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The Garden Primer

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  808 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Now the beloved classic is revised front-to-back. The new edition has gone 100% organic, which in Barbara Damrosch's hands also means completely accessible. It reflects the latest research on plants, soils, tools, and techniques. There is updated and expanded information on planning a garden, recommended plants, and best tools. Ecological issues are addressed much more ext ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published January 10th 1988 by Workman Publishing Company
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  808 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is THE quintessential go-to book for gardening questions. Damrosch takes it to the next level--but only if the reader needs to go there. It works for the beginning gardener, listing plant by plant, the basics required to grow it. For the advanced gardener, she includes soil breakdowns and pH, along with pests and how to treat them. She takes the reader from beginning to end--the best basic tools, how to care for them, how to store them. There are designs in the book, tips that seem off the ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, garden
Helpful general how-t0 information on setting up a garden. Good for novices like me.
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
Less tips than I would've liked, but pretty good relatively speaking. A bit more concern about aesthetics than I'd like
Erica Gutierrez
An excellent garden reference. I come back to this book again and again.
Katarina Ross
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, gardening
I can't say enough good things about this book. While it lacks the myriad of bright images of other gardening books and is definitely a tome, The Garden Primer is exactly that - a comprehensive starting point for gardeners of all varieties.

Want to grow a wildflower garden? Barbara Damrosch has you covered. Want to grow an extensive mix of herbs and vegetables? Start here. Prefer to stay indoors? The section on house plants is for you. I am generally more interested in growing plants
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gardening skills rusty or nonexistent? Start here.
Kc Lemson
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just the right level of breadth and just the right level of depth. VERY useful textbook-like information about the mechanics of plant growth and how sun, air, soil, etc work.
Of all my gardening reference books, this is probably my favorite. Don't tell the others.
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who believes he or she has a brown thumb.
Shelves: how-to
This is one of the first gardening books I ever read. It gave me an excellent gardening foundation, and from that foundation I gained the confidence to begin experimenting with plants.

Yes, it's a big, thick book. It covers (forgive me) a lot of ground. Beginning with chapters on planning your property, surveys of what plants need, and what gear gardeners require to help meet those needs, Damrosch provides clear and practical knowledge that novice gardeners can put to use immediately.
Jun 13, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a fairly good overview of everything gardening has to offer and is definitely a good place to start for some basic information. It is by no means all encompassing, but I found it lacking in part by the attempt it made at being broad.

For one thing, this book assumes you are a homeowner who can do what you wish with your yard for gardening space. It very briefly touches on container gardening and small space gardening but they are mere paragraphs with little to no information on the topi
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I should label this my ALWAYS or Seasonal reading shelf. I pick this book up when I am thinking about gardening as it snows or if I have a new project on the yard, or something changes the conditions in my yard, or one of my plants is not doing well, or, well, you get the picture.

It is such a perennial (hah, see what I did there?) favorite because I have never, ever read another gardening book that gave me more empathy for plants. She describes what plants prefer from a perspective that helps y
Molly Mccarty
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a must go to book for any gardener. Between three of my gardening friends, we have agreed that this is one resource we would not be without.
I recently audited the Master Gardener course and I used this as a weekly adjunct to the material we covered in class. In only one area, that of Native Plants and Prairie Gardening, did I not find corresponding material in this book to match our lessons. Such a gardening emphasis is relatively new, and my copy is dated 1988.
Still highly r
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is my gardening bible! It's thorough and well-written.

Region is important in gardening books. The Garden Primer is written by a New Englander and is very well-suited to my small, urban, MA garden. People always tell me I have a green thumb, and I have to respond, "I just read a lot before I started digging." What I mean is, I read this book cover to cover, and have read it many times in pieces since then. The best garden reference book I own, and a great way to get started if you're n
Feb 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is not something that one would generally expect to find witty, inviting, and readable just for the sake of reading.

It was.

The author has an engaging voice, and breaks down gardening into the simplest of terms for even the most incompetent novice. (aka: me) Her descriptions of the desired texture of the soil, or what a certain kind of pest looks like are so accurate that a picture would be redundant. Her little wry comments had Steve double checking to make sure
Garrett Zecker
This book is a fantastic, all in one compendium for the modern gardener. It is full of advice on building, fostering, feeding, flora, and just about every aspect of gardening. It is great - if you are just starting out, or you have been gardening for a while, this book is really and all in one resource for you to use in the garden and in the living room. Really helpful! Would rate it more, but it is almost like rating a dictionary - a dictionary is a dictionary. I will say this, though - it beat ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gardening
I grew up spending summers on the Jersey Shore (the one in the US). My mother was wild about gardens and I seem to have inherited the longing for the feel of the soil and the sun on the herbs. But it was Barbara Damrosch's book that taught me to really study gardening as a science as well as a just a joyful art.

