Amongst the plethora of gardening books out there, here’s some of the most useful for the urban container grower.

General Gardening

The Garden Organic Enclyclopedia of Organic Gardening edited by Pauline Pears: if you only buy one book on gardening, this it. Comprehensive, well written, loads of great pictures, essential! UK and US versions available.

Grow your own vegetables by Joy Larkcom – excellent overiview, covering everything from windbreaks and cold frames to detailed descriptions of how to grow each vegetable. Her Value for Space Rating (VSR) is handy for planning productive growing.

Container Gardening

The Edible Container Garden, fresh food from tiny spaces, by Michael Guerra: a good introduction, including advice on design, growing mixes, watering, permaculture and what to grow.

The Edible Balcony, by Alex Mitchell: attractive book with some useful tips and nice photos – including some of the Vertical Veg balcony (self interest declared!)

Increasing Yields

High Yield Gardening by Marjorie Hunt and Brenda Bortz: a personal favourite – loads of down to earth tips and ideas to increase yields from a small space. The focus is on growing in raised beds in the US but much of the content is relevant to container growing in the UK.

Intensive Culture of Vegetables on the French Intensive System by P Aquatias: fascinating account from 1913 of how farmers in the suburbs of Paris got five or more crops from each piece of land each year.


Salads are ideal for the container garden: they’re productive,  taste delicious when freshly picked, and you can have fun growing varieties unavailable in the shops. Two really useful guides:

Salad leaves for all seasons by Charles Dowding: includes tips on improving yields in small spaces, and how to have fresh green leaves available throughout the year.

The Organic Salad Garden by Joy Larkcom: covers a huge variety of salad plants, including wild plants, orientals, and edible flowers.

Oriental Vegetables

Many Asian vegetables grow well in the UK and other temporate climates, including lemon grass, mooli and many fast growing Japanese greens like mizuna, red giant and pak choi. Two good books to learn more are:

Oriental Vegetables by Joy Larkcom

Asian Vegetables by Sally Cunningham


Composting with worms by George Pilkington: after some disastrous attempts at running a wormery, this book helped me to do it successfully.

Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis: fascinating and informative guide to the micro-organisms of the soil and how they are essential for crop growth.

Back Garden Seed Saving by Sue Stickland: does what is says on the tin.