Book Review: Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques

By Jim Janke | Oct 07, 2013

The American Horticultural Society was founded in 1922 “to open the eyes of all Americans to the vital connection between people and plants; to inspire all Americans to become responsible caretakers of the Earth; to celebrate America's diversity through the art and science of horticulture; and to lead this effort by sharing the Society's unique national resources with all Americans.”

Their Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques by Mitchell Beazley (2013: Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd.) was first published in hardback in 2009 for $45; a paperback edition is now available for less than $20 from online booksellers. Subtitled “A step-by-step guide to basic skills every gardener needs,” this volume is aimed at novice gardeners as well as those with more experience who wish to branch out into new areas.

I’m often critical of general gardening “handbooks.” When the book is a collaboration of several authors, different writing styles can lead to some subjects being discussed in insufficient detail, while others are given much more space than makes sense for a general volume. Many gardening handbooks have scope issues, trying to be all things to all gardeners, independent of their experience level. And sometimes the “expert” writer uses buzzwords that are insufficiently defined for new gardeners. The Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques avoids these pitfalls.

The book is oversized (about 9 by 12 inches) with a plasticized cover, printed on heavy paper, and weighs over four pounds. Many topics are covered thoroughly; for example, gardening basics, ornamentals, vegetables and herbs, fruits and propagation techniques are discussed in chapters of 50 to 75 pages each. Lawns, water and container gardens, and greenhouse gardening are also explored in depth.  More than 200 color photos and 2,000 illustrations make it easy to follow the text. Each section contains many plant descriptions, common problems and solutions, and (where applicable) detailed pruning techniques.

The Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques is the best general gardening handbook I have seen, and is unreservedly recommended for new and experienced gardeners alike.

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. © 2013 N.C. State University.

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