The Year Round Vegetable Gardener… That’s You!

The lovely Elisabeth Bailey, author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round, kindly submitted this book review.

You probably already know that Nova Scotia is a hotbed of season extension (so to speak), but were you aware that one of the foremost experts and authors in the field is a  native daughter of the province?

Niki Jabbour of Tantallon, who has long been the host of The Weekend Gardener on News 95.7 FM, published The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener earlier this year. Now, I’m not a fan of the phrase “instant classic”, but in this case I find myself forced to make an exception.

Jabbour’s text gives the information I am always searching for in gardening books but rarely find, and never as well organized as it is here. Each vegetable has its own section with information on exactly when to start seedlings inside, when to plant outside, how to care for plants, how to recognize that a vegetable is ready for harvest, when to plant for fall or winter harvest. She also makes recommendations for specific varietals, something I especially appreciate given the dizzying dozens of choices listed in my seed catalogues—none of which are about to tell you that something WON’T grow well in your environment!

I also have a pet peeve about gardening instructions that say “plant this in late May,” or “harvest in early September”. You don’t know where I am or what my growing conditions are like, Guy Who Writes Copy for the Back of a Seed Packet. Some gardening books on my shelf sidestep this problem altogether by declining to actually say *when* to plant, which is, of course, no help at all. Jabbour’s elegant solution is to create a timeline for each vegetable oriented around the last and first frosts, leaving the reader to do the math based on the frost dates for his or her particular location. (There’s a decent guide to first and last frost dates for Maritime locations on the Veseys website.)

In addition, the book contains step-by-step plans for building an affordable and effective cold frame, a guide to succession planting, and just about every damn thing you want to know to get right in there and get growing. What makes this book truly special, however, is its invitation to push the boundaries of your season, no matter when the frost recedes and returns again. As Jabbour says, “The harvest season doesn’t need to end with the fall frost! Many veggies are cold tolerant and can be grown into fall and winter. With a simple season extender like a cold frame, it’s easy to enjoy a homegrown harvest 365 days of the year. My best advice is to start small, grow what you like to eat, and remember to have fun!”

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