This book has lots of basic but very detailed and helpful practical advice. Thanks to Damrosch, I grew the earliest peas in the neighborhood in the first garden I could call my own in Ma
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the absolute bible for gardening. I had gone through a few other books before my mother sent me her copy of The Garden Primer to no real satisfaction. Most of the books I read were immensely basic to the point I felt they were possibly written for kindergarteners.
The Garden Primer is basic yet in depth to the point that you'll feel confident in what your doing when you dig your hands into the earth. Definitly a 'must read' to those looking to get into gardening.
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, outdoors
I picked this up because it is the book that my friend who I thought knew everything about gardening refers to. Surprisingly, a novice like me can understand it too. Very simple and straightforward. The introductory chapters are worth reading through if you are a newbie - about soil, garden planning, etc - but this is also the book you want on your shelf to refer to about particular plants and what they need once you get rolling. Love it.
Mar 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
This is a GREAT book. The version I have was printed a long time ago, I don't know if there is a newer version out there. The only thing that could be better is that she gives you places to order different catalogues, flowers, etc. and there aren't any websites. :) It has information for every type of garden: vegetable, fruit, flower, shurb, tree, wild, herb... I think I'm going to buy it I liked it so much.
David Ward
Feb 04, 2010 rated it liked it
The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch (Workman Publishing Company 1998) (635). This volume is an extensive catalog of small articles on every imaginable topic about gardening. The sheer number of topics comes at a price: the articles are extremely general in nature. My rating 6.5/10, finished 2005.
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to start a garden of any kind
Shelves: gardening
Began using this book in 2002, and I continue to use it as my gardening bible. It has so much good information for when to plant, how to treat, when to harvest, ph level of the soil, how to prepare the soil, etc. Everything you need to know to garden, minus local info about weather, but you can find that easily online. I have a local book, but I use this much more frequently.
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-library, borrowed, book, 411
I really enjoyed using this book as a reference. It was simple and easy to use. Although the drawings were black and white they were clean, yet detailed and pleasing to the eye. Now why not 5 stars? I would've liked more information, colored pictures, and troubleshooting. Although I got this from the library is still own a copy.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wishlist, garden
An necessary reference for organic gardening- answers fundamental questions, offers wisdom about what plants need, how to plan your landscape, what garden gear is essential, how to choose and purchase plants, how to harvest bountiful vegetables in your region, and how to keep indoor plants in good health. Comprehensive but well-organized, so it doesn't feel overwhelming.
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Okay, I will admit that I didn't sit down and read this book cover-to-cover, but I did start it and read in detail the parts that I found particularly interesting and relevant and skimmed through those that weren't. I know next to nothig about gardening and needed a solid, comprehensive guide to get me started and this fit the bill.
Jackie Gately
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book twenty years ago to learn the basics when I bought my home. Just purchased the new edition of "The Garden Primer" for my son, who also enjoys gardening. It's a must-have for any serious gardener. Covers all the basics, from soil and nutrition, to detailed growing guidelines for vegetables, fruits, perennials, annuals and more. A keeper and lifetime reference.
Jan 18, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
The previous owner of our new house kept a nice vegetable garden and I'd like to keep it going. Gretchen and I ran a little veggie growing experiment last year and it convinced me that we should that it's worth the effort (and that I needed to learn more).
Kathy Kenney
May 01, 2010 added it
Shelves: own
Have actually read most of this book, at least the beginner chapters about how to garden, then about vegetable garden. Seems invaluable and I would definitely like to own. I'm a beginner gardener, and this would be a wonderful reference book.
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've found this book very helpful while planning and working in my garden. The advice is simple and easy to understand and organized in a way that makes looking information up easy. It's a great book for any gardener.
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful, especially for my first time gardening on my own. I'm planning on buying my own copy so I don't have to keep renewing it at the library.

Edit April 2011- I was bought this as a birthday present this year. Hooray!
Meredith Y
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED this as a resource! This draws from the author's extensive knowledge of organic gardening to address the topic as a whole, as well as particular vegetables, fruit, the lawn, shrubs, etc. The advice is easy to understand and apply.
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Barbara has worked professionally in the field of horticulture since 1977. She writes, consults and lectures on gardening and farming and is owner of Four Season Farm, an experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine.

Barbara writes a weekly column for for The Washington Post called A Cook's Garden. She is also the author of The Garden Primer and Theme Gardens and her writing has been