by Susan Mulvihill
For the past two winters, I have been experimenting with
growing cold-tolerant vegetables. I’ve had mixed, but encouraging, results. In
order to have as much success as possible, I’ve been looking for more
references on this subject and have found an excellent book.
Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour (Storey Publishing, 248 pp., $19.95)
provides detailed information on this challenging aspect of gardening.
Jabbour lives in Nova Scotia so I figure if she can grow veggies
successfully during the winter, so can I!
In the book, she takes the reader by the hand and shares her
gardening schedule for planting and growing all sorts of vegetables, include
warm-season crops, throughout the year. But her secret to success with both
cold- and warm-season veggies lies in the use of cold frames, hoop tunnels and
cloches. She also shares hoop house ideas from her gardening friends.
Jabbour intensively plants her vegetables and emphasizes the
importance of improving one’s soil throughout the growing season -- not just at
the start of the season, I might add. She points out that when you grow
year-round, the soil becomes depleted of nutrients so it’s vital we add organic
amendments on a regular basis.
She is a stickler for rotating crops and suggests rotating
them based on each crop’s nutritional needs rather than just by plant families.
For example, since salad greens need a lot of nitrogen, why not plant them in a
bed where peas or beans previously grew? Makes sense to me.
She advocates succession planting to get as much out of the
garden as possible. She also does interplanting (i.e., growing lettuce next to
tomato plants where the soil would otherwise be bare) and staggered plantings
(a mix of varieties within each crop planted so they won’t all mature at once).
One of my favorite sections in the book was “Growing the
Right Crops,” in which Jabbour discusses the details of growing specific
vegetables. Included are “Niki’s Picks” which are her variety recommendations.
Each vegetable profile includes a planting calendar which
shows when to sow seeds indoors, when to start warming the planting bed in
preparation for warm-season crops, when to transplant or sow outdoors -- all
based on the weeks before the last spring frost or the first fall frost.
If you’re interested in growing vegetables during the colder
months, the Year-Round Vegetable Gardener is a terrific resource. Yet, even if
you aren’t, it’s a useful reference for producing as many vegetables in your garden during the
“normal” growing season as possible.