I am a researcher in real life, so, what I do when I want to know more about something is read EVERY FREAKING BOOK I can get my hands on. Fortunately, this includes some gems. Unfortunately, it also features some books that are not as helpful, or you can find the information better elsewhere. I have owned or borrowed each and every one of these books. Some I bought at the now-extinct Borders, some were found on Amazon and some are from libraries, yard sales and second-hand stores. I have DEFINITELY not been compensated in any way to review any of them.
If this is the year you're going to build your raised bed and join me in enjoying fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes and peas this year, here's what you should look at (or pass over) - but remember, it's only my humble opinion.
My best and most valuable advice in gardening is, START SMALL!!!! The best way to ruin a career of harvesting fresh food from your garden is to try to do too much at once. If you think you're suddenly going from zero to be raising enough veggies to get you through the entire summer without going to the farmer's market, you might have a little gardening fever. Scale back. Plant two types of tomatoes and some carrots, or peas and lettuce. If you enjoy it this year, you'll be back for more next spring and then the spring after that. It took me 6 years to get to chickens, and I've actually lived on a farm before!
Western Garden Book of Edibles: The Complete A-Z Guide to Growing Your Own Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits
If you're going to plant anything in Southern California, Northern California or the Pacific Northwest, BUY THIS BOOK. It tells you basically everything about everything (except loquats -- why doesn't any book ever have loquats!?). Pests, soil, diseases, how to plant, when to plant, harvesting, etc. Love this book. Must have.
The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City
For a while, I was carrying Erik Knutsen and Kelly Coyne's book around with me like a bible. It had everything I wanted to know about permaculture, composting, backyard farming and they're in L.A. so I felt like I could trust that what they were growing would be appropriate for my area as well. I don't carry it around anymore, but I do refer to it quite often.
The Garden Primer: Second Edition
This book is comparable to the Sunset book above, but it's so damn hefty and has so much good information, I just can't seem to part with it. It's also very good if you don't have the pleasure of living on the West Coast.
The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Banner batches, grow heaps, comforter compost, and other amazing techniques for saving time and money, and ... most flavorful, nutritous vegetables ever.
Monday, I'll post the rest of the reviews since I just kept writing and the post got too long!!!