april book giveaway: ruth stout and jim crockett!

THIS MONTH’S BOOK GIVEAWAY IS ALL ABOUT MY HEROES. The two books up for grabs are ones I have turned to many times in my decades-long gardening career.  Their authors, mulch-mad, no-work-garden Ruth Stout, and the original “Victory Garden” host Jim Crockett, feel like old friends. Want a chance to win “Gardening Without Work” or “Crockett’s Victory Garden”? I tracked down copies just for you.

Last month’s giveaway, my first ever on the blog, was such a hit that I promised a monthly event (though in April we might just have a surprise “extra” edition, so stay tuned).  As a garden writer, it seems fitting that I should give away not just my own book (as I did last month, and promise to again) but also books by those who’ve taught me. I have been stockpiling some goodies from the used-book dealers the last few weeks.

Crockett’s Victory Garden
James Underwood Crockett (first published, 1977)
The star of the PBS series “The Victory Garden” was also the author of a series of books on how to garden, and this is my favorite of his. It was my first garden book ever, given to me by my sister, so maybe that’s why, but I think its value far exceeds the sentiment attached. Dated (meaning chemicals are used and cultivars are passé) but the best beginner’s book there is, taking you month by month through all the basics of growing food and flowers. Remember: skip the chemicals. I hope he would if he were here today.

Gardening Without Work
Ruth Stout (first published, 1961)

Ruth Stout’s wonderful work was published when she was 76. Though I am a couple of decades shy, the subtitle running up the right side of the cover cries out: “For the Aging, the Busy & the Indolent.”

It is more the spirit of the book than anything else that I love, an attitude brought to life in a series of videos of her that I found and shared recently, as you may recall.  Written a year before Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” came out, Stout’s funny little volume likewise decried use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Stout had no tolerance for the burning of leaves, or for wasting the most precious of commodities, water. What she loved: mulch. And mulch. And more mulch. (If you haven’t read my ode to her, it’s here.)

Both books were bought used to offer as prizes, and are paperback editions.  I’ll draw two names using the random number selector at random dot org; the first will win the Crockett and the second the Stout. Here’s how to enter:

Simply comment below, telling us who your garden-writing heroes are. What book(s) did you learn from, and therefore treasure your copies of?

Entries will close at midnight next Monday, April 26, and winners will be announced Tuesday. Good luck to all. I can’t wait to hear what books have shaped your gardening careers. Could lead to more shopping for future prizes.

  1. Diana says:

    Thanks for the giveaway! I have Jim Crockett’s books, I remember watching his show in when I was in high school. I’ve read Ruth Stout’s books and would love to own a copy! So here are a few favorites:

    For reference my Woody Plants guide (college textbook) by Michael Dirr and the lovely Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs, The Brooklyn Botanical Garden Guides and the AHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Oh, can’t forget Whitney Crenshaw’s Garden Insects and his other book, Pests of the West.

    For regional gardens a few favorites are Lauren Springer (Ogden), I love all her books they’re informative and well written with lots of great photos. Her first book, The Undaunted Garden is a much leafed through book on my shelf! Marcia Tatroe’s, Cutting Edge Gardening in the Intermountain West is another great book for my area and since I’ve walked through her garden I have a good sense of that space.

    I love Ellen Sandbeck’s Eat More Dirt, it’s full of facts and fun drawing. I reread my Henry Mitchell books periodically and I enjoy Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden by Gilbert Wilson. I’ll stop there though I could add several more.

  2. Chris says:

    One of my favorite authors.. Sydney Eddison. I have read her books ” The Self Taught
    Gardener ” & ” A Patchwork Garden” over and over, each time learning something new about gardening, or the author. Her love for Daylilies comes thru in reading her books as a delight !

  3. Shelley Latham says:

    “A Way to Garden” natch; “The New Organic Grower” by Eliot Coleman; “Garden Primer” by Barbara Damrosch and her weekly syndicated column (who doesn’t love a husband and wife team?); the amazing open garden tours run by The Cornucopia Project in Montclair NJ that featured first year as well as more established gardens– decidedly NOT the garden club tours– all about compost, trial and error, gardeners helping gardeners and sharing plants; years of weekly updates with CSA farmers about weather, soil, bugs, varieties……. and STILL my husband is the gardener. So, should I win, the book will go to him!

  4. Karen Griffin says:

    I have a large gardening library, but always seem to reach for The Complete Shade Gardener by George Schenk (I garden in Seattle) and anything by Ken Druse. For color and plant combos, there is no one better than Pamela Harper. My only problem is figuring out, when I’m engrossed in a good gardening book, how to get up and go outside! Conversely, when I’ve lost all track of time in the garden, how do I make myself come back inside to research my gardening conundrums?

    When the rains come, I love to read your book – it is a powerful reminder of why I garden. Thank you for your continued inspiration!

