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Top 10 Best Selling Gardening Books

the drunken botanist

So here’s the UNgardening spin on the top 10 Best Selling Gardening Books!  Remember this blog has a gardening theory that you do quick work of little time.  Our time these days is too valuable.  So this list will all be Best Sellers from  BUT I have cleaned the list up a bit so as to take into consideration topics that will save you both time and money.

1) The first book on my list is The Drunken Botanist.  It’s not going to be for any reason you might immediately come to… it’s because my husband has taken to making wine at home.  We now spend a few dollars per bottle of homemade wine that sometimes has a very high alcohol content!  Yum!  Less money AND more alcohol?  I’m sorry, but to an UNgardener that’s a double win!  He has done a superb Virginia Beach Strawberry Wine, and is now tinkering with apples that I picked up last time I was up in Adams County, PA by the cabin.  Some 50% of the land in Adams County is farm land so we can acquire a lot of high quality produce while we are up there.  Wine will be a quarterly venture for us now.  (Back to the book…) The first part of this book is a dissertation in alphabetical fashion of plants that can be fermented into wine, cider, beer, or hard alcohol.  Now just sit back and figure how much you spent last month in wine or beer… go on, buy this book!

2) Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs is book number 2.  And it should be clear why this one is both a Best Seller AND a great UNgardener book.  Medical care isn’t cheap, right?  So, if you can even do a small portion of it yourself you will save oodles of cash.  I know my medical has changed in the last year due to Obamacare.  Hasn’t yours?  This book will show you how to set up your own medical arsenal of herbs.  Brilliant idea!

3) Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 acre is quite simply THE book to buy if you want to lower your grocery bill and lead a more green life style.  The first sentence in the introduction of this book states that home food production is an important skill if you want to lead a more physically and financially healthy life.

4)  Marijuana Horticulture:  The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible.  Number four could be controversial, but sticking strictly to my criteria of being a Best Seller on Amazon as well as a good UNgardening book I couldn’t leave it out!  Think of how much curing Cancer from your body and soul could save you?!  I’ll leave it at that.

5) Vegetable Literacy:  Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom.  In the last year I have begun to juice vegetables as frequently as possible.  I don’t always fast, sometimes I just supplement my normal meals in order to get all the servings of vegetables and fruits that I need each day.  But one thing I noticed is that Americans don’t tend to understand the vegetable stand at the grocery store!  Knowledge is worth its weight in gold if you can both understand what vegetables you need AND what to do with them once you’ve purchased them!  Get juicing with THIS book!

6) Carrots Love Tomatoes.  All plants have best friends or companion plants.  They are those plants that are good for each other’s soul.  I’m sure you’d like to know which plants nourish the soil, which keep away bugs and pests, and which plants just don’t like each other.  This book is a complete guide to using companion planting to grow a more profitable garden.

7)  All New Square Foot Gardening.  This book describes a trend of raised bed gardening where you simplify the gardening process.  Yes, this one amplifies the UNgardening ways immensely!  I will have an entire post on this process shortly!  Stay TUNED!!

8) Seed to Seed:  Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners.  This is a great book that is clear about what it will save you.  I personally love learning new processes that will teach me to do something brand new that would ordinarily have confused me or seemed overwhelming.  Seeds are currently a stressor in my life.  So I will be reading this book too!

9) Four-Season Harvest: Vegetables from your Home Garden All Year Long.  Really???  You mean I can grow vegetables in winter???  I’m IN!!!  No really… I’m working on it… but I’m still perfecting my summer harvest which this year was nil… since I was actually NOT home for July and august… So maybe I’d actually do better in the other three months since those are the months I stay put.  This book will be my code towards a rooky off season harvest.

10) Let it Rot! The Gardener’s Guide to Composting.  For the final area of savings, let’s consider the DIRT and TRASH!  I know, right?  How can those two things save us money?  Well, if you put less trash out by putting composting’s into a compost bin out back you will make nutrient rich soil for next season’s bounty as well as become more of a green human being.  Again, a double WIN!  It IS a process though that needs a little studying.  You need an understanding of what is green versus brown waste.

After raking season will come the relaxed winter season where you can read up on new ideas for next Spring.  I’m betting one of these books will bring you huge cost savings in your yard and hopefully some time savings as well.  And now I’m going to share with you my little book purchasing secret… while I do love, it’s a good idea to get to know other used book websites.  My personal favorite is  I once bought a small library of wine books for $75.  I am still working my way through that library loving every one I pick up.  I’m betting you can find these gardening books for pennies on the dollar there as well.  A good portion of them mentioned being in a second edition or more.  Do less, spend less, and reap more!!

