Essential Resources for your County Office - Books

With the Horticulture In-Service wrapping up last week, one participant asked what types of resources we use to help us, the "so-called experts", answer questions. Besides all of those wonderful extension publications that reside in many county offices, there are an incredible number of books in print on all aspects of gardening. So, I started a list of "essentials" and asked my colleagues what books they would include. Below is a listing of books that are always on our bookshelves and are dog-eared from frequent use.

Tree and Shrub Identification and Management

  • Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr 1998 (ISBN # 0875638007) This is called "The Bible of Woody Plants" because of it's good line drawings and great cultural information on an incredible listing of species/cultivars of trees and shrubs.
  • Native Trees for North American Landscapes by Guy Sternberg with Jim Wilson. 2004 (ISBN # 0881926078). Each entry is accompanied by excellent color photographs and a wonderful description/history of the species. A great companion to Dr. Dirr's book.
  • Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Nancy Rose, Don Selinger, and John Whitman. 2001. (ISBN # 0809224917) Attractive color photographs, extensive cultural information, and listing of popular cultivars.
  • Principles and Practice of Planting Trees and Shrubs by Gary W. Watson and E.B. Himelick. 1997 (ISBN # 1881956180). Good black and white photographs and reasonably priced. Published by the International Society of Arboriculture.

Herbaceous Ornamentals Identification and Management

  • Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants by Steven Still 1994 (ISBN # 0875634338) Good line drawings, a few pictures, and great cultural information on a vast array of perennial, annual, and biennial flowers.
  • Growing Perennials in Cold Climates by Mike Heger and John Whitman. 1998. (ISBN # 0809229439) Attractive color photographs, extensive cultural information, and listing of popular cultivars.

Weed Identification and Management

  • Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains by J. Stubbendieck, G. Friisoe, and M. Bolick. 1995 (ISBN # 0939870004) Great pictures, descriptions, and location information of many weeds in Iowa.

Insect Identification and Management

  • Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw. 2004 (ISBN #0-691-09561-2). More than 1400 color photos and an extensive host-plant index make this an easy book to use. A copy purchased by ISUE/IPM was sent to each county extension office in 2004.
  • Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs, 2nd Edition by W. Johnson and H.H. Lyon. 1991 (ISBN # 0801426022). An oldie but still a goodie with 241 full-color plates showing common insect pests of trees and the damage they cause.

Disease Identification and Management

  • Diseases of Trees and Shrubs, 2nd Edition by Wayne A. Sinclair and Howard H. Lyon 2005 (ISBN #968-0-8014-4317-8) Very detailed and thorough; good pictures but not very user-friendly.
  • The Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver 2nd Edition by Michael McKinley 2001 (ISBN 0897214706) A good basic (and cheap) reference for common garden problems.
  • Identifying Diseases of Vegetables by A. A. MacNab, A. F. Sherf, and J. K. Springer 1983 (published by Penn State University) Excellent pictures for diagnosis of diseases, but no information on management.

Lawn Care

  • Lawns: Your Guide to a Beautiful Yard by Nick Christians with Ashton Ritchie (Scotts Company) 2002 (ISBN 0696212706) A nice but inexpensive overview of lawn care written by an Iowa State University professor.
  • Picture Clues to Turfgrass Problems by Eva Gussack and Frank S. Rossi 2001 (ISBN 093581762X) (NRAES 125) Good pictures, easy to use, spiral bound, guide to turf problems and diagnosis.

Vegetable/Fruit Production

  • Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2006 (revised yearly). FG-600 Available from ISUE. Up-to-date information of vegetable production as well as comparison of cultivars.
  • Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest by C.E. Voight & J.S. Vandemark 1995 (ISBN 1883097061)
  • Growing Fruit in the Upper Midwest by Don Gordon 1997 (ISBN 081661878X) Good information on growing fruits in Iowa and surrounding states including cultivar and hardiness information.

Thanks to Donald, Jeff, Richard, Christine, James, Duane, and Hank for your contributions! Next time...a listing of websites.


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on January 10, 2007. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.