When the weather’s cold and wet, and the gardener in you is getting a serious case of cabin fever, you might want to prepare for these days ahead of time by reading some of the top gardening books of Texas. In addition, some of them are great reference books as well, and will give you pointers about a variety of garden situations. Any of these books also make ideal Christmas presents for gardeners.
1. Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region, by Sally Wasowski and Andy Wasowski. This book contains beautiful color photographs of wildflowers which do well for each region of Texas, from southeast to the Panhandle. It includes a number of landscaping designs that will inspire you.
2. The Vegetable Book, by Dr. Sam Cotner. This great, timeless book on vegetable gardening in Texas was out of print for a long time. Used copies of the book sold for as much as $100. Now, Texas Gardener magazine has brought the book back into print for under $35. It has been described as “the most informative and comprehensive ‘how to’ book on vegetable gardening in Texas.” Many gardeners follow Cotner’s exhaustive directions on planting, caring for and harvesting every common vegetable that grows in this area. This is a must-have book for any gardener’s library. The late Dr. Cotner was head of horticulture at Texas A&M.
3. Teeming with Microbes, by Wayne Lewis and Jeff Lowenfels. The winner of the 2011 Garden Writers of America’s Gold Award, Teeming with Microbes explains the intricate and delicate balance of soil’s ecosystem. Healthy soil is teeming with life and this book explains the process in a language that the layman can understand. It has opened many eyes about the microbial life that should exist in soil.
4. Texas Month-By-Month Gardening, by Robert “Skip” Richter. With an easy-to-follow format, this publication provides a rich, month-by-month picture of gardening, especially that all-important timing of when to do what. It includes everything you need to do each month and covers all plant groups – annuals, perennials, groundcovers, trees, edibles and all things in between. There are also some great color photographs demonstrating techniques and plant identification. Richter is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent (he once served as Extension agent for Montgomery County) and is a nationally recognized gardening authority.
5. Rodale’s Book of Composting, Rodale Press. Composting is a growing habit among gardeners, particularly in Montgomery County. It’s a great way to feed the soil with beneficial microorganisms and nutrients, while disposing of dead leaves, grass clippings, tree trimmings and kitchen scraps. This book includes easy-to-follow instructions for making and using compost.
6. Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac, by Dr. Douglas F. Welsh Ph.D. and Aletha St. Romain. A particularly entertaining and well-written book which prescribes garden activities for each month, as well as some great treatises on roses, fruit and nut trees, pruning techniques, water conservation, and weeds.
7. Texas Wildflowers, by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller. A Texas classic which many residents use as a reference guide to identify both common and rare wildflowers. The book contains both personal descriptions and color photographs of 381 native wildflowers, and includes both the scientific and common names, a glossary, and a bibliography.
8. Trees of Texas: An Easy Guide to Leaf Identification, by Carmen Stahl and Ria McElvaney. This guide to more than 200 of Texas’ most common trees includes life-sized black and white photos of leaves, nuts, fruit, flowers and bark. Accompanying the photos are description of the species, value to wildlife, and interesting folklore, cultural and historic notes. The photos are stunning and this book makes a wonderful conversation piece.
9. Wildflowers of Houston and Southeast Texas, by John and Gloria Tveten. Color photos and descriptions of wildflowers indigenous to the area enhance this seminal work by the Tvetens. History and lore of each species accompanies the work, and a list of key identifying features allows for quick reference in the field.
10. The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook, by William D. Adams. Dr. Bill Adams is a tomato guru, and this step-by-step guide brings his expertise to the reader. Dr. Adams’ book is both humorous and informative. For a bumper crop of tomatoes, this is a book that every gardener should have on their shelf.
11. The Southern Kitchen Garden: Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs and Flowers Essential for the Southern Cook, by William Adams and Tom LeRoy. Tom LeRoy is the former horticulture agent for Montgomery County and well-known for his gardening expertise. This collaborative work between LeRoy and Adams is essential reading for all vegetable gardeners in Montgomery County.