Happy Reading!


The UNgardener


Raking made EASY!

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OK, sorry for the delay between my last post and this one.  My husband and I bought a log cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania where we spent the late summer weeks clean it up and furnishing it.  I am truly looking forward to comparing and contrasting the differences between Southern Gardening where I live in Virginia and a state that actually sees snow.

On to the chores of the coming weeks!  Let’s make raking easy because, let’s face it, no ones says, “Yes, it’s raking season.  Get me my rake!”  So here goes, what CAN we do to make this chore less taxing.

1) First of all, don’t start yet if you can still mow!  Why on earth would you want to do that when the mower can mulch it up magically and some even mulch it into the grass so it can be utilized as nutrients by the lawn.

2) Second of all, I’m going to tell you another thing NOT to do… Don’t rake under your trees where they are not covering up lawn.  Leave (haha, no pun intended!)  them there for a few good reasons.  First, like I said above, they will be contributing nutrients to that zone as they break down over the winter.  Secondly, they may assist in weed restriction both this Fall as well as next Spring if they haven’t completely decomposed by then.  And that is yet another chore I’m helping you NOT do!

3) If you have a garden, rake them right into it after you till it for Fall.  Then till them right into the garden when you till again in Spring.  This may even save you some money on Spring soil nutrients or fertilizers.  There is nothing like saving time AND money!

4) Get a leaf blower!  I know, I know… a lot of people believe the noise created from these bad boys makes them worthless and even worse… But, at least in my Virginia yard, the noise will pick right up where the lawn mowers left off for the year.  So here in cookie cutter America, I use a BagMaster to hold my bag open and will blow the leaf piles right into them.  Now, in my new yard in the Pennsylvania mountains, I’ll be leaving the leaves on the ground if possible… I still haven’t figured out if I’m going to be able to grow a weed free lawn up there, so really, do I care if the leaves stay there until the first mow of the year?  Not sure yet.  That will be decided next Spring.  I’ll add some pictures of the new place to show the new environment I have to UNgarden.  It is definitely different than the postage stamp yard I currently play with.

5) So, while leaf blowing can be fun, there will be times that a rake is necessary, like when the leaves are wet.  And since we will be raking, the proper rake is very important.  How frustrating is it when you are constantly pulling leaves out of the rake’s tines?  Old fashioned rakes don’t have the upgraded features like a thicker more comfortable handle bar, comfort grips, or ergonomically designed parts.

6) Spread out the work throughout the season.  In my usual theory, I do about 3 bags a week since I can get outside, gather up a good amount of leaves, package them and put them out to the curb in a short amount of time.  Another good tip is to rake the day before trash day if you aren’t throwing them into a composting bin.  This will reduce the amount of times you have to handle the heavy bags.  If I bag them early in the week I have a community rule that says I have to put them behind my house so the neighborhood stays looking neat.  Then on Trash Day later in the week I have to drag them to the front yard again.

7) FINAL TIPS to speed up the job:

  • Compost the leaves in a back corner of your property.
  • Haul heavy bags of leaves to the curb in a wheel barrow.
  • Burn the leaves safely and only if it’s acceptable in the area in which you live.
  • Wear gloves to protect hands from blisters while raking.
  • Wear skid resistant shoes to prevent falls when the yard is damp.
  • Bend and lift with your legs, not with your back.
  • Avoid repetitious movements to prevent fatigue and strain.
  • Using a tarp, blow the leaves onto the tarp, then move it forward and repeat.


The UNgardener

Flowers: Plant Care

Below you will find detailed plant care on flowers.  Thanks to the Virginia Cooperative Extension for all the great information!


The UNgardener

Annuals: Culture and Maintenance

Perrenials: Culture, Maintenance, and Propogation

Planning the Flower Border

Fruit and Vegetable Plant Care

Below you will find detailed plant care on many different fruit and vegetable plants.  Thanks to the Virginia Cooperative Extension for all the great information!


The UNgardener



Cole Crops 

Cucumber, Melon, and Squash  

Leafy Green vegetables

Onion, Garlic, and Shallots  

Potatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants  

Root Plants such as Carrots

Small Fruit Plants such as Strawberries

Sweet Corn

Tree Fruit such as apples and plums


Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers!

Container Gardening just got easier for the folks like me who need a formula for putting together a winning combination!

