Before publishing his first book, Mr. Ball spent 15 years in the human services field, including serving as deputy secretary for children and youth in the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare in Harrisburg and as director of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth.
He was "close to alcoholism" and "a clinical burnout," he told an Inquirer reporter in 1985, before trading in a big budget and staff for "a quarter-acre and two cats" in Springfield.
Instead of the usual patio and barbecue, he and his wife, Liz, had an extensive vegetable garden with then-innovative raised beds and trellises. Two beehives on a second-floor deck produced 200 pounds of honey, a solar greenhouse kept plants warm, and a root cellar provided storage for vegetables.
Mr. Ball designed an automatic drip irrigation system and a three-bin system for composting.
"What literally gives me pleasure," he told The Inquirer, "is that I may have another idea, and having the idea, then taking it to the point where it's a product - a book, a garden system, a computer program."
He and his wife coined the term yardeners - homeowners who have lawns and plants to care for, but who aren't really gardeners. She shot photographs for several of his books and cowrote others with him. Even after they divorced in 1992, they remained business partners, and she helped produce his monthly Today segments, which were telecast until the late 1990s.
Mr. Ball grew up in New England and spent summers on his grandparents' farm in Canada. After graduating from New London High School in Connecticut, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1961 from the University of Rochester, where he met his future wife. He then served in the Navy on a destroyer in the Mediterranean for three years and was on the NROTC faculty at Brown University for two years.
After his discharge, he earned a master's degree in community organization from Bryn Mawr College's Graduate School of Social Work in 1968. He worked for the Model Cities Program and other social-service agencies in Philadelphia. He was appointed deputy secretary for children and youth in 1972.
While living in Harrisburg, he caught the gardening bug and tried to buy a book on basic vegetable gardening, Liz Ball said. He could not find one to suit him, she said, so he decided that if he had to research all the information, he might as well write a book himself. Subsequently, he produced six titles for Rodale Press, among them the organic Problem Solver series.
Mr. Ball and his wife and son moved to Springfield in 1976. From his garden there he hosted a series of cable television shows called Suburban Homestead.
He took up running in the late 1960s and once completed the Philadelphia Marathon. He had great enthusiasm and was always ahead of a trend, Liz Ball said. He had one of the first desktop computers produced, she said.
Mr. Ball moved to Michigan in the late 1990s.
In an interview for Gardenrant.com in 2007, Mr. Ball advised garden writers to take a proactive approach to developments on the Internet. "If we get defensive every time another change appears, we might lose out in the long run."
Asked what the future held for garden writers, he said: "I'm convinced that meeting clueless homeowners where they are and leading them forward into 21st-century 'yard' practices is the way to have the most impact."
Mr. Ball is survived by a son, Ted; his life partner, Nancy Szerlag; a brother; and his former wife.
A service will be private.
Mr. Ball's family plans to plant a tree in his memory in a park in Springfield.
Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.