSEY BURKE
Once you focus on the practical aspects of gardening with Mel, the engineer, it’s time to focus on the aesthetics with Nicole, the designer.
That’s not to say that this book lacks practice advice. Nicole really knows her stuff after designing and installing hundreds of raised garden beds for her clients.
Kitchen Garden Revival focuses on setting up a raised-bed kitchen garden space that’s as beautiful as it is productive. (If you haven’t heard of kitchen gardens, think small-space vegetable gardens located close to your home and filled with a wide variety of plants you can harvest and use in your kitchen.)
I actually used to work with Nicole, and we follow her methods for designing gardens here at Lettuce Grow Something. Her book is a step-by-step guide to selecting the best location for your raised beds, measuring your space, and figuring out which garden layout will work best. She then goes into building your own raised beds out of wood, filling the beds with her tried-and-true soil blend, and finally, filling them with plants that will grow well in your current growing season.
In addition to following her methods for garden design and layout, we also follow her planting style. Intensive planting is a little different from the Square Foot Gardening method. You basically pack in the plants so you can really maximize every square inch of your raised bed real estate. I typically follow her intensive planting plan when I’m setting up new raised beds for clients. Just keep in mind that intensive planting requires weekly tending, so it’s not always the best option for newbies.
Selling Points for Kitchen Garden Revival
- Nicole’s whole point is that a productive food garden doesn’t have to be unsightly. If you read this book, you won’t have to worry about hiding your garden away. She’ll help you create something you’re proud to show off to everyone who visits.
- Nicole tells you how to create her favorite soil blend for raised beds, which she calls the 103. It’s very similar to my favorite sandy loam mix.
- She gives you detailed descriptions of each kitchen garden plant family to help you learn about their different growing preferences. She walks you through how to figure out your growing seasons and what the best plants to grow in each season are. She then gives step-by-step instructions to plant, grow, and harvest each of these plant families.
- If you like looking at pretty pictures, this will probably become one of your favorite gardening books ever. The photography, done by Erik Kelley, is truly beautiful.
- If you’re willing to give intensive planting a try, you can grow a lot in a small space.
OR READ: THE VEGETABLE GARDENING BOOK:
Your Complete Guide to Growing an Edible Organic Garden from Seed to Harvest BY JOE LAMP’L
Joe is an experienced gardener who gives you lots of useful information about growing organically in your raised beds. His philosophy is to set up your garden in a way that lets nature do most of the heavy lifting for you. You’ll feel really great about your decision to grow some of your own food and reduce your overall carbon footprint after you read this book.
Selling Points for The Vegetable Gardening Book
- This book is really useful if you’re working with less space. He helps you figure out how you can grow on patios, balconies, and even super shaded backyards.
- He teaches you how to create a planting plan for your raised garden bed.
- He breaks down the different nutrients that plants need to grow and how you can make sure your plants are getting all the essentials inside your raised bed.
- The book includes an in-depth guide for starting all the essential veggies from seed. He then includes complete growing profiles for over 40 different crops.
- The book is beautifully illustrated.
OTHER GARDENING BOOKS FOR ESSENTIAL KNOW-HOW
These books are equally helpful if you’re growing in a raised bed, in containers, or in the ground. I’ve focused on my favorite organic gardening books and books that give really detailed information on specific crops you might want to grow.
My Favorite Books on Gardening
- Plant Grow Harvest Repeat: Grow a Bounty of Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers by Mastering the Art of Succession Planting by Meg McAndrews Cowden
- The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live by Niki Jabbour
- Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty by Lisa Mason Ziegler
- How to Grow Your Own Food: An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening by Angela S. Judd
- The Dirt Doctor’s Guide to Organic Gardening by J. Howard Garrett
- Vegetable Gardening Made Easy by Resh Gala
- Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun by Niki Jabbour
- Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening: The Total Guide to Growing Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Other Edible Plants the Natural Way by J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck
- Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy
Plant Grow Harvest Repeat by Meg McAndrews Cowden
This is the perfect book to read if you’d like to know more about succession planting in your raised beds. That basically means continuously sowing seeds so that your plants are in different growing stages and there’s always something to harvest from early spring to late fall. If you follow her methods, your plant beds will be a dynamic place you look forward to visiting every single day.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour
If you live in a colder climate, this book will teach you how to extend your growing seasons so that you can enjoy your raised beds for longer. Niki shows you how to build inexpensive structures like cold frames to protect your plants from frost and snow during the colder months. This is a must-read for those of you up north.
Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty by Lisa Mason Ziegler
I always add flowers in with my favorite leafy greens, herbs, and fruiting plants growing in my raised beds. The flowers aren’t just there for their beauty—they actually help keep your entire garden space healthy. This guide will have you feeling like a flower gardener in no time.
How to Grow Your Own Food: An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening by Angela S. Judd
If you’re nervous to give raised bed gardening a try, start small by growing your favorite plants in a couple containers. This beautifully illustrated book from garden writer Angela of the popular blog Growing in the Garden will show you how.
The Dirt Doctor’s Guide to Organic Gardening: Essays on the Natural Way by J. Howard Garrett
This book will serve as your comprehensive guide to organic gardening. Garrett has been leading the organic gardening movement since the 80s, and he’ll teach you all about soil management, organic fertilizers, composting, and pest control.
Vegetable Gardening Made Easy: Simple Tips & Tricks to Grow Your Best Garden Ever by Resh Gala
This is top of my list for new gardening books (it’s currently on preorder). Resh is another gardening friend, and I’m super excited to read her first book. Resh is a self-taught gardener, so she’s great at breaking things down in ways even a first-time gardener can understand.
Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun by Niki Jabbour
Another book from bestselling author Niki Jabbour—this one is really good to expand your go-to plants that you might think of growing in your raised beds. Niki profiles 224 plants from around the world that you can grow, including detailed growing information. Part of the point of growing a little bit of your own food is to try things you might not find at the grocery store, right?
Shop Veggie Garden Remix here.
Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening: The Total Guide to Growing Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Other Edible Plants the Natural Way by J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck
I found this book to be a great resource when I first started gardening, and I think you’ll find it chock-full of good information even if you don’t live in Texas (all you have to do is adjust the planting dates for your climate). There’s a dedicated space for each crop you might want to grow, including planting dates, planting methods, and even how best to store your harvests. The authors really get into how to troubleshoot issues you might encounter when growing each plant, including using home remedies for pest and disease control in your garden.
Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy
I think any post on gardening books would be remiss not to include this beautiful garden book. The author teaches you how to incorporate edible plants—everything from vegetables and fruits to nuts and berries—into beautifully designed outdoor environments. It’s also a really great resource for container gardening if you don’t have raised beds set up yet. Honestly, even if you just treat this one as a coffee table book, you’ll really enjoy the 300 gorgeous photographs.
Shop Edible Landscaping here.
LETTUCE HELP YOU LEARN TO GROW IN YOUR RAISED BEDS
We’re here to answer all of your questions about gardening in raised beds. Check out our Raised Bed Garden Design Services HERE. Let us know which books you plan to check out and if we missed one of your favorites!