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Ecology for Gardeners

By Steven B. Carroll and Steven D. Salt

Drawings by Errol D. Hooper, Jr.

Plenty of fun science, with practical advice on building and tending gardens that enhance rather than harm the environment.

Los Angeles Times

Even a relatively small garden is a miniature ecosystem. It includes a surprising diversity of organisms that interact in a myriad of ways. Some are permanent residents, others come and go in search of a meal or a mate. An insect feeding on a garden plant is simultaneously hunted by predators and weakened by parasites; it competes with other herbivores for choice food plants; it is hindered in its feeding by the plants' chemical and physical defenses; and it challenges other members of its species for the best mates and locations for egg-laying. Ecologists Carroll and Salt argue that the more completely we understand these interactions, the better gardeners we become. The authors cite hundreds of examples drawn from personal experience and from literature on gardening and ecology.

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Media reviews

"There is much here to tantalize the gardener with a scientific bent."

—Carol Bishop Miller, Horticulture

"This book should be applauded."

—John Bagnasco, Garden Compass

"Plenty of fun science, with practical advice on building and tending gardens that enhance rather than harm the environment."

—Lili Singer, Los Angeles Times

"How often I have wished for this book! ... A book that clearly lays out the science of the garden ecology ... Carrol and Salt present the sometimes complex subject of garden ecology in an accessible and clear manner, and they write directly to their audience — gardeners."

—Frederique Lavoipierre, Pacific Horticulture

"Carroll and Salt write with the home gardener in mind, opening up and illuminating a world of interactions taking place between plants of all sorts and the crowd of characters that may reside or simply pass through the garden ... The clarity of the writing style communicates enthusiasm and regard for the readers, showing Carroll and Salt to be excellent teachers who are able to explain, in accessible ways, concepts relating to plant botany, biology, and the environment."

—Alice Joyce, Booklist

"This excellent book explains the actions and reactions that take place in your garden ... This belongs on your reference shelf."

—Ron Macher, Small Farm Today

"You can find books on botany, plant biology, or ecology ... But none bring all this information together and explain it so fully from a gardener's point-of-view as Ecology for Gardeners ."

—Ethel Fried, Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer

"Itís a terrific tool for those interested in a nonchemical approach to gardening."

—Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News

"Makes it clear that gardens are a part of the natural world in endless and important ways."


"A friendly ecological examination aimed at helping gardeners understand ... the intricate interactions among all the players in a garden, including humans."

Minnesota Magazine

"This gem of a book ... is sure to find an important place on the bookshelf of organic gardeners for years to come."

—Scott Vlaun, Seeds of Change

"It becomes clear that gardens — whether a group of potted plants on a patio, a few beds carved out of a lawn, or extensive plantings over several acres — are indeed connected to the natural world in endless and important ways."

Kirksville Daily Express

"For most gardeners, the more plants they grow, the more they want to know about how it happens. Here's where to find out."

—Kym Pokorny, Oregonian

"Appeals to every piece of me that is naturalist as well as gardener."

—Jessie Keith, American Gardener

"Ecology for Gardeners is an excellent book for the beginner in understanding the ecological side of gardening and how to keep and improve the world-wide environment."

—Joanne S. Carpender, National Gardener

"An excellent book for the beginner in understanding the ecological side of gardening and how to keep and improve the world-wide environment."

National Gardener

"I found Ecology for Gardeners quite appealing ... It builds more than just a basic understanding of plant physiology and the interconnection of plant communities; it helps define our roles of stewards of the earth, encouraging us to make sure that the ecological role of our gardens is a positive one."

—Patt Kasa, National Gardener

"An attractive guide."


"The authors have done a fantastic job of making the ecological part of gardening very accessible to gardeners. Readers will definitely understand more of the ecology that occurs in, around, and under the plants in their garden."

—Lee Luckeydoo, Sida, Contributions to Botany

"Ecology for Gardeners will inspire both ecologists and gardeners to analyze their gardens as ecosystems and explore the abiotic factors ... that affect garden health."

—Brigid Franey, Leaf Litter

"This is an important book to read before turning over the first shovel of sod to create a new garden. I stronly urge bother current and potential gardeners to learn how to manage their landscape in an ecologically friendly manner."

—Diana Pederson, Bella Online

"An excellent book for serious gardeners."

—George Graine, Virginia Master Gardeners Association Report

"The authors explain the science of plants and garden organisms and tell gardeners how to use ecological principles to manage their gardens."

New Trail

"An innovative book."

Kirksville Daily Express

About the authors

Steven B. Carroll

Steven B. Carroll is a Master Gardener and the director of public programs at the State Arboretum of Virginia, located outside of Winchester, Virginia. He is particularly interested in gardens as habitats for plants and animals such as pollinators and herbivores.

Read more about Steven B. Carroll

Steven D. Salt

Steven D. Salt holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and microbiology and teaches college and university courses. He lives on Green Valley Farm in the forested hills of north-central Missouri, where he and his family raise vegetables, herbs, small fruits, and flowers that they sell at farmers' markets. Steve has written articles and given public presentations on vegetable and herb growing, small farm tools and techniques, and rural social issues.

Read more about Steven D. Salt

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