This is the time of year when gardeners spend more time with books than with plants. Gardening season has ended, but gardeners are always trying to think of ways to make their gardens better next year.

In addition, it is also the gift-giving season, whether you celebrate Hanukkah starting Dec. 8, winter solstice on Dec. 21, Festivus (and son Zachary’s birthday) on Dec. 23, Christmas on Dec. 25, Kwanzaa on Dec. 26 or you are a real party guy and celebrate all of them. Books are a great gift for gardeners. 

Last week, I wrote about “The Maine Garden Journal” by Lisa Colburn (see, but this week I am going to write briefly about the books that came across my desk this year — although two of them were published in 2011.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the books that publishers sent to me this year concern growing food. The grow-local movement is continuing to be strong, for several reasons: The food is better, people are trying to save money and there have been a variety of disease problems related to meat and vegetables grown both in the United States and abroad.

Lee Reich is one of the best gardening writers working today. He writes a syndicated gardening column for the Associated Press that occasionally shows up on these pages. His tree-pruning book is one of the best ever printed. And he has a Ph.D. in horticulture, with a specialty in growing fruit.

His “Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Homegrown Fruit” is the latest of his books. It is a national book, so we Mainers will skip a few sections, like the ones for growing citrus, avocado and mangoes. Or you can read those just in case you plan on moving to warmer places.

The book carefully tells you which zones each plant will grow in, what kind of soil it needs, how it should be pruned if necessary, what the pests are and how to harvest.

It is $24.95 from Taunton Press, 234 pages and loaded with photographs.

An alternative book is the “Fruit Gardener’s Bible” by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry, both from Vermont, published by Storey Press. This book is 320 pages, also with lots of photos, and $24.95.

This also includes a section on nuts, which the Reich book doesn’t, and is very well organized.

If you are thinking about growing fruit or want to find out why your fruit is not doing as well as you would like, either one of these books would be a great help.

“Fruit and Vegetable Gardening: The Definitive Guide to Successful Growing,” edited by Michael Pollock, is an even broader book, published by DK Books, 272 pages and $29.95. This book covers everything, and it does so by using both smaller print and smaller photographs than the aforementioned two books. This is the first American edition of a book by an international publisher, so it might not have the local feel of the other two. But if you are just embarking on gardening, it has it all.

“Fruit and Vegetables in Pots” is a book that is hitting a trend, also published by DK Books. More people are living in apartments or condominiums, or even if they have a typical yard, they may want to limit their garden to the deck or patio.

This book covers everything from leafy vegetables to small fruit trees, including herbs, nuts and root vegetables. It gives ideas on how to start many vegetables from seed, what kinds of pots to use and how to prepare your own planting medium. It is an English book originally, but since it is talking about container gardening, most of the ideas will transfer well. It is $9.99 and 144 pages.

“The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers,” by Teri Dunn Chace, tries to take the place of the older relative or neighbor who patiently gave many of us guidance when we began gardening.

Gardeners worry. They love their plants, and want to do the best for them. Chace writes in a friendly and relaxed style, giving advice. And each section ends with a section called “If I goofed, can I fix it?”

And most problems can be fixed, even when, in the case of bad pruning, the repair includes giving the plant a year off.

Chace has gardened everywhere from California to coastal Massachusetts, so her ideas will fit most of the country.

The book covers everything: lawns, vegetables, perennials, fruit trees, watering, fertilizing, pesticides, pests and more. It is $12.95, and published by Timber Press. It is the best book I have seen this year for the beginning gardener.

“The Encyclopedia of Planting Combinations,” published by Firefly, is for more experienced gardeners. It assumes you know how to make things grow, and is aimed at making things look better in the garden. This North American edition came out this year, but is based on a book that came out in 2008 in Great Britain. It is 464 pages, with lots of pictures, and priced at $45.

“The Naturescaping Workbook,” by Beth O’Donnell Young, is a book designed to help you make a more natural landscape out of your yard. It outlines the reasons for doing so, including attracting wildlife to your yard, and provides worksheets to help you do so. Young lives in Oregon — when she isn’t in Italy — and teaches classes in naturescaping.

The book, published by Timber Press, is $24.95, 226 pages and full of photographs and drawings.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

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