Book review: "The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener"

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.

The Year-Round 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.