Can anyone recommend a good source of information for a beginning gardener?

Em asks: Can anyone recommend a good source of information for a beginning gardener?
I want to start planning now for a permaculture landscape design for my yard next spring. From what I’ve read about permaculture, it sounds like a great concept, but I’m overwhelmed by ph levels, companion planting, planting seeds in hills, blah, blah, blah! I need to do this as frugally as possible and want to do some container gardening to avoid weeds. I want to plant the front and back yards and have it be both attractive and productive. Any advice? Thank you!

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Answer by Crazy Horse
I have found that the local “Lowes” or Home Depot have a great variety of gardening/plant books for any area. Since every climate is different, most are tailored to your specific region. My fav is the Neil Sperry Gardening book. It gives landscape, grass, shrubs, flowers, herbs and trees along with a section on bugs and disease and a leaf chart for finding out what tree you have. It’s a great book, but unless you live in Texas, I don’t know if you will find it.

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  1. Call your local UCCE extension office and ask for the Master Gardeners. They have a myriad of literature that they disperse at no charge.

  2. To start gardening without the blah, blah blah, take a look at the site below. It is particularly good on the compost side of things. It is also extremely frugal. Plain commonsense without the blah.

  3. You should check your local library for books you can read for free, and then also stop by your neighbors whose yards you think look nice and ask their advice. Most gardeners will gladly advise a new gardener in their area about the plants that do well and those that do not and as an added bonus, many gardeners will share samples from their spreading perennials with new gardeners in their neighborhood and nothing is cheaper than free. Just tell them if you like a plant in their yard and ask them where they got it. Sometimes they will call if theu need to take some of that plant out later on. Perennials are more expensive in the store, but a good value, since they come back every year. Self-seeders make new seed each year, though they can spread a lot. Another way is to grow things from seed, which is pretty cheap to do. Just ask the gardeners in your neighborhood about what kind of soil they typically have and then get plants that like that kind of soil, rather than trying to change the Ph – just work with the Ph you have (Acid-loving plants for Acid soils, etc.) And place dry plants on higher parts of the yard and moisture loving plants in lower and/or shadier parts of the yard. An experienced gardener in your area can recomment a lot of plants for you, so that you will get plants that grow readily in your area.

  4. Gardener’s Dictionary: permaculture
    An agricultural system based on perennial plants, both herbaceous and woody, rather than on the annuals that now provide almost all of our food. To date, this is a visionary idea, not a reality. See also sustainable agriculture.
    Permaculture is a design idea for community living and self sustaining
    agriculture, etc. It also involves creating a water source so to create a permaculture gardening system won’t come cheap. Several websites offer courses on permaculture.
    The Permaculture Master Plan/Video
    I’m glad I read the link below now I know why I have so many thistle growing in my yard.
    The functioning of weeds in wholesome gardening
    Permaculture and Ecological Design Program

  5. The book, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway is an excellent and inspiring book. See if your local library carries it. Don’t worry about doing everything all at once. Start by building the tilth of your soil and composting. It can take a few years before your soil is good to grow some plants. There are some plants, that like poor soil, so you don’t have to worry about enriching every square foot of your garden. Container gardening is the way to go if you want to move plants around, or you’re not sure about your soil, but some vegetable plants need a lot of root space, and will not thrive in containers. Good luck and have fun!

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