THE BOOKSHELF is our new webpage for interesting and useful books and periodicals, both old and new, that provide valuable information for gardeners and food producers. We invite you to send us short reviews of books and magazines that you have found useful. This section is another way we can exchange information to learn together.
A NEWFOUNDLAND GARDEN: GROWING FABULOUS FLOWERS, FRUIT, AND VEGETABLES IN A MARITIME CLIMATE by Todd Boland. Boland has been gardening for over 40 years. He is research horticulturalist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Botanical Gardens. His book reviews flowers, fruit trees and vegetables suitable for growing in our climate. An excellent reference book for northern gardeners.
ASK ROSS TRAVERSE ABOUT GARDENING: PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR GARDENERS IN A COOL CLIMATE by Ross Traverse. This excellent, focused exploration of gardening in our northern climate is out of print at the moment. We hope that this self-published guide to northern gardening will once again be available for local gardeners to have access to knowledgeable and detailed information based on decades of practical experience.
THE YEAR-ROUND VEGETABLE GARDENER by Niki Jabbour: A comprehensive book about raised bed gardening and season extension, written by the Nova Scotia-based organic gardener and teacher, this is currently the best garden book for our location and climate, in terms of basic skills and structures for weather protection. Well-illustrated, with recommendations for protective structures and growing techniques, it includes specific information for each vegetable or fruit crop.
FOUR-SEASON HARVEST by Eliot Coleman: The grand old man of unheated greenhouse production has now expanded his crop production to thousand square foot rolling greenhouses that can be moved on rails, allowing him to grow and harvest six separate crops, with just one greenhouse structure. Eliot started his exploration of unheated greenhouse structures at the home level and Four-Season Harvest is his how-to book about smaller scale season extension for home gardeners.
THE GARDEN PRIMER by Barbara Damrosch: Eliot Coleman’s partner has written a wonderful encyclopedia of basic techniques for growing food, fruit, flowers and herbs. Like Eliot, she lives in Maine, a similar climate to our coastal one in the Atlantic Provinces. Her book presents all the basics for home gardening in one thick comprehensive volume.
RAISED BED REVOLUTION by Tara Nolan is a detailed, well-illustrated exploration of raised beds, explaining their benefits and how to build them, with plans for beds small and large, support structures and ways to reuse and recycle various kinds of containers for planting.
THE FORAGER’S DINNER by Shawn Dawson: published by Boulder Publications in 2020, this guide to wild plants here in Newfoundland is a guide for foragers throughout Atlantic Canada and the northeast United States. Richly illustrated and filled with great personal knowledge, the book features recipes from local chefs to show you how to make good use of what you gather.
EDIBLE PLANTS OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR by Peter J. Scott. A well- illustrated guide for foragers and gardeners, written by a respected garden authority in our province, this book is a heavily bound field guide in a size well suited to your backpack in the field, allowing you to identify what you are gathering, with clear colour illustrations and careful descriptions of each plant.
THE CHINESE GREENHOUSE by Dan Chiras: Recent work by Jianyi Dong, a Chinese immigrant living in Alberta, has highlighted the passive solar greenhouse design in use in his country of origin. In China, huge greenhouses passively heated by the sun are already used for food production. Jianyi has had success here in Canada with an earth or clay berm as thermal mass, plus a double layer of transparent covering to trap sunlight once it enters. It is great to see a new book, published by our friends at New Society on Gabriola Island, that has just arrived. This comprehensive guide to the design and construction of a low-cost, passive solar greenhouse will inspire others, with its detailed, comprehensive description, accompanied by clear, full colour illustrations. Whether for a home garden or a commercial food production site, this approach has promise to help bring food production back home to local communities across Canada.
THE YEAR-ROUND SOLAR GREENHOUSE by Lindsey Schiller with Mark Plinke: another excellent publication from New Society Press with detailed information about a range of greenhouse designs based on low energy, net zero energy consumption. Included in this book are Earthship designs using rammed earth in tires for insulated wall construction, temperature ranges for typical greenhouse crops and specs for installing lights, venting and solar hot water. Published in 2016, this book provides a lot of current information appropriate for northern gardeners.
