how to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a year No Matter Where You Live

Use cold frames and mini hoop tunnels to get a jump on spring

Year-round Vegetable gardener
Spring SUmmer fa l l winter

Harvest warm-weather crops weeks earlier

plan for succession to continue the harvest through the summer into the fall

Keep harvesting straight through the winter

Niki Jabbour
P h o to g r a P h y b y J o s eP h D e s c i o s e

NoN-Stop CropS!
December 2011

Nova Scotia-based gardener and writer Niki Jabbour shares her secrets for growing food during every month of the year, providing a never-ending supply of delicious produce. Her seasondefying techniques, developed in her own home garden where short summers and low levels of winter sunlight present the ultimate challenge, are doable, affordable, and rewarding for food gardeners living in any location where frost is the usual end to the growing season.

• Book trailer & photo exhibit offered for online slideshows • Garden & food website and publication features • National publicity in daily newspaper gardening columns • Author’s own blog and radio show promotions • Author events in U.S. and Canada
Publicity Contact: Adam Carmichael (413) 346-2139 or

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
Full-color; photographs and illustrations throughout 256 pages; 8½ x 10‡/• Paper: $19.95 US / $23.95 CAN ISBN: 978-1-60342-568-1; No. 62568 Hardcover: $29.95 US / $35.95 CAN ISBN: 978-1-60342-992-4; No. 62992 eBook available

The Author
Niki Jabbour is a food gardener and garden writer who lives near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her articles have appeared in Canadian Gardening, Garden Making, Gardens East, The Heirloom Gardener, and other publications. She is the host of The Weekend Gardener, a call-in radio show that airs throughout the Maritime provinces on News 95.7 FM and, and she blogs at yearroundveggiegardener.blogspot. com. Her garden boasts over 40 heirloom vegetables and herbs that keep her family eating fresh food year-round.


December 2011

Part 1
Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter

Rethinking the Growing Seasons 18
19 33 52 70


1 Getting the Timing Right 2 Intensive Planting 3 Growing Into Winter

4 Designing Productive Gardens 5 Vegetables 90

Part 2

Growing the Right Vegetables 89

Arugula • Asparagus • Beans • Beets • Broccoli • Broccoli Raab • Brussels Sprouts • Cabbage • Carrots • Cauliflower • Celery & Celeric • Claytonia • Collards • Corn • Cucumbers • Eggplant • Endive • Garlic • Kale • Kohlrabi • Leek • Mâche • Melons • Mibuna • Mizuna • Mustard • Onion • Pak Choi • Parsnips • Peas • Peppers • Potatoes • Rutabagas • Spinach • Sweet Potatoes • Swiss Chard • Summer Squash • Tatsoi • Tomatoes • Turnips • Winter Squash

6 Herbs


Basil • Chervil • Chives • Coriander • Dill • Greek Oregano • Parsley • Rosemary • Sage • Thyme


Builders’ Guide 230 Succession Planting and Interplanting Charts Resources and Suggested Reading 240 Index 250


June 6th

August 5th

Four Seasons of Fresh Vegetables

November 14th

January 15th

t all started with a row cover. Years ago, on an to protect a wide variety of cool- and cold-season crops. unexpectedly mild day in late November, I happened to They’re even draped over winter carrot and parsnip beds wander up to the empty vegetable patch. I hadn’t actually to hold down the thick mulch of shredded leaves that been up to the garden since the garlic was planted in mid insulates the root crops. October, thinking the season was over until the following Another handy season-extending tool is the cloche. spring. Yet as I strolled the pathways, I discovered that the Gardeners have been using cloches for centuries to shelter bed where we had enjoyed arugula until early October was crops. What could be easier than putting an old glass jar still going strong! I immediately headed back to the house upside-down over a newly planted tomato seedling? Or a for a bowl and picked a big salad for supper. milk jug with the bottom removed? Yet, this simple barrier That night it snowed a few inches, but the next day, I against the elements can help expand your growing season headed back up to the garden to see if the arugula had suc- by several weeks at either end. I also like the water-filled cumbed. It hadn’t! Instead, the vigorous leaves were poking cloches, which let me plant tomatoes in the garden weeks out of the snow, begging to be picked. I grabbed a few row before the last frost, giving me the earliest tomatoes on the covers from the garage that I typically used to protect the street! tomatoes after spring planting and placed them on top of Of course, we don’t harvest heirloom tomatoes in January the arugula patch. With that simple level of protection, we (although I do keep a dozen large bags of garden tomatoes enjoyed arugula from the garden until after Christmas. tucked away in the freezer for a winter treat). Rather, we’ve I soon began to experiment with some of the hardier learned to work with the seasons and grow the right vegvegetables that I found listed in seed catalogs — leeks, etables at the right time. In spring and summer, we have all salad greens, carrots, scallions, kale — and realized that the usual characters — beans, peas, tomatoes, carrots, brocwith some basic shelter, the traditional coli, lettuce, and much, much more. Come gardening season could be extended by autumn, we don’t hang up our gloves and Even in the dead of months. A few good books, such as Fourput the garden to bed. Instead, we switch winter, we’re able to Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman and gears and begin to harvest the cool