Eventually, I returned my library book and purchased my own copy (according to Goodreads, I’m not the only person to do this) because The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour continues to be a main reference when I plan my seasons every year.
Having started my food-growing career in Mattawa and Thunder Bay, I am often skeptical of claims made by books and resources from outside of Canada (with the exception of Eliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook). Even books from Southern Ontario rarely deal with the realities of Thunder Bay’s short season, short days and long, sunny winters. Niki’s unique experience growing in Halifax was very transferable to the northern regions where I started Garddwest, and continue to be relevant here in Hamilton. As another Goodreads reviewer mentioned, “when a book is written from the region you live, it has a lot more credibility than when a Floridian tells you what’s possible in Canada” and I can’t agree more.
Eliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook is a rigorous and scientifically thorough manual, the go-to reference on this subject, but Niki’s Year-Round Vegetable Gardener is possibly a better fit for a beginner-intermediate winter gardener getting started at home or in a community setting.
Niki touches on the basics of timing, temperature and light needs, providing background for her more practical instructional content. One area where Niki does dig deeper is soil sciences – suggesting sustainable methods including cover crops, crop rotation, organic fertilizers and building a healthy soil profile. A section on intensive farming in small spaces directly addresses small scale urban agriculture and backyard farmers. With tips and tricks for growing, plus concrete blueprints for building cold frames and tunnels, this book has all the information required to get started with Cool Season Gardening.