The Master Gardener’s Bookshelf
Tiny Victory Gardens: Growing food without a yard
by Acadia Tucker with Emily Castle
How to Grow Your Own Food: An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening
by Angela S. Judd
Review by Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener
Interested in growing your own vegetables, but no yard? No problem. Vegetables can be grown successfully in containers any place with enough sun — on balconies, patios, driveways, rooftops, front porches, or indoors with sufficient or supplemental light. There are many books about vegetable container gardening. Two of the more recent are Tiny Victory Gardens: Growing food without a yard by Acadia Tucker with Emily Castle and How to Grow Your Own Food—An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening by Angela S. Judd.
Acadia Tucker, author of Tiny Victory Gardens, is a farmer, author, and climate activist. She started and managed an organic market farm in the Pacific Northwest before moving to Maine where she began applying the regenerative principles she used at the market farm to container gardening, both indoors and outside.
Tucker starts with the importance of using a good growing medium, describing the attributes of healthy soil with recommendations for commercially available and homemade container mixes. She also covers containers (cement, plastic, and terra cotta), plants and planting, light requirements, pollination, and design, including “recipes” for attractive plant combinations. Additionally, there are 21 container-friendly crop profiles (herbs, fruits, and vegetables), each of which contains a description and instructions for planting, growing (including indoor growing), upkeep, challenges, diseases, and harvesting. Planning tools at the end include a seasonal check list and pages for the reader’s own notes. Emily Castle’s illustrations throughout highlight and complement the text.
Tucker is big on summary tables, and they are very helpful. For example, a key consideration for container gardening is ensuring the pot is deep enough and wide enough to hold mature plants. Tucker has a table showing different container depths and the vegetables that should grow well in pots of that depth. Another table lists light requirements and root depths for selected plants, helping gardeners combine plants with different root depths in the same pot so that they do not compete for water and nutrients.
While Tucker says she writes all her books with the beginner in mind, Tiny Victory Gardens may appeal more to experienced container gardeners, particularly those interested in learning more about how to combine plants or opportunities for indoor gardening.
How to Grow Your Own Food—An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening by Angela S. Judd, as its title indicates, is intended for beginners. Judd, a Master Gardener in Arizona, starts by making the case for growing food in containers and then lays out ten basic steps for how to do so. She discusses equipment and supplies, including growing medium and types of containers, with a list of common terms and their definitions. The heart of the book is Chapter 5 where Judd provides growing information on 51 herbs, vegetables, and fruits. For each, she indicates whether the plant is easy, medium, or difficult to grow, with easy-to-follow instructions for how to do so. Additional guidance comes under the headings “Good to Know” and “Tips.” Appendices include troubleshooting advice and resources for learning more about container gardening
Both books would serve well as gateways to further reading and research.
Tiny Victory Gardens: Growing food without a yard by Acadia Tucker with Emily Castle (Stone Pier Press, March 2021) is available from national booksellers. How to Grow Your Own Food—An Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening by Angela S. Judd (Adams Media, May 2021) is available from the Alexandria Public Library and national booksellers.
Want to learn more? Check out these container gardening resources:
- Burkholder, Sandy, ed. 2020. Balcony Gardening Basics. Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Bibliography.
- Reed, Anne. Container Gardening Outdoors: Basics and Beyond. 2020. Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Recorded public education class.
- Growing Vegetables in Containers. University of Maryland Extension.
- Relf, Diane. Reviewed by Dave Close. 2020. Vegetable Gardening in Containers.
Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension.