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The Garden Primer: Second Edition Hardcover – February 28, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 139 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This comprehensive compendium of gardening facts, helpful hints and earthy advice is an unusually readable, user-friendly gardening encyclopedia. The book's first section covers the basics of what a gardener needs to get started: principles of landscape design, What Plants Need, gardening gear and how to buy plants. Damrosch, who aims to answer as many questions about gardening as possible, gives more than the standard instructions for making compost and buying pruning tools; she includes details like parts of plants and a comprehensive guide to botanical names that give beginning gardeners an unusually sophisticated and scientific footing. Her intimate, up-to-date, down-to-earth writing is distinctly rooted in the garden, with humor born of experience: A garden hose is like a lover that you can't live with and can't live without. No scientific advance, to my knowledge, has yet tamed its willful nature. With sections on annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, fruits, bulbs, lawns, trees and even houseplants, to name a few, and with specifics for individual plants in each section, this book will be a useful addition to the collections of seasoned gardeners as well as novices. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Remarkably complete, this is the one: the indispensable one-volume reference guide to gardening simply, beautifully and well. It is jam-packed with useful information, old-fashioned common sense, and a lifetime's worth of experience, and is thoroughly revised and expanded to be 100 percent organic in its recommendations. Updated with the latest on plants, soils, techniques, and tools, it includes: The basics of landscaping, emphasizing sustainable methods. Understanding what plants need and avoiding complex rules and formulas. How to choose and combine flowers for season-long color, orchestrating with perennials and accenting with annuals. Extending the season - that's right, harvest carrots in January. The secret to raising roses without fuss, less demanding lawns, vines with discipline, and trees that will enhance your property. There is new information on native species, and all the gardening resources you need—explained in a voice that "has the snap of a good snowpea and the spice of an old rose"
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; 2 edition (February 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761148566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761148562
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,573,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Phillip O. VINE VOICE on April 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Twenty years ago I remember discovering Barbara Damrosch's The Garden Primer at the local library. It was full of practical advice dispensed in such an engaging manner and I ended up buying myself a copy. The Garden Primer is a rare exception of a gardening book that can benefit gardeners no matter where they live. It is especially helpful to novice gardeners who want to start a garden but are not exactly sure where to begin.

The first chapters deal with the basics - what plants need in order to grow properly, how to prepare your soil, starting your own seeds, proper planting methods and how to deal with insects and diseases. A chapter on gardening gear covers tools, what to wear and how to organize it all.

Damrosch then goes into plant specifics with chapters on Annuals, Perennials, Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, Bulbs, Roses, Lawns, Ground Covers, Vines, Shrubs, Tree, Wildflowers and Houseplants. Each section discusses how to buy plants, how to plan your site (with some planting scheme plans included), how to grow the plants and maintain them. She then includes an encyclopedia of specific plants with descriptions and basic growing advice. The vegetable section is even more extensive with details on growing and harvesting. If plants are more suited to certain areas of the country, it is mentioned.

Another element of this book that I enjoy are the wonderful illustrations. They are black-and-white, simple and yet so effective. And I'm so glad they kept the illustration of the garden shed on the endsheets. I've always admired that and maybe this year I will finally get my own tools organized like it!
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Format: Paperback
My copy of "The Garden Primer" is worn, tattered, and never on the shelf with the rest of my gardening books. I refer to Barbara's sage advice for everything. It's has allowed me to try new plants, techniques, and garden designs - all without feeling I don't know what I'm doing. It's like having a master gardener watching over you.
Be forewarned though - she writes most (if not all) of her gardening experience from a Connecticut/zone 5 background. Those in the desert regions of Arizona may find most her advice useless.
Buy it - you'll never need another gardening book again.
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Format: Paperback
Barbara Damrosch is a self-confirmed 'old-fashioned dirt gardener.' And, she's does organic gardening to boot. This book is a comprehensive, easily understood guide to all aspects of gardening; it even includes a chapter on houseplants.

I like that Damrosch prefers hand tools over power tools. And, that she uses her hands to pull weeds at times.

The chapter on "what plants need," was terrific--covers the basics and gave me a firm understanding of what plants require to thrive.

The book contains all you need to grow annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, trees, shrubs and vines.

Indispensable!

from the author of the award winning book, Harmonious Environment: Beautify, Detoxify and Energize Your Life, Your Home and Your Planet
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Format: Paperback
My copy of Barbara Damrosch's "Garden Primer" is splattered with mud and rain and has seeds stuck in the binding. This is not a coffee table book. This is a read it, use it book. There are no pretty photographs; there are no photographs. Just great road-tested advice on soil, tools, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, etc. No one subject is covered in depth, however, it covers every subject well and gets right to most important information. Like the "Joy of Cooking" in the kitchen, this is your all-purpose, when-do-I-plant- the-broccoli, how-do-I-spray-the-roses, where-do-I-put-the-fig-tree, kind of book. Would make an excellent housewarming gift for first time homeowners.
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Format: Paperback
I live in the the Northeast and a friend recommended this as the go-to resource for gardening in our area. The author obviously loves her subject matter and has years and years of experience. However, this book reads like she has so many years of experience that she can't lay out the most basic of information for beginners and seasoned gardeners. Want to know the optimum temperature for planting pea seeds? It's not in this book. Need to find out what to do with your root knot nematode problem? There's only a fleeting mention of this pest. How does one harden off seedlings that have been started inside without killing them? Only a short, sparse description of this tricky process, without even an acknowledgement that sudden moves from inside to outside can burn a plant to death.

Most gardeners prefer to spend the bulk of their time outside gardening. They consult books to gain valuable information like when to plant what and how to deal with pests. A book that lays out this information in an easy to read, easy to access format is so much more helpful than a text like "The Garden Primer." I'm sure the author is a nice person and I don't doubt that there are people who will keep this tome by their bedside for a little pre-sleep reading (especially in winter when the garden is dormant). But there are better resources out there. If you're seduced by the word "organic" in this book's description and obsessed with having a book marketed as being exclusively eco-friendly, Tanya Denckla's "The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food" is both concise and thorough. If you want a book that spells out the basics of vegetable gardening (organic or non-), then Mel Batholomew's "Square Foot Gardening" is actually quite helpful.
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