To keep it simple, garden design expert, Steve Silk, has put together a formula with three plant types that make a no fail gorgeous container garden!  You just need a “thriller, spiller, and filler”… I’ll define each and then give you a list of examples of plants for each type as well.  Then I’ll finish up with some great photos of this concept.  And if you’re like me, you can take this post right to the garden center with you and create something more amazing than you ever have before!  I know I’m going to!!  Or I may do it with seeds and really be cheap!!

Thrillers are plants with star quality.  They will be the height in your pot and might be thin and stalky, but will rise above the rest of the pot and really stand out.  Choose this one first as the rest of the pot will be balanced against it.  It might be a flower or just architectural.  Plant this one in the center of the pot if it will be viewed from all sides, or in the back if the pot has a front.  Some examples are: Salvia ‘Golden Delicious,’ Kong series Coleus, Draceana ‘Red Star’ and  Dragon Wing Red Begonia, Agaves, Bananas, Cannas, Purple Fountain Grass, Taros.

Fillers are the plants that will fill in anything that grows straight up.  It will be a mound of flowers around the base of your thriller.  They can be foliage or flowering plants, but they will be the chorus and not the center attraction.  Whatever the elements of the thriller are, this plant should complement it with color and/or texture.  Examples are:  Plectranthrus ‘Troy’s Gold’, Lantana, Alternathera,  and Impatiens ‘Sonic Paste’, Begonias, Dusty Millers, Persian Shield, Angelonia, Cupheas, Fairy fan-flower, Heliotropes, Pentas, Trailing Petunias

Spillers are obviously the plants that spill out over the rim of the pot making the arrangement drip with drama.  They soften the edges of the container and tie the design elements together.  Ground covers are great options here.  Some examples are:  Ipomoea Marguarita, Vinca ‘Illumination’, Bacopa ‘Giant White’, and Verbena Lanai series, Alternantheras, Golden Creeping Jenny, Nasturtiums, Sweet potato vines


The UNgardener

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How to pick color in the Garden?

color wheel image

What’s YOUR favorite color?  Mine is red hands down.  The problem with that is I have a light blue house and pinks and light yellows look just fantastic next to it.  Red looks good too, but not nearly as great.


Basically, it breaks down to 2 choices:

  1. Harmonious (colors that are next to one another and share some value) or
  2. Contrasting (colors that don’t)

The Primary colors on the color wheel are: Red, Yellow, and Blue.  Blending these three colors, like you did in Kindergarten, will give you the rest of the color wheel.  They are considered Secondary or Tertiary colors.

  1. Secondary: Orange, Green, and Violet.
  2. Tertiary: Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, and Blue-Violet.


For Beginners a good approach would be to choose just one color (Monochromatic) and choose plants in any shade of that color, but remember “less is more”, especially while you are  learning.  While it may sound boring to focus on just one color, know that the picture of a garden of one color will be a very sophisticated vision where texture and pattern will really stand out.

You could also choose Analogous colors, or ones that are adjacent on the color wheel such as red, orange, and yellow.  That leads to a nice transition for the eye.


Complementary colors, or those that are opposite each other on the color wheel such as red and green, are nice choices that provide great visual impact.  You should use one as a focus color and the other as a contrast in lesser quantity.  Again texture and form can be used for visual appeal that adds some dimension to your garden creation.  My favorite thing to do is to use a triad of colors such as light pink, light yellow, and light blue.  Or another great combo is simply the primary colors red, yellow, and blue.  I use those in my home.

The final approach is definitely not a beginner’s garden.  It’s Polychromatic, or using many colors all at once.  It can quickly become overwhelming so be sure to start simply and add one or two plants periodically and live with it for a while to be sure you like it.

Enjoy looking at a few color gardens.  You can see from them that depending on the color selection you emit a different feeling depending on the colors in your yard.

I’d LOVE to see pictures of your garden!  I’ll even add your photos to my slideshow here if you comment and send me them.


The UNgardener

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Lasagna Gardening

I have a firm motto that you always give credit where credit is due.  And in this case, there is a book I read years ago that really got me into gardening… it made me realize you didn’t have to spend hours and break your back to make your yard beautiful.  This book is called, Lasagna Gardening, by Patricia Lanza.  It’s a Garden Writers Association of America, Quilt and Trowel Award Winner.

The theme of the book is that you don’t have to dig up grass to plant a garden.  Too good to be true, right???  It professes to be (and IS) “A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: no digging, no tilling, no weeding, no kidding!”

So you want to know how it works, right?!  I won’t give away all that is in her book because you really should own it yourself.  I bought my copy in a used book store that benefits my city’s public library’s children’s programming for $2.  I was jumping up and down when I discovered it in there.  It had been about five years since I checked it out of the library and I still think about it seasonally.  That’s how I knew I had to have it eventually.  But I was patient and found a great deal.  YEAH!!

