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Friday, October 2, 2020

Best NEW Books for Vegetable Garden Growers

In this current time of food uncertainty, there is no better time to learn how to grow your own food. By learning how to plant a vegetable garden, you can bring fresh, nutritious veggies to your family's table and even have enough surplus to preserve for the future!

Some topics covered in these books are garden planning, where to plant your garden, when to plant vegetables for maximum harvest, soil health, container and raised bed gardening, and much more.

Here are our picks for the top 10 vegetable gardening books.

These are all current, published in 2020. So grab some of these books now and learn how to grow great vegetables now, or be ready to hit the ground running for the next growing season!


Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

When food supplies run dry, and grocery stores sell out, how do you feed your family?

Are you ready to be hands-on in your food supply chain, so you no longer have to rely on a fragile system?

If you are willing to grow your own vegetable garden in a step-by-step manner, then this book is for you.


The Beginner's Vegetable Garden 2020

Setting up your own vegetable garden is a very rewarding venture that will give you the ability to no longer have to rely on the fragile systems of our modern world.

But, if you are a beginner in the genre of vegetable gardening, you might find it intimidating because of so many things involved. But with a proper guide by your side, nothing will be too difficult. 

Whether you want to grow your vegetables or learn about the basics of gardening, The Beginner's Vegetable Garden 2020 can offer you everything that you will need.


Survival Guide for Beginners and the Beginner's Vegetable Garden

Are you ready to be hands-on in your own survival including being hands-on with your own food supply chain, so you no longer have to rely on a fragile system?

Modern challenges have left many of us wondering what on earth we would do if
everything came to a crashing halt. When food supplies run dry, and grocery stores sell out, how do you feed your family?

What if a natural disaster struck and you had to leave your home? Could you do it?


Introduction to Raised Bed Gardening

Raised bed gardening is the perfect simple approach for beginners who want to grow their own food. Raised bed gardening eliminates many of the challenges that traditional planting brings to the table.

You’ll be free from having to worry about weeds, pests, and extensive soil manipulations.
Not only that, but raised bed gardening also offers ideal conditions for growing a wide range of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

End your reliance on grocery store fruits and veggies for good by starting your own garden in five steps.


Aquaponics and Hydroponics Gardening 
2 In 1

Have you considered establishing your own hydroponic or aquaponic garden, but haven't the slightest idea where to begin? Do you want to learn how to grow edible and important fruits, herbs and veggies for consumption and profit while conserving water?

Learn how to set up your own aquaponic or hydroponic system and cultivate and raise fresh produce and fish at the same time, as well as take the headache and guesswork out of soil-free gardening.


Vegetable Container Gardening

Do you want to plant vegetables but you have no space in your backyard?

Container gardening is the answer! Container Gardening which is also known as Urban Gardening is an excellent means of adding spices, veggies, and life to your living space. 

You could allow plant containers to grow in the interior of your house in a semi-sunny, windowsill spot, outdoor on a walkway or deck. Your only limitation is the type of plants you intend to grow and space. You may plan to grow flowers and plants for dramatic impact or color, or herbs and veggies for your table, or a mixture of both ornamental and edible crops. The choice is yours.


Raised Bed Gardening

Raised bed gardening is experiencing a surge in popularity, and it's easy to see why. It involves far less bending as well as being aesthetically pleasing to look at and often has a more bountiful harvest than traditional gardening.

In this comprehensive guide, gardening expert Luke Smith shows you how to set up your very first or next raised bed garden with the best practices from choosing the right materials for your raised bed garden frame to practical tips that will help you produce a bountiful harvest yield.


Raised Bed & Vegetable Gardening

Take your gardening skills to the next level and learn how to grow your favorite vegetables and herbs right in the comfort of your backyard with the ultimate 2-in-1 gardening bundle.

In this special gardening bundle, gardening expert Luke Smith condenses his extensive gardening experience and hands you the tools, techniques, and strategies to not only help you build a lovely garden in your outdoor space but cultivate a vibrant garden filled with healthy produce without the headaches of traditional gardening.

This special bundle covers everything you need to know about growing vegetables and setting up raised bed gardens. 


Gardening for Beginners
 3 books in 1

This book includes information on gardening in containers, companion planting, and hydroponic. Everything you need to know to grow healthy vegetables, fruits and herbs easily at home.



Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

A comprehensive beginner’s introduction and guide to the world of vegetable gardening, and how you can begin cultivating your own organic set of greens and veggies

Are you interested in learning how to grow your greens? Are you considering creating your vegetable garden in your backyard? Are you feeling lost on how and where to start? If your answers to these questions are yes, then this is the right book to help you!


Ball - Complete Book of Home Preserving

After you've learned to grow your own food, it's time to dive into the world of preserving!

This last book comes from the experts, the updated bible in home preserving.

The hugely bestselling Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has been broadly updated to reflect changes over the last 15 years with new recipes and larger sections on low sugar and fermentation. 

Ball Home Canning Products are the gold standard in home preserving supplies, the trademark jars on display in stores every summer from coast to coast. This companion to their products is this bible of home preserving from the experts on the practice which has sold more than a million copies. 

The book includes 400 innovative recipes for salsas, savory sauces, pickles, chutneys, relishes and of course, jams, jellies, and fruit spreads. The book includes comprehensive directions on safe canning and preserving methods plus lists of required equipment and utensils. 

Specific instructions for first-timers and handy tips for the experienced make this book a valuable addition to any kitchen library.


So there are our top picks. I hope you found our list helpful. Start your vegetable growing adventure today!


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Ten Steps For Vegetable Garden Success

Successful gardening doesn't come by accident, and in my opinion, there is NO SUCH THING as a green thumb. Success comes from good pre-planning and thoughtful follow-through. It's knowing what each vegetable plant needs to grow to a successful harvest and giving each plant what it needs.

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Consider that every vegetable has a completely different set of needs in almost all areas of growing, from timing to location, to temperature, to the soil they prefer, etc. You get the point. Then consider that even different sizes or varieties of the same vegetable might have different needs.

It can be enough to make your head swim!

So is the above kind of harvest possible? Sure, it is. It is hard work? Sure, it is.

Knowledge is key, and that's why a thorough plan is imperative before the season even starts.
I've learned a ton of things in my several years of vegetable gardening, and a lot of things were learned by trial and error, as most gardeners can attest to.

For this blog, I have condensed my experience into ten of the most important steps to follow that I think will give you the best chance for first-time vegetable gardening success.


STEP 1 - Collect Information

Here is some basic information you'll need to know about your specific growing area.

Your Planting Zone. This is important because most seed packets will give you a range of zones in which the seeds can successfully grow.

Your average first and last frost dates. You will need those dates to calculate when to sow seeds, plant, harvest, etc.

The number of days in your growing season. You will need this number to calculate if there are enough growing days in your season to be able to get a vegetable plant from seed to harvest. 

If there are not enough growing days in your area for a specific plant, you may need to purchase a seedling or plant or grow your seedlings indoors in late winter or spring in order to have the plants ready to transplant outdoors on time.

The Farmer's Almanac has a great site where you can find out the above answers by putting in your zip code. Write these answers down and put the note in a place that you can refer to often.


Buy a few good vegetable gardening books.   Here are a few of our top picks for 2020. 

STEP 2 -  Make a Chart

This is, without a doubt, the most important step and will take a good amount of time. Learning as much as you can about the specific vegetables you want to grow will greatly improve your odds of success.

Using the dates you've written down from the Farmer's Almanac link, and some further internet research, make a short chart of every vegetable you intend to grow and fill in the answers to the categories below.

I will use carrots as an example. Most carrot types will be ready to harvest in 60-70 days. However, there is a storage type of carrots that can be harvested up to 240 days after sowing.

So not only do you need some basic information about carrots, but you will need specific information about the type of carrot you will be growing.



Carrot varieties can be divided into early, main crop and storage varieties.

Specific Type: Example Chantenay Red Cored 75 days to harvest

Short, thick roots, 5 1/2" long taper to a blunt end. It's a golden orange carrot with good flavor.

Sun/Shade Requirement: Full sun. Will tolerate partial shade.

Optimal Growing Temperature: 60 – 65 degrees.

Soil Preferred: Rich, loose, well-draining soil.

Water: Consistent for best flavor.

Fertilizer: Lower Nitrogen. Higher phosphorus and potassium. (5-10-10)

Sowing Information: 1/4” Depth. Seed Spacing 2” apart or thin seedlings to 2" apart.

Sowing Tip: Keep soil moist for at least ten days after sowing. Carrot seeds do not need light to germinate. Cover with a board or cardboard and check daily for sprouts. Remove the cover once seeds have germinated.

Common Problems to Look For: If carrot shoulders start to turn green, cover with mulch.

Add any additional information you feel is important relative to that specific vegetable.