HOW TO SAVE YOUR OWN SEEDS: A HANDBOOK FOR SMALL-SCALE SEED PRODUCTION published by Seeds of Diversity Canada in both English and French is a wonderful 68-page pamphlet that includes all the basic information needed for effective seed harvesting, drying and storage. It starts with basic information about what seeds are, why save seed and other basic concepts, before moving on to specific techniques for harvesting, cleaning and storing seeds from your own plants and wild plants. It includes techniques for collecting seed from specific families of plants, and concludes with a step-by-step method for extracting, fermenting and drying tomato seeds. This book has a handy two-page reference chart at the back of the specifics for collecting and storing seed from a list of plant species. It can be ordered directly from Seeds of Diversity (www.seeds.ca)
SAVING SEEDS by Dan Jason: Dan Jason, a new friend of ours is the creator of Salt Spring Seeds, on the island of the same name in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. For decades he has been growing plants, propagating seeds and leading workshops in organic techniques. In this thin book he explores basic issues related to seed saving as a way to preserve the incredible biodiversity which is increasingly being eradicated and lost in commercial agriculture. Very inspiring.
THE SEED GARDEN: THE ART AND PRACTICE OF SEED SAVING by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel: Published by Seed Savers Exchange, the American group keeping varietal and heritage seeds available, this is the best and most carefully illustrated of the seven seed saving books we own. It lays out in clear detail, backed up by how to step-by-step illustrations the what, why and how of seed saving for each difference plant, including how to harvest, dry and save wet seeds from tomatoes and cucurbits. Great reference book.
SEED TO SEED: SEED SAVING AND GROWING TECHNIQUES FOR VEGETABLE GARDENERS by Suzanne Ashworth. Laid out in half-page columns, making this book easy to read, are detailed steps in seed saving. Published by Seed Savers Exchange in the United States and edited by founder Ken Whealey this is an excellent, detailed guide to how to save and preserve heritage seeds in your own garden.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SAVING SEEDS: 322 VEGETABLES, HERBS, FLOWERS, FRUITS, TREES, AND SHRUBS by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough. This is a nicely illustrated full-colour guide to the techniques for harvesting, cleaning, drying and storing seeds from each type of food plant or flower. It also includes tips for overwintering plants, how to germinate their seeds and how to propagate fruit and nut trees and bushes.
SEEDS OF WOODY PLANTS IN NORTH AMERICA (revised and enlarged edition, 1992) by James A. Young and Cheryl G. Young: Dan Rubin first heard of this book when it was reviewed in Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalogue, then managed to order a copy for the school library on the little island where he taught and was school principal, until someone checked it out and never brought it back. So, a few years ago, he ordered a copy of his own. This large, thick volume tells everything known about the seeds of all the shrubs and trees that grow on our continent, including how they are produced, how to scarify and germinate them and is an essential reference if you want to deal with these species. All solid scientific knowledge, organized by family and species.
HIGH-YIELD GARDENING: HOW TO GET MORE FROM YOUR GARDEN SPACE AND MORE FROM YOUR GARDENING SEASON by Marjorie B. Hunt and Brenda Bortz: published by Rodale Press in 1986, the publishers of Organic Gardening Magazine have created another great general source for techniques for growing food, flowers and herbs. Black and white illustrations, but everything you need to know is here in great detail.
ROOTS DEMYSTIFIED: CHANGE YOUR GARDENING HABITS TO LET ROOTS THRIVE by Robert Kourik: Kourik is a lead researcher in building understanding of the root systems that support all plant growth. By showing how roots branch and extend he lets us understand what we need to do to give our plants what they need to grow and thrive. There are many surprising facts here, illustrated by amazing well researched diagrams. Did you know a carrot’s tap root can go down six feet if soil is deep enough?
PERMACULTURE DESIGN: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Aranya: While there is a wealth of reference material now in print about basic permaculture principles, the history of its founding by Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, this little book is a guide for designing gardens by applying basic permaculture principles and techniques to achieve the goal of a garden landscape that meets our needs with a minimum of work by harmonizing cultivated plants with wild plants, insects and birds to create self-sustaining perennial landscapes. Since we are doing a lot of garden consulting these days, we ordered this book and have found it clear, concise and very helpful as well as being inspiring. Written in clear everyday language, this is a great introduction to a powerful way to understand and work with nature, in your garden.
REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE by Richard Perkins. This book offers a clear and pragmatic approach to designing, installing and managing profitable small farms, all built around Richard Perkins’s tireless work to restore dignity to rural stewardship through intelligent human-scale farming. It takes a deep dive into the ecological, practical, personal and financial aspects of making small farms work. Regenerative farming uses simple techniques to restores soil by serving local customers and communities while turning a healthy profit for the farmer.
THE MARKET GARDENER: A SUCCESSFUL GROWER’S HANDBOOK FOR SMALL-SCALE ORGANIC FARMING by Jean-Martin Fortier: Translated into English from its original French edition, this book by the renowned Quebec organic food producer is a practical, step-by-step guide to develop a high intensity organic grow site. What is most unusual about his approach is his focus on details, which make the difference between success in growing and marketing at a manageable scale and financial failure. Jean-Martin has become a regional garden guru who has informed and inspired hundreds of other small scale producer. he is helping others across his province substantially increase local food production.
THE WINTER HARVEST HANDBOOK: YEAR-ROUND VEGETABLE PRODUCTION USING DEEP-ORGANIC TECHNIQUES AND UNHEATED GREENHOUSES by Eliot Coleman. This book extends and expands the basic principles presented in Coleman’s book FOUR SEASON HARVEST, explaining how he uses large, moveable greenhouse structures to produce market crops on a massive scale, without relying on fossil fuels for winter heat. An inspiring and instructive, detailed book valuable for anyone setting out to become a market producer in northern climates. Coleman also has online videos and tutorials.
CROP PLANNING FOR ORGANIC VEGETABLE GROWERS (a Canadian Organic Growers Practical Skills Handbook) by Frederic Theriiault and Daniel Brisebois: This is a well-organized guide to how to make a small organic farm succeed and prosper. It focuses on crop planning, scheduling and profitability to assist growers in doing a better job of managing and planning their farming. For anyone setting out to grow food at small market scale, this will be an essential reference.
Stories to Learn From
THE NEW FARM: OUR TEN YEARS ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE GOOD FOOD REVOLUTION by Brent Preston: The New Farm is an inspiring, true story with all the drama, humour and passion of a great novel. It tells how a couple of desk workers from Toronto moved to the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario with their children to begin a new life. Starting with an hilarious description of harvesting chickens, the book shows how they developed an amazing partnership with an innovative food bank in Toronto, and helped preserve local farmland. The story wraps up with the Tragically Hip performing in their barn for their annual fundraiser that allows Ontario organic farmers to sell their produce at cost to the food banks. An amazing, funny, endearing and inspiring story that shows what is possible if you pay attention to details and adapt based on solid financial monitoring of your food operation.
FINDING THE MOTHER TREE: DISCOVERING THE WISDOM OF THE FOREST by Suzanne Simard. This memoir shares the life of the dedicated Canadian forest ecologist who has documented the ways in which underground fungal connections for communication and sharing of resources among every plant support life in a mature forest. She also applies this insight to her own garden. The story unfolds with personal details of her own challenges and discoveries, as she moved from discouragement to triumph. With deep dedication, Simard persists in uncovering a vital, hidden aspect of life on our planet.
PRECIOUS CARGO: HOW FOODS FROM THE AMERICAS CHANGED THE WORLD by Dave DeWitt. Written by a writer and researcher deeply interested in hot peppers and exotic spices, this book tells the fascinating story of how the Columbian Exchange carried food plants from the Americas across the ocean and brought European and Asian plants back through international trade. Richly illustrated, the story of how our current system of agriculture is based on this exchange is a fascinating tale.
THE TASTE OF EMPIRE: HOW BRITAIN’S QUEST FOR FOOD SHAPED THE MODERN WORLD by Lizzie Collingham. This British writer explores the earliest roots of an empire largely based on finding and exploiting new foods to feed workers at home and colonies around the world, as England built its global empire. From the Newfoundland cod fishery to cultivation of cotton, coffee, tea and chocolate, these links grew and coalesced to create a web of connections on which the modern world was built.
