I suppose it’s appropriate to be writing this post now, with the snow coming and going and the temps below freezing. So much has been said and written about gardeners retreating to books and seed catalogs during the winter that I can hardly add to the subject myself. But with the prices of books these days, and a need to be thrifty, I thought I might share some tips on how to expand your garden library without torching the bank and massacring your wallet.
Get free public domain garden ebooks online. If you live in the United States, both the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg have an absolute wealth of free, public domain ebooks to download. I recommend downloading books in PDF format from Internet Archive. If you are living outside of the United States, check your country’s copyright laws before downloading. You can find some real gems on these websites if you do a little searching, and with the current trend of using organic practices, a good bit of gardening information from the 19th century is useful today. I hope to feature some of my favorite free ebook finds in future blog posts.
*Note: Just be sure to check the rights statements on Internet Archive to make sure what you are downloading is in the public domain. I believe everything on Project Gutenberg is in the public domain for the U.S.
Read seed catalogs. This is something that I wish I did more myself, as many companies send you catalogs for free (the ones that aren’t usually don’t cost a great deal) and many, as has been stated by better gardeners than myself, have a great deal of information in them. It’s also nice to hang on to some of them for posterity, so future generations can have the benefit of a record of what we grew.
Treasure hunt at thrift stores. You never know what you’ll be able to find! I’ve personally found copies of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening (an older edition, but still good), Seeds by Sam Bittman, Rodale’s Flower Garden Problem Solver, and others for $1 or less. The nice thing about thrift stores is you can oftentimes find books that are good but no longer in print… and cheap!
The Dollar Store. I’ve been very surprised to find that my dollar store sometimes has garden books in their small, ever changing book section, and I’ve picked up a few there, though I have to admit some of them ended up being more of an impulse buy and I’m not sure how useful they will prove to be. But hey, they were $1.
Prowl the used bookstore. Whether a chain or a local hole in the wall, used bookstores are also a great place to look for reduced priced books. A couple of years ago I was praying for cheaper copies of McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container and Barbara Pleasant’s The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. I had borrowed both from the library and Mr. Awesome and I were trying to save money. Right around that time we were out of town visiting family and wandered into a Half Price Books store and found both books practically new for about half the list price. Thank You Jesus!
Buy used copies online. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have marketplaces where you can purchase used copies of books from other sellers. Though it can be a bit risky (your definition of GOOD may not be the same as the seller’s) if you don’t mind books in not-quite-pristine condition and pay attention to seller ratings, you can sometimes find some really good deals. Case in point: During my rose fanatic stage, I borrowed a copy of Peter Beales’ Passion for Roses from the local library and fell in love with it. The book cost $45 new, and I am pretty sure is out of print. Using this method I bought a very nice ex-library copy online for $7, and most of that was the shipping cost.
Borrow before you buy. It can sure feel like a real kick in the gut when you purchase a brand new book at full price only to discover it isn’t what you thought it would be and will now serve as a dust collector on your bookshelf or a doorstop. The best way to avoid this dilemma is to borrow the book from a friend or library and give it a good read over. If after reading it through once and you still feel you have to have it or that it will be a valuable addition to your garden library, you can make your purchase without fear. Example: Before I read them I was hot to get both Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Not wanting to spend the money at the time, I checked both books out from our library. After reading them, it was clear that I did not, in fact, need both books, as The Winter Harvest Handbook seemed geared more towards market gardeners, but I did purchase Four-Season Harvest and it is proving very useful in my gardening situation.
I hope this post was helpful to any other snow-trapped gardeners out there wanting to add to their garden book collection without spending too much of the spring seed budget. Happy reading and God bless!
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