Here's where your frost dates come in.

Sowing Seed Dates

Spring Sowing:
Direct sow carrot seeds 2 weeks before your average last frost date.

(Using your average last frost date, subtract two weeks and enter that date as your Spring sowing date.)

Fall Sowing:
Direct sow carrot seeds 10-12 weeks before your average first frost date.

(Using your average first frost date, go back 10-12 weeks and enter that date as your Fall sowing date.)

Enter your expected harvest date: This is your sowing date plus the number of days to harvest from your seed packet. If I'm growing a variety of vegetables these dates help me not to miss a harvest date!

Combine dates on a calendar or garden journal

Once you have all of the information charted for each plant, take your list of dates for each vegetable and enter them on one combined calendar. 

This will make it much easier to see, week to week during the growing season, what you should be doing with each vegetable. It may save you from missing an important timing step.

Steps 1 and 2 are the most time-consuming pre-season steps, but the more detailed your plan is, the better your chances of success.

STEP 3 - Plant or sow annual flowers to draw in pollinators

Some vegetable plants need pollinators to pollinate the plants so they can bear fruit. Planting a good variety of annual flowering plants can draw those pollinators into your vegetable garden.

Some of the easiest annual flowers to grow to draw in pollinators are Marigolds, Nasturtium, sunflowers, Borage, Calendula, Zinnia and Cosmos. You can also add these plants to your chart with growing information.

For more detailed information, read our article:  Seven Annuals to Grow in your Veggie Garden


STEP 4 - Have supplies ready before spring

Have the necessary supplies ready to go ahead of the spring onslaught. Garden time is valuable and caring for vegetable plants takes a lot of time. You don't want to waste that valuable sunny time searching for what you need.

 Here's a list to get you started.

First, gloves, gloves, and more gloves - one side will wear out quick!
I personally now have 15 left-handed gloves and two right-handed!

Clothing: Old T-shirts, muck shoes, gym shoes, sun hat, gardening gloves, bug spray.
Tools: Sharpened, oiled and ready to go. Hand shovel, large shovel, rakes, trimmers, etc.
Watering cans or slow-release hoses.

Clean and sanitize the containers and pots you're going to use if they're not new.  Read our related article:  How to Clean Terracotta Pots

Refresh the soil if using potting soil from last year.
Read our related article:  How to Refresh your Potting Soil


It's time to put your plan into action!

STEP 5 - The almighty notebook!

Never go outside to the veggie garden without a notebook and pen. I ALWAYS add the date to every notation and I take my phone in case there's something I want to document with a picture. Notes are imperative for later understanding why you had the results you had; good or bad.

In addition to notes as to each plant, as you go through the season, jot down any unusual weather you experienced like excessive rain, drought, etc, anything that you think could have affected your results. 

The more notes you take during the season, the more you'll learn from them later when you have more time to digest all of the information.

STEP 6 - Care for the plants first

I've learned this one the hard way. There are so many things I love to do outdoors during my gardening season that sometimes I get so involved in a new project (building a trellis, spray painting a great find from the second-hand store) that my time or energy is spent before I get to taking care of the plants. Big mistake.

Do your plant chores first to make sure the important things get done. Catching and correcting any issues happening with the plants early gives you time to correct the problem before it costs you a good harvest.


STEP 7 - Hand water whenever possible

As with most plants, watering deeply at ground level less often is preferred over short, frequent waterings. Not only is it healthier for the plants, but it will give you the chance to inspect each plant often and be able to learn from every step of its growth.

STEP 8 - Mulch well.

 Two to four inches of mulch will help to keep the weeds down and will help retain the moisture to the plant roots. 

There are plenty of mulches you can purchase at a home goods store. If you want to save money and use organic choices, here are some recommendations:

Finished Compost

Since compost is full of nutrients, it won't suppress weeds, but it will break down and will add to the soil structure. If you intend to grow a good variety of vegetables and plants, a good compost pile will later save you a lot of money as well as give you free healthy soil to add to your garden every year.

Read our article: Composting 101


An old favorite of vegetable gardeners. The straw will hold moisture and add nitrogen to the soil. The disadvantage of using straw is that straw won't block out the light so weed seeds will germinate and grow, and because straw decomposes quickly, it may need to be reapplied two to three times per season.

Leaf Mold/Leaf Compost

Chopped leaves are mostly carbon, low in nitrogen but very rich in minerals and will add great organic matter to your soil. Leaf mold is one of the best soil conditioners there are and makes a great mulch. Since slugs love leaf mold, however, don't use it near lettuce crops or any plants that are susceptible to slug damage.