FOOD FUTURES; GROWING A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM FOR NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, edited by Catherine Keske. This collection of articles published by Memorial University takes a close look at different aspects of food production, supply and security, focusing in on the food needs of seniors, students and those in the north. By examining many different aspects of how our food is currently grown, gathered and distributed this book reveals the challenges we are facing as we rebuild food sovereignty in Canada’s easternmost province.
RURAL DELIVERY – This small, regional publication has been going for years and is an excellent source of interesting and inspiring information for those of us living in Atlantic Canada. Find it online at http://www.rurallife.ca/rural-delivery-tofc.
CANADA’S LOCAL GARDENER – Published by Pegasus Publications in Winnipeg, Manitoba and billing itself as a source for “reliable advice for the Canadian gardener” this indeed is another source for real information, written entirely by unpaid regional authors and correspondents. Find it online at https://www.localgardener.net/.
SMALL FARM CANADA – Another great Canadian publication, focused on the needs of small-scale producers across our country, this magazine’s new editor is not afraid to tackle difficult issues, at the same time the magazine continues to provide down-to-earth tips and advice from working farmers and gardeners. Find it online at https://www.smallfarmcanada.ca/.
HARROWSMITH – Once the queen of Canada’s guides to rural life, Harrowsmith after an illustrious multi-year run of publishing a monthly magazine and excellent books filled with recipes, folk remedies and solid rural living tips, as well as solid investigation of environmental issues, was sold to a larger company.
Founded in 1977 by James M. Lawrence, it was sold in 1988 and combined with Country Life to create a new amalgam, which is still being published. While the original Harrowsmith that tackled important and politically charged issues is no longer in print, Harrowsmight books and online content are still being created by a former employee. If you can find back issues they are full of valuable content.
FINE GARDENING – This American publication from Taunton Press, a well-established publisher specializing in books about architecture, garden design and gardening always includes amazing stories and inspiring images, while dealing with basic garden design issues. Find it online at https://www.finegardening.com.
There are so many great videos and garden websites offering a range of advice and instruction that we cannot list them all. Here are a few that we can recommend with a particular emphasis on northern gardening, including three favourites that we frequent:
The website home of Seeds of Diversity, Canada’s heritage seed network, is a wonderful source of information for anyone seeking to find and preserve traditional varieties. As of 2022, membership in Seeds of Diversity is free, and gives you access to a Directory of seeds grown by fellow gardeners across Canada and a few in the United States. The website also has a list of Canadian seed houses and links to information useful to anyone concerned about growing the best plants and supporting the renewal of heritage varieties.
Seed Change (formerly USC Canada) is a Canadian organization dedicated to supporting food sovereignty around the world. While relying on donations, they have launched a series of international projects focused on preserving traditional varieties and practices to enhance local food security. For gardeners, this website is a gateway to seed banks and groups working locally on food security.
Backyard Farming and Homesteading is an online community of more than 38,000 members who share a passion for home food production and independent living. Curated by homesteaders Steve and Lisa McBride, who have maintained a kind and gentle tone in the exchanges at this site, this is a wonderful, friendly place to meet friends and learn more. But as a Newfoundland and Labrador site, it is mainly aimed at those who live or have a connection here.
Backyard Vegetable Farmers NL is a second local Facebook group, focused on plant production rather than livestock, that serves people in our province as a meeting place and educational site for learning about gardening. Like Backyard Farming and Homesteading, you must apply to join the community, but it is another great and supportive place to ask questions and learn about gardening.
The Homestead at Flatrock is David Jason Goodyear’s online base, where he shares the work he is doing as he develops a self-sufficient home and food production site in the little town north of St. John’s, Newfoundland where he lives. From his hot composting method, to year-round egg production chicken run, to his raised beds and passive solar home, David has a lot to share. Our connection with David has focused on the Four Season Greenhouse that he built several years ago. That structure has been producing beautiful edible greens all through the winter, with a heating cost of no more than $5 per month. Great tips on self-sufficiency are to be found at his webpage.
The Newfoundland Horticultural Society is a wonderful organization that sponsors regular meetings with interesting speakers, an annual plant sale and tours of local gardens. As a member you will have more than a hundred gardeners as new friends, many of them very experienced in growing food, herbs and flowers. If you live in our province, check out their online website, then attend one of their sessions. You will find a warm and welcoming group of local plant enthusiasts!