Grow Green thumbs this year.

Here’s our list of great books to help your seed starting journey!

speckled pea germinating
Seed starting can be easy if you know the basics!

At our January meeting, we covered the seed starting basics for home gardeners – including light and soil requirements. It was a great and informative night, and we wanted to share some of our favourite books with you, as the days are getting longer and the seed-starting calendar dates are getting closer!

Link to book on the Toronto Public Library WebsiteJulie’s Reading Notes

The new Ontario naturalized garden
By: Johnson, Lorraine
Book, 2001, 188 pages
Though now 20 years old, this is still a great resource for local Ontario gardeners who are interested in adding native plants to their garden. 
Of particular interest are Chapter 8 (deals with seeds, and propagation and acquisition of native plants) and Chapter 9 (provides a listing of plants). 
Each chapter has a list of additional reading sources at the end. There is also a full listing at the end of the book. 
Full details
The new seed-starters handbook
By: Bubel, Nancy
Book, 2018, 452 pages
Indeed, this is a book for starting!
This is the book I recommend for seed-starting, as it covers everything you need to know about seeds, and soil, and light, and food, and…well, everything.
An excellent reference with an “Encyclopedia of Plants to Grow from Seed” at the back of the book that is almost 100 pages long itself. And seed saving tips for those plants that are tricky. I would buy this for every seed-saver I know.
A crowd favourite:

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Starting & saving seeds : 
By: Thompson-Adolf, Julie
Book, 2018, 160 pages
Beautifully presented with gorgeous photos of lush plants and glorious crops – exactly what every home gardener wants to see in their own garden! This is by far my favourite read in the whole collection – it covers everything – from starting seeds to building your own seed starting station from PVC. The first half of the book is about seed starting and growing and the second half focuses on what individual vegetables, herbs and flowers need to be successful growers and seeders. An enjoyable read from start to finish! Get this one!

Seeds : the ultimate guide to growing successfully from seed
By: McVicar, Jekka.
Book, 2001, 256 pages
ISBN: 1552852946
Indeed, this book lives up to its ‘ultimate’ guide title.
This guide is organized by plant type: alpines and rock plants, annuals, aquatics, trees, vegetables, etc. It is not for the beginner gardener.
Consider it a comprehensive index of plants, complete with their growing and specific sowing information. The coolest part I read was a very small snippet of information about how seeds should be planted/ transplanted with a new or waxing moon.

Hey, we do winter sowing, why not lunar sowing?

I think that may be my next reading obsession. A good resource – but could do with more photos (which would double the length of the book no doubt – but totally worth it!)
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Beginning seed saving for the home gardener
By: Ulager, Jim,
Book, 2019, vii, 87 pages
ISBN: 0865719268 ; 9780865719262
Just in case you wanted warmth and great information:

This book has an intro that outlines the topic: seed saving for the home gardener with not so much detail. Except it actually has a lot of detail – mostly about plant sexuality and reproduction. Ulager explains and gives examples of vegetables and how they reproduce and are pollinated. It’s interesting science, for sure!
But this is not going to be a helpful reference for most home gardeners who really only want to know how to successfully save the actual seeds.

That information is there (but it comes in at page 67 for a mere 11 pages). So, I appreciated the read, as it was nicely written with a lot of humour – but the early technical explanation is actually a little hard to navigate. I did however appreciate the last section and loved the ‘ping test’ (if it pings in a metal bowl the seed is dry) and how to hand thresh. Interesting but not essential reading. 
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Ball culture guide : the encyclopedia of seed germination
By: Nau, Jim
Book, 2020, 340 pages
ISBN: 9781733254106
For the structured, serious green thumb!

Written by a former manager at Ball Horticultural Company, this is an exhaustive index of growing charts for the entire seed production arm of Ball’s plants grown in Chicago. It identifies germination rates and temperatures for best-kept seeds, height, weight, light, cover, etc. This is for experienced gardeners. Get rooted in your favourite garden nook for this one.

There are no images or introductions to help identify plants – so you must already know what you have in your garden in order to benefit from the fine details this book provides. But, it is an amazing reference for gardeners who know their plants and now want to try growing them from seed.
My only issue about the book is that it refers to plant growth regulators (PGRs) throughout – and several of them have been addressed in discussions about carcinogens, etc. Most of my home gardening friends are organic gardeners and will simply ignore the references to PGR usage. Read with care.
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A native plants reader
Contributors: Dunne, Niall.
Book, 2012, 119 pages
ISBN: 1889538809 (pbk.) ; 9781889538808 (pbk.)
One of many “handbooks” put out by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, this reader offers 16 essays on native plants, including one on historical botanical exploration, and a really interesting piece that maps non-native invasions in New York. For our purposes, the essay “Seasons of a Seed Collector” is a really interesting read. For example, it starts with a hunt for “Bloodroot”, one of the early woodland ephemerals to bloom, and ends with a quest for holly berries. The essay is about the trials of collecting wild native seeds and then growing them to build up the species across New York. Later in the book an essay on “Designing a Restoration Garden” is really informative and inspiring. The back section of the book offers a ton of resources on native plants. 
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Gardening under lights : the complete guide for indoor growers
By: Halleck, Leslie F., author.
Book, 2018, 248 pages
ISBN: 9781604697957
To tell you the truth this book was a surprise.
While I am primarily interested in finding the right lights for seed starting and supporting some of my tropical plants in the winter, this book was informative and so interesting! It opens with an overview of photosynthesis and the importance of light in general and then moves on to the different kinds of light plants require – such as the main difference of blue and red light to grow plants. Furthermore, it moves on to moisture, biosecurity of greenhouses and other aspects of growing that are related to light, followed by a comprehensive section on individual plants – edibles and ornamentals. This is a fantastic resource = and it also has two sections on growing cannabis for Canadians growers. A great read. 
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The seed underground : a growing revolution to save food
By: Ray, Janisse,
Book, 2012, xv, 217 pages
ISBN: 9781603583060 (pbk.)
This is not a technical book…but with every page, Janisse Ray’s well-written anecdotes and shared wisdom from seed savers across the world, hooked me a little more. This is a collection of musings, ideas and stories about the need to grow and evolve heirloom seeds. It urges us to join the ‘revolution’. Though written more than a decade ago, the book holds up and is effective at telling the history of GM seeds. 
The book is divided into small essays on particular themes. The essay “What is Broken” outlines the ways in which the American (and Canadian by extension) food system is broken (from corporate interest to killing pollinators).

Also, another chapter focuses on the basics of seed saving. But it is the essays about individuals who are saving seeds for future generations that make a lasting impact. Chapter 16 is called “The Pollinator”, and refers to a man named Dave Cavagnaro, who takes the reader through a very detailed experience of hand-pollinating squash, complete with masking tape!
This is a great book to read in small sections in the dark of winter as you begin to plan your garden for the coming year.
Full details
Saving seeds : a home gardener’s guide
By: Jason, Dan, author.
Book, 2020, 96 page
Diversity lovers wanted.

As it happens, this could not be the only seed book on my shelf! It’s only 88 pages and the introduction and contextual set up requires more than 1/4 of the content. However, what it does offer is a clear and pure love by the author to improve and preserve biodiversity.

Additionally, are definitely helpful sections and I was particularly interested when Jason tracked the history of Seedy Saturday! I would add this as my ‘west coast’ supplement to a larger reference book.