  5. Betty Jean Burchett says:

    The book that influenced me the most was an old notebook of tips and notes and clippings that my great aunt kept about her experiences. It was filled with wonderful chatty bits of wisdom that she had gleaned from her kinfolk, friends, and her own experiences. She didn’t use chemicals. Everything she touched grew amazingly well. She died a few years ago and I miss our long-distance chats about our gardens and recipes.

  6. Charlie from South Central PA says:

    The book I refer to most often is “The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening Special Deluxe Edition”, published by Rodale. And, in the late 1980’s a friend gave me a book that I refer to often… “Carrots Love Tomatoes, Secrets of Companion Planting”, published by Garden Way Publishing. Books are very helpful but I learned all my basics during my childhood helping to plant, maintain, and harvest our large family garden. I have four siblings, we planted the garden together, we were all assigned rows to weed daily, and then we all podded peas, snapped beans, husked corn, or picked up potatoes together. Although I would have rather been doing anything but working the garden back then, I am so glad I had that experience and opportunity to learn from my parents. I reflect on those days with fond memories now. Gardening today keeps those memories alive. Beside the fact that I love to eat fresh organic food, I guess those memories are why I love gardening today.

  7. Alexandra Phillips says:

    I’ll work my way up the mental ladder of inspiration.
    Barbara Kingsolver. Not even so much for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but for the way she incorporates gardening into so many of her books and essays because it’s so important to her and she wants to share the joy it brings her with her readers.

    Scott and Helen Nearing. Their appreciation of hard work, hand work and hand work is grounding. They taught me to think about not only the ‘how’ of gardening but also the ‘why.’ Plow the path that makes sense to you for your own reasons; not those expected of you. Plant in a similar fashion.

    Wendell Berry. Need I say more?

    1. Margaret says:

      NOTE: Entries are now closed. First some welcomes to new commenters, and then I will go do my tallies and be in touch with our winners.

      Some extra good news: There will be an extra book giveaway this month, thanks to the amazing cook and author Anna Thomas, who has shared copies of her new “Love Soup” with me (the book I raved about when it arrived in time for holiday giving last year). Now I am cooking from its spring recipes…wow. But I digress; more on that event in a few days.

      Welcome to Ben, Nicole, Mal, Beth, anne, Kathi, Kjirsti, KHorton, Michele, Maryann, Cindy, Beate, Barbara, Mary, Erich, David, Bette, Tammy, Kay, Iris, Mary Louise, Jean, Marianne, Brooke, Janeh, Betty, Jean, Emily, Deborah, Carole, Laura, Marguerite, EsSuzy, Sharriebobemy, Luke, Alexandra and Charlie. Hope I got everyone. Nice to hear from you, and hope it will be the first of many utterances from each.

      What an amazing list of books — many reminders of old favorites I haven’t taken off the shelf in far too long, and some new to me. Thank you. More in a bit…

  8. Lawrence Rickson says:

    My garden writer hero’s are Ken Druse, I love anything he writes, and Don Shor ( The Redwood Barn .com) Check out their podcasts too!

    1. Margaret says:

      From the 186 entries posted before the midnight deadline, the winners are Trudy and Sheila (whom I have contacted and will send their books).

      Another contest later this week…this time for copies of a new cookbook that I love…back with news shortly.

  9. Joan weed says:

    I’m so happy to see so many fans of Elizabeth Lawrence. As we age, reading about good gardener’s philosphies and observations matter more and are entertaining. Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd, Allen Lacey, Nancy Goodwin. Best all around beginner book is Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer IMHO. Allen Armitage, Wayne Winterrowd and Joe Eck. Oh so many compatriots in this noble avocation. Dan Hinkley is one of the finest Garden writers around and Carol Klein(UK) is knowlegeable beyond belief and hilarious too. It’s true that you can trust a gardener to be loyal, nurturing, hard working and fun!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Joan. What a great list of names, thank you. I think this contest ended up with far more than the giveaway as its end result, but also created an amazing reading list for all of us who may have missed or not recently picked up on the many great authors offered up. Glad to meet you, and hope to see you soon again.

  10. Photosensualis-Sally & Michael says:

    ‘Crockett’s Victory Garden’ was our first gardening book too — I used to watch the companion TV show every Sunday morning on WGBH Boston. He was a wonderful, gentle guide and teacher — you so felt you knew him personally and that he was talking directly to you. I was very touched by his passing — actually wrote a note of condolence to Mrs. Crockett and she responded with a personal note. Truly memorable.
    On a sadder note, Jim’s death from cancer might be an emphatic reason why we really should leave the chemicals out of our gardens and food…

  11. Maureen Arnold says:

    I am 70 and discovered the wonderful “YOUNG GARDENER” in early 70’s and purchased her book immediately. I told everyone that I was going to be like beautiful Ruth “105 and still gardening”. I still garden but now disabled and trying to pass my knowledge to our son. Unfortunately I loaned my book out and never saw it again. I am going to purchase both books and if lucky maybe I’ll win the giveaway so I can give to our son. Keep up the good work. Thank you and God Bless You.

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