Ok, so here’s how I used Patricia’s theory… I have four raised garden beds that are 2′ x 2′.  They hold my strawberries in my Children’s Garden.  You can see the picture here.

Potager Garden of strawberry boxes.

Potager Garden of strawberry boxes.

This entire space used to have grass in it.  I first built these beds before killing the grass because I didn’t want to spray the grass and then plant edibles over it.  So I left the grass there and put down the raised boxes right on top.  Then I used the following formula of materials to fill the boxes.

1) Smother the grass with wet newspaper or cardboard boxes.  For these beds I used wet cardboard boxes.

2) Next add 2-3″ of peat moss to cover the paper or cardboard boxes.

3) Then add 4-8″ of organic mulch material over the peat moss. Anything will do.  Purchased compost, or compost you create in your yard are great!

4) Add another layer of peat moss, and another layer of mulch, and so on until the beds are  18-24″ high.

THAT’S ALL!!  This year I am making some new beds to grow a grape-vine over the arbor in front of my Children’s Garden.  I’ll share pictures when they are finished!!

Cheers and Happy UNgardening!

The UNgardener

How to choose a Grow Light


One way to get off to a great start is to start seeds indoors.  An even better way is to add grow lights to the equation!  So since this blog is all about how to get more for either less time or less money, this is a great idea!

1) BUDGET:  Set aside the maximum amount of money you are willing to spend on a grow light.  Knowing your budget will make choosing easier, but if you want a healthy indoor garden, try not to go with the cheapest option. Sometimes a more expensive option yields a healthier plant. Grow lights range in price from the cost of a  small kitchen appliance to several thousand dollars.


a. Incandescent lights – used for single plants.

b. Fluorescent lights – used for  seedlings.

c. Metal halide lights – emit white light, which works well with plants that normally grow better outdoors, such as vegetable plants.

d. High-pressure sodium lights – are beneficial for flowering and fruiting plants that would  naturally grow taller.

e. LED lights – are experimental and may or may not grow healthy plants.

3) BULB LIFETIME:  Read the product descriptions carefully to find out how efficient the grow  lights you’re considering are and how long each usually lasts before the bulb needs to be changed.

4) COLOR TEMPERATURE:  Find out the color temperature, measured in degrees Kelvin, for grow lights you’re considering.  What you choose depends on the needs of your plants. The seedlings of some common plants need cooler light, and older plants need warmer light.

a. Higher Kelvin temperatures are associated with lights that look cooler and are represented by the color blue.  (seedlings)

b. Lower Kelvin temperatures are associated with lights that look warmer and are represented by the color red. (older plants)

5) LUMENS: Go with higher lumens if possible. The number of lumens indicates the amount of  light that the grow light is capable of emitting. The more light the grow light emits, the better, so go with the light that emits the highest number of lumens within your price range.

6) SPACE: Check to be sure the grow light fits in the space you have available. Some grow  lights are pretty large, and since a grow light can be quite an investment, do the measuring and make sure it will fit nicely before bringing it home.

I would love to know what lights you use since this will be the first year I use them myself!


The UNgardener


Vegetable Planting Programs

Lettuce Planting Program Photo

Extend your harvest season as long as possible with a good planting program.  Use a variety of seed types to lengthen your growing season.  Different seed types have different days to harvest as well as grow in slightly different weather.  Using season extension tools such as row covers, or growing indoors, to produce earlier crops in the spring and later crops in the fall/early winter.  Once again, a little good planning can save you a lot of time and at the same time provide you with oodles of produce.

To use this information, open the following spreadsheet.  It shows details on succession planting for spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli.

(Planting Programs Spreadsheet.)

I obtained the information for this spreadsheet from this website.  It would be useful for purchasing any of the varieties listed.

Happy Vegetable Garden Planting!


The UNgardener


Garden Planting Calendar

Garden Planting Calendar Photo

In my blog reading pursuits I’ve stumbled upon another spreadsheet fan and am excited to utilize their tool this year.  It’s really neat!  Just figure out what zone you’re in and update the last frost date to figure out when to put each plant variety into the ground.  Remember some plants actually like it cold and don’t freeze, so just because it’s a winter wonderland in some places doesn’t mean planting isn’t right around the corner.

You can check out this blogger at  They have some great stuff and I am thankful that they allowed me to repost this great spreadsheet on mine!


The UNgardener


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