Read our article:   Making and using leafmold in the garden

Shredded newspaper or cardboard

Wetted down, these will stay in place and smother most weeds. If you don't care for the look, however, you could top the newspaper or cardboard off with another mulch choice. A combination of shredded paper and leaf mold is a winning combination and you'll find the worms love it.

Grass Clippings

You can mix the green clippings right into the bed for some added nitrogen. The brown clippings can be used as mulch. If they compact too tightly, however, they could inhibit air circulation. Do not use grass that has already gone to seed or has been treated with chemicals.

STEP 9 - Weed often 

It's definitely not one of my favorite tasks, but since weeds grow fast and will quickly rob your plants of water, frequent pulling of weeds is necessary. And since I'm growing food, I don't use any chemicals to kill weeds. I only hand pull the weeds, so I do this after a good rain.

STEP 10 - End of season research 

You can use the boredom of those off-season months to go through all of the year's notes to see where you can improve the next gardening season. 

You will have failures; every gardener does, but you will learn just as much from your failures as you do from your successes. So make a great plan and have a great gardening season!

Here's a bonus tip: Join internet gardening groups!

Join as many gardening/vegetable gardening groups online as you feel comfortable with. Just use the group search function to find Facebook vegetable growing groups that you can join. 

This becomes helpful if during the growing season there arises a problem or question that you have. I've learned that gardeners are some of the nicest people, and these groups are invaluable for getting answers quickly to posted questions, especially if you upload a picture.


I hope you found our vegetable garden success tips helpful.  Now let's grow some food!

This post may contain some Amazon Associate links meaning that I will get a small compensation at no expense to you if you purchase something from this blog.

Best Care for Hostas in Pots


When someone asks me why they should grow hostas in pots, my first response is, “How much time do you have?” 

There are so many advantages to doing this that I needed most of this article to list them. But here goes...


Mighty Mouse Hosta in Thrift Store Mini Watering Can

Color, Color, Color

While the leaf colors of hostas, although beautiful, are mostly limited to blues, greens and yellows, with a myriad of variations and margins, the colors of gorgeous pots on the market are limitless.

Pots are a great way to add some 'pow' and extra color to any garden spot. Any inexpensive light-weight plastic pot from the second-hand store can be repainted apple red, cobalt blue or any color of the rainbow.  


Fire Island in a Thrift Store Metal Pot


Difficult Places

In addition to their beauty, pots can be plucked down anywhere there is a problem area; on top of tree roots or in that area that just won't drain well.


Stiletto Hosta in old pottery

Focal Points

If you have a prized or special hosta, it's easy to move it onto a deck or patio where it can be seen up close.  

Staging a potted hosta at eye level will complement the surrounding plantings and serve the same purpose.  

Every season there can be a different look. Didn't work over there; next year try it over there. You can't do that with hostas in the ground.


First Frost hosta in a Ceramic Pot

Sun and Shade

The shades of the colors of hosta leaves can vary greatly depending on the type of hosta and the amount of sun the hosta gets during the day.

As a rule, dappled shade is the best siting for most hostas, especially morning sun and afternoon shade. That will keep every hosta pretty healthy, but some hostas will thrive with a little more sun. These are called “sun tolerant hostas."   These hostas were bred to take four to six hours of direct sun.

The ability to move the pots around to just that right mix of sun and shade for a particular hosta can be priceless. Also, moving a stressed hosta to a more shady area can give the hosta a respite from the heat and sun during the hottest part of the summer.

Guacamole in Red Plastic Pot

Ease of Dividing

The above Guacamole hosta was ready to be divided and replanted.  There is no backbreaking digging into the hard ground with pots.  Just tip the pot over, divide and replant.

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm every once in a while we run into a difficult kind of hosta, or sometimes just ones that seem to need a little more TLC than others.

When we divide our hostas here, we are sometimes left with very small pieces with just enough root to survive. And like any hostaholic, that hosta piece DOES NOT go into the compost bin. It's lovingly placed in a small pot in an area where we can baby it and give it every chance to survive. It's amazing how many do end up thriving.


Less Slug Damage

If this were the only reason to put your hostas in a pot, I think it would be worth it. Slugs can chew holes in hosta leaves to the point of a swiss cheese look.

