For the first time in three years of effort, my organic gardening is paying off. I've got quite the crop going and am able to offset our grocery bill. Our space is small, and I basically have two beds going. It's amazing how much food you can get out of a small space. I'm still a beginner and have much to learn, but the process is exciting and fruitful.
Here are some books I recommend for those who would like to grow food in a small urban space:
ONE MAGIC SQUARE: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square by Lolo Houbein: Inspiring book written by a woman who understands how fragile the food chain is. Ms. Houbein grew up in Europe in the 1940's when, due to war, her region suffered a famine. Houbein learned how easily your food supply can be cut off and how important it is to take responsibility for at least a portion of your own food production.
Despite this harsh experience, her joy and love of gardening come through loud and clear and she is rather laid back about it. Still, she warns about things like terminator seeds (food which has insanely been altered with terminator genes so that they yield no viable seeds) and how to save your own seeds. There are tons of creative and practical gardening ideas. Her story is as compelling as her gardening tips and this is a fascinating read.
GROW GREAT GRUB by Gayla Trail: LOVE this book! It's filled with color photos--pretty much on every page which is wonderful for me as I'm very visual and it really helps to see exactly what she's talking about. It also makes the book more accessible and fun to read. There are chapters on growing, harvesting, preservation and storage.
Trail's tone is conversational and really makes gardening enjoyable as opposed to more of a chore. I've read gardening books that are so technical and advanced that it scared me off. This is the antidote to that. There are recipes and tips such as to how to deal with pests, this book is a feast and packs a lot of information into its 200 pages. Trail also has a website, You Grow Girl, the namesake of her first book, which I now want to read.
FRESH FOOD FROM SMALL SPACES by R.J. Ruppenthal: Great for the beginning urban homesteader. Ruppenthal gives a nice overview of everything from gardening to raising honey bees and chickens (I don't eat eggs, but feel that if you do, it's a good idea to have your own well cared for chickens).
Included are chapters on fermenting, sprouting, and vertical gardening. This is sustainable living right in the city by using available space to farm your own fresh food.
McGEE AND STUCKEY'S BOUNTIFUL CONTAINER by Rose Marie Nichols McGee & Maggie Stuckey: This book is known as the container gardening bible. It's an A to Z, plant by plant guide that opens up the world of gardening to all. You can grow a lavish edible garden on a balcony--very liberating to those of us with small spaces.
I like the attention to aesthetics, and the authors discuss at the beginning how to make your container garden beautiful as well as fertile and productive. By using color and themes, you can do all sorts of creative things with a container garden. There are illustrations, not photos, which I don't miss in this book. What it lacks in visuals it more than makes up for with tons of information.
It's got a great layout, is very easy to read, and is full of wisdom and tips. It's one of those must have reference books that belongs on every gardener's shelf. You can pick it up any time you have a question and go right to the answer.
KITCHEN HARVEST by Susan Berry: Container gardening is a great way to get your feet wet. This book has lots of enticing photos which provide a pleasing introduction to growing edible food in pots. Makes a nice companion book to more technical books like The Bountiful container.