The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch

The other day I was contacted by the folks at Workman Publishing. They had a new book that they wanted someone to look at so I said I’d be happy to check it out. The book is The Garden Primer: Second Edition
by Barbara Damrosch. Some of you may be familiar with the original version of this gardening manual that was produced about 20 years ago. This version has been updated to include newer and better information about organic and sustainable gardening.

I found a wealth of knowledge inside this book that beginning gardeners will find invaluable. More advanced gardeners will still find it a useful resource that will help fill those gaps of forgotten information.

The first few chapters discuss a variety of gardening practices and techniques, about what plants need to thrive, tools for the garden and how to select various plants. This is where Barbara fills in the gardening gaps and gives you really useful information. She talks about plant diseases and how to deal with them, procedures like double digging garden beds, types of weeds and even how to compost for your garden. There are also chapters that discuss the various plant types giving many examples of annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, fruits, ground covers, and several more! In all over 370 different plants are discussed. To me those sections are fantastic. I can open the book up to vegetables and find all I need to know about tomatoes or anything else that I intend to plant in my garden. What gardener wouldn’t like to learn more about the individual varieties of plants they grow in their garden? Each plant description tells how to grow it the best way possible and in some cases she shares her personal experience with that plant. The vegetable section is very specific. For each vegetable she covers the appropriate site for growing, how to plant it, some tips for the plant while it’s growing, information on pests, harvesting, and the varieties of the plant.In the vegetable section she includes a small garden layout of 20′ x 24′ and a larger one of 40′ x 60′. The other plant sections also contain useful garden plans.

The Garden Primer packs in significant gardening information to create a veritable tome of garden knowledge. This is one of those books that you pick up and learn something new each time you read it. Barbara writes in a very conversational way, sharing stories of her personal experiences and philosophies of gardening. It seems that she draws you into the conversation in such a casual and friendly manner that it doesn’t feel like some scientific horticulturalist speaking in technical jargon, but rather a friendly neighbor sharing her experiences.

The one thing that I felt The Garden Primer lacked was color photographs. The pencil drawings in the book are very well done but one of the most important aspects of gardening, in my opinion, is color. To see the flowers and vegetables listed in a color format would have been extremely helpful, especially for planning purposes. I think you lose a little detail without the color photographs.

It would be impossible for one book to have all the gardening information in the world, but the Garden Primer would be a good first place to look. The Garden Primer is great informational read and an asset for any gardener’s library!

5 thoughts on “The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch”

  1. good you put the less than positive with the positive. i absolutely HAVE to have color photographs in my garden books.

  2. Dave, what part of the country does this lady live? Not too much info for my area in Fl. I too need the color to help put things together for a pleasing affect. But I’m sure the book is informative.

  3. Dave,

    Very thorough review…I have one of her books but not this one….it hasn’t photos either, just some nice color drawings. She does indeed have a nice writing style.

    This may be the perfect book for my sisters birthday.



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