Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding Free Gardening Books Online

If you are like me and you love perusing gardening books of all sorts, especially rare or unusual ones, then you, too, probably find yourself every once in a while looking for new reading material or lamenting the exorbitant price of that glossy monograph of fuchsias or that beautiful work on the gardens of Cornwall. Over the last months I have found that the internet offers some wonderful ways to assuage those horticultural-literary longings. First and foremost is Google Books at, which is a veritable treasure trove of no longer copyrighted gardening books from the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. A simple search for a term like "gardening" with the search settings set to "Full view only" returns hundreds of results ranging from Gardening in California and Gardening in the South to A Treatise Upon Planting, Gardening, and the Managment of the Hot-House, all of which you can either read on Google Books or download as a PDF file. Luckily plants by and large change little in their cultivation needs and so even though these books might be a hundred years old or even older, very little of the information they offer is obsolete. In fact, I am always astounded how ingenious and adventurous Victorian gardeners appear to have been in their work. I guess before USDA hardiness zones existed zone denial was a whole lot easier.

The languages most richly represented on Google Books in garden book form appear to be English, German, and French, though there are also a handful of works in Spanish. Dutch certainly has some horticultural books and other languages probably do as well, though my language skills were not sufficient to verify this. However, I did have to conclude that up until now no "full view" gardening books in Arabic, Urdu, or Hindi were to be found on Google Books. That being said, my favorite find in German has been a German translation of an Ottoman treatise on the cultivation of tulips and narcissi entitled Vom Tulpen- und Narcissen-Bau in der Turkey to be found here .

Apart from Google Books, I have found the websites of the agricultural ministries of some countries to be a good source for free downloads of contemporary books and pamphlets on horticultural and agricultural topics. This is particularly true for gardening literature in Arabic and the websites of the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture ( and the Kuwaiti Public Authority of Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources ( both offer quite a few interesting booklets for free dowload, ranging in subject matter from ornamental shrubs and garden design to mango cultivation. The image below is the cover of a short booklet about houseplants that can be found at the latter website.

Two more websites useful if you were to be looking for Arabic gardening manuals - as I have been doing for reasons of sheer nerdiness - are and Many of the books are short monographs about the cultivation of a specific fruit or vegetable, but there are also booklets about flower gardening, ornamental trees, and houseplants.

Well, I hope you have fun reading, and I wish you all a happy New Year's Eve and a good start into the New Year!

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea at all about google books. Thanks for the great resource tip!

    Christine in Alaska


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