Read our full article:   Battling Slugs on Hostas

Blue Mouse Ears in a Hypertufa Planter


Miniature and small hostas are the most popular sizes of hostas purchased for containers and pots. 

Read our article:  The Beauty of Mini Hostas

Hostas with Beautiful Petioles

There are some hostas these days with beautiful petioles. (The slender stalks that attach the leaf to the stem.) These specimen hostas can be lifted to eye level for maximum impact. 

 A few of the best specimen hostas in this category also available at Sunset Hosta Farm.com are:

Cherry Tart

Height 10”       Width up to 25”

Cherry Tart emerges with lance-shaped bright chartreuse leaves that brighten to a glowing yellow if given some bright light. Put his one in a container at eye level to show off its lipstick red petioles.

Fire Island

Height 15”   Width up to 24”

This beauty has acid yellow leaves accented by red petioles which extend to the base of the leaves. A prominent raised position in a fairly sunny spot will display both the bright foliage and the striking petioles.  

Ready to plant your hostas in pots?  Here are some things to remember:

Rain Forest Sunrise in Pottery under Blue Angel Hosta

Pot Size Matters

When choosing the pot size for your hosta, keep the mature size of the hosta in mind.

Since hosta roots grow horizontally, for purely aesthetic reasons, the width of the pot should be no more than 3” wider in diameter than the current root size of the hosta. This gives the hosta roots a chance to spread out and still nicely display the hosta's lateral and fan-shaped leaves.  

If you put a small hosta in too big of a pot, the hosta would be subject to root rot.

At Sunset Hosta Farm, we use a lot of azalea or rhododendron pots which are the perfect size for small hostas.  

The Soil

Hostas in pots need soil that has good air circulation to the roots and good drainage. Perlite, bark, and grit are some of the additives that can be used.

An addition of sphagnum peat moss or coir peat will help hold in the moisture. Any kind of general potting soil will do which already has all of the above.

My tried-and-true potting soil is Pro Mix. I buy it in bulk but it comes in plenty of sizes.


The Shining Hosta in bloom in a plastic planter

Drainage, Drainage, Drainage

I am a big fan of the more the merrier when it comes to holes in the bottom of my pots. I very rarely encounter hosta root rot doing this. 

Also, a one to two-inch layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot will aid in drainage.


Sun Power Hosta in a plastic pot

Planting Tips

  • Fill the container one-third full with the prepared potting mix. 
  •  Set the hosta roots in the container. 
  •  Adjust the depth so the top of the root ball sits about two inches beneath the container rim. 
  •  Fill in around the roots with soil until the hosta is planted at the same depth it was growing at previously.


So Sweet Hosta in Hypertufa Pot


If there is no appreciable rainfall, pots will need to be watered every other day during the warm weather and every day during the hottest part of the summer. 

Shallow waterings cause shallow roots, so soak the water through the container. 


Fertilizing Hostas in Pots

The nutrients in the soil will be washed away by repeated waterings so some fertilizer is necessary.  Fertilize the potted hosta once a month beginning about two months after planting. 

Apply a water-soluble balanced fertilizer at the package recommended rate through the late summer. Stop fertilizing the potted hostas two months before your first expected frost date to help them get ready for their winter sleep.  Resume fertilization when new growth appears the following Spring.


Wolverine Hosta in Hypertufa Pot

Overwintering Hostas in Pots

Hostas are perennial plants and need a six-week period of temperatures below 40 degrees for their winter sleep, but when temperatures plummet during the coldest part of the winter, the pots need additional protection from the cold and wet.

Smaller Hostas in pots

The smaller the pot, the more likely the hosta will freeze solid without some sort of protection.

 There are a few things you can do.
  • Move the small pots to an unheated garage for winter protection. 
  • If you have a lot of small pots, you can bury the entire group in the ground, or huddle them together out of direct sun and cover with leaves.
  • Another trick is to place the pots on their sides once the freeze hits. This will ensure that there is not too much rainfall to rot the roots.

Here in Zone 6, they are overwintered in an unheated greenhouse checking weekly before the frost hits to be sure they don’t completely dry out. Once the freeze hits, they are left on their own until it begins to warm up in March.

Larger hostas in pots

  • Large potted hostas will normally overwinter well. A two to three-inch layer of mulch will help.
  • If you have a prized hosta that you don’t want to take chances with, you can always bury it in the ground for winter and repot in the Spring.

And remember, snow is a great insulator!



Whether you use potted hostas in a group or for one special raised focal point, they are sure to bring beauty to your garden for many years.


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