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Book Review: The Vegetable Gardeners' Bible by Ed Smith

Updated on December 22, 2017

The Book To Help You Grow A Healthy Garden

Most of my gardening experience is from when I was a kid. My family had a big vegetable garden every year and I helped with it until I went to college.

Fast forward a lot of years and I'm finally planting my own garden and wanted a good reference book to help improve my results.

There are lots of gardening books on the market to choose from. I bought The Vegetable Gardener's Bible because one of the master gardeners at my county's cooperative extension highly recommended it.

I'm glad I did! It's been an invaluable resource. Please read on for my reasons why and to learn what you'll find in this helpful guide. Note that I have the 10th anniversary edition so my review is based on that.

Summary of "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible"

What's this book about?

It's all about Ed Smith's system for growing high yield organic vegetable gardens. He calls it the WORD system which stands for Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds and Deep soil. Ed explains the how's, why's and when's of this gardening strategy that he's been developing and using for over 30 years.

There's an A to Z index of vegetables and herbs with detailed info on soil preferences, sowing, growing, harvesting and storing each plant type. The index even includes seed longevity info.

The book is divided into three sections and I'll cover each further down...

Thoughts About "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible"

There's a lot of good information in here! Fortunately, it's well organized and easy to understand. I've read through the whole book and frequently go back to it as a reference when I have questions.

There are plenty of color photos (many from Ed's own garden) and drawings that are useful. They make it easy to leaf through and find the subject I'm looking for. And they help inspire ideas for my own garden.

This book is definitely comprehensive and a solid resource for beginning and experienced gardeners. Ed's plain, folksy writing style helps you easily understand his tips and the reasons behind them.

Do You Have A Vegetable Garden?

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Meghan's Old Garden
Meghan's Old Garden | Source

Part 1 - From Seed to Harvest

Higher Yields with Less Work

This section covers why gardeners should use wide, deep rows and how it will help you grow more delicious vegetables in less space. Hint: It's all about the roots.

Ed explains how to choose the site for your garden beds, how to build a raised bed garden and how to plan your garden. The garden planning chapter guides you on picking your seeds, positioning the plants and how to rotate your crops. There are sample garden plan diagrams to get you started with ideas.

Another chapter discusses how to get your plants started early with seedlings and using a cold frame. If you have space for a greenhouse, Ed talks about winter gardening here and other ways to use greenhouses in several places throughout the book. Getting your soil to the right temperatures for sowing seeds and germination is also covered.

The last chapter in this part covers how to water and feed your plants and keep the weeds under control.

Earthworms At Work In My Garden
Earthworms At Work In My Garden | Source

Part 2 - The Healthy Garden

Aboveground, Belowground

Ed's a big believer in the folk wisdom that "a very good gardener grows soil." He devotes an entire chapter to improving your garden's soil. Much of that focuses on soil tests and what to do based on the results. This section inspired me to do a soil test on my garden. He also talks about the importance of earthworms to build your soil's structure.

Compost is a key ingredient to Ed's garden. He explains why it's so important and how to make your own compost.

This part closes with how to recognize and naturally control many garden pests. Bugs, disease and four legged critters are all covered. For bugs, the author's emphasis is on creating a healthy balance between the bad bugs that eat your plants and the predators (good bugs and animals) that gobble them up.

Another Gardening Guide by Edward C. Smith

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers: Using Ed's Amazing POTS System
Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers: Using Ed's Amazing POTS System
Check out Ed's guide on using containers to grow your vegetables. Very helpful if you don't have yard space for a raised bed garden.
Gardening - Vegetable
Gardening - Vegetable | Source

Part 3 - Plant Directory

Index of Vegetables and Herbs

This part of the book contains a wealth of information on many types of vegetable and herb plants. For each plant there's info on sowing, growing, harvesting and storing that plant. The sowing and growing part has details on soil temperature, pH preference, nutrient requirements and much more.

The index also lists the seed longevity for each plant. This is key info for me since I have a small garden and end up with a lot of seeds left over to use in future seasons. This is the first place I've found seed longevity info so I'm excited about it.

Soon after I got this book I was on the phone with my dad when he mentioned that someone gave him a horseradish plant but he had no idea how to plant it. I said, "Hold on a sec", grabbed The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, flipped through it and found the page on horseradish with all the info my dad needed!

5 stars for "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible"

What I Like About "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible"

This book is awesome and I gladly rate it 5 stars! Here are some of the key reasons why...

  1. Easy to read and easy to skim through to find the info I'm looking for.
  2. Full of information that I can use to improve my gardening skills.
  3. Ed's emphasis on using healthy, natural gardening methods wherever possible.
  4. Detailed info for many plants that I want to grow...including seed longevity!

How Do You Rate "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible"?

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Photo Credits

meghan's old garden used under Creative Commons from feather.

Earthworms At Work In My Garden used under Creative Commons from Will Merydith.

Gardening - Vegetable used under Creative Commons from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


Thanks for visiting. Please share your thoughts below on The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, Edward Smith or vegetable gardening in general.


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