Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review: The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables

Perhaps you want to grow your own food but are afraid and have no clue where to begin. Or maybe you can relate to me, having had some experience and success growing literally a couple of vegetables over the decades but far more familiar with wasted time, money, and failed gardening attempts. If you would like to grow your own vegetable garden with confidence, The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden by Jessica Sowards is an excellent investment.

The First Time Gardener - Growing Vegetables

With the purchase of my land, construction of my home, and dreams of having a successful vegetable garden, I am familiar with Jessica Sowards of Roots and Refuge Farm fame through her youtube channel. I spend nearly all of my indoor free time watching videos about gardening and homesteading and her channel has been one that I have learned a good deal from. Her love of gardening is contagious and she is a wealth of vegetable knowledge. When she announced that she had written a book I knew I had to buy it.  

The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden 

This 176 page book is written by Jessica Sowards with photographs by Makenzie Evans Photography. It is part gardening guide, part inspirational prose, and part coffee table visual feast. This book is not an in-depth, encyclopedia of plant names, varieties, and specific growing details of each plant. It is summarized bits of encouraging information.

The Chapters include:

  1. Welcome to the Classroom
  2. The Foundation - What Every Gardener Needs to Succeed
  3. Creating Your Garden
  4. Growing with the Seasons
  5. The Needs for Seed... or Not
  6. Grow Something Lovely - Designing a Captivating Space
  7. The Nitty-Gritty of Garden Management
  8. Making the Harvest
  9. Conclusion - Grow on, Gardener
The chapters are short. Brief blurbs hitting the most important parts of gardening. Including some boxes of summarized information, lists, and charts. The information is chunked into small portions that are not overwhelming for the brand new gardener and would be good prompts and reminders for gardeners with some experience. 

aka "fertilizers" - I've only recently learned about coconut coir

a list of some of the best food plants for container gardening

More About Why I Chose This Book

I currently live in a metro area apartment. I have successfully grown some tomatoes (and a small handful of tiny potatoes) on my south-facing balcony. But I haven't tried to grow a garden in the ground for some years (oh my gosh, decades! My how time flies!). With my planned move to four acres, I am dreaming of having a garden with a variety of vegetables that I will be able to eat fresh or can for later. While I am excited about my plans, I am also afraid.

I am afraid of more plant failure. Over my lifetime, I have made many attempts to grow plants: houseplants, vegetables, berries, fruit trees... and I have failed massively. I have wasted so much time, energy, and money only to end up with seedlings that die, plants purchased from a store that I kill, and a variety of plants that never grow anything edible.

I am also overwhelmed by feeling as though there is so much information to remember; when to plant, what to use for fertilizer, when to harvest, and so on. While everything is available on the internet, I want to make sure to have some good reference books in my home. I do not have reliable connectivity on top of the mountain ridge. There will be many times that I will not be able to look up things on the internet. Also, with this book it will be quicker to flip open to a list or a quick reminder.

Last year I impulsively bought a couple of zucchini and cabbage starts from a roadside stand and planted them in my flower garden. Even though I only sporadically visited my land and did not provide care for those plants, several zucchini grew and I was able to make my own zucchini bread. With a little guidance and support from Jessica's book I should be able to have even more success this coming year.

Related Links:

Make sure you check out the Review This! Gardening tab to see the other posts by our contributors. Our group includes some very talented gardeners. Click this link or the gardening tab at the top of this page and scroll down to see previous gardening posts.

To read more about my land and future homestead please visit my personal blog or take a peek at the video of my house under construction. But be advised, I am not a "youtuber". But with a peek at the videos or blog post it will be easy to see why I will do much of my gardening in containers or raised beds. And that I will need all of the guidance I can get.

I mentioned Jessica's youtube channel. If you love to watch gardening videos and/or someone who finds quiet joy in gardening, be sure to check out Roots and Refuge.

To see what others are saying about The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden be sure to check out the reviews on Amazon

The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables Book Review

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Oh Dawn I can so relate to your situation. I went the opposite way, gardening in the ground to gardening on a balcony. I'm glad you found a reputable source for good gardening practices and I'm sure that many people will find this useful too. Thanks for a great review and lots of resources too!

  2. Sounds like a great guide to gardening. Perfect for a new gardner.

  3. I have never tried container gardening, but would SO much like to have my own tomato plants this year. Thanks for telling me about this informative beginner gardening book.

  4. There is no substitute for an excellent resource book! I have a few books that I refer back to often for flowers & trees. There is a part of me that thinks I should remember it all, but even when I remember, I love have the written, in my hand, validation. Like you, just flipping thought the pages of a beloved reference book encourages me to do it myself. This sounds like an excellent book for vegetable gardeners. I immediately had two people come to mind who I think would love receiving this book as a gift.

  5. My sister (with the uber-green thumb) has a south-facing deck and kitchen, and grows several types of veggies, including salad greens. Even though I live next door, my growing environment is very different (north-facing kitchen, large overhang on the roof that blocks direct sunlight most of the day), and a covered deck. So, growing veggies here would be a challenge. But since I’ve had such success with the Hamama microgreens quilts I reviewed last year, I’ve been tempted to try growing more of our salad veggies, too, with the help of a plant light. I still have to talk to my husband about this idea, since our house is quite small and space is at a premium. But I’ll definitely look into Jessica’s YouTube channel and this book, which sounds perfect for an inexperienced plant grower who lacks confidence in her gardening abilities (me!). Thanks so much for the review and recommendation.

  6. This sounds a very useful gardening book. I have grown veg for a few years now and I really enjoy it. I think there is always something new to learn in gardening and I happily read all gardening books I can lay my hands on!I like that this book is chunked into small sections, much easier to learn and absorb information that way. When I first started gardening, an experienced gardener told never to worry about the plants, just give them the conditions they need and to know that they want to grow. I have learned a lot from trial and error and also know that I have learned such a lot from books like this. When I started veg growing there did seem to be a lot to understand. The main thing is to have a go and enjoy the process :) Sounds like this book will make a beautiful gift for anyone who is interested in veg gardening. A four acre garden will be just amazing and you can grow so much in that space! I wish you happy gardening!

  7. I would appreciate this book. I'm thinking of planting in patio boxes, a small garden - very small - maybe lettuce, a few herbs and tomatoes. I've never jumped in to tackle this, but I have this feeling I will be doing it. My brother planted an entire garden for the first time last year and it was very successful! This book would make an excellent gift for him. Thanks for the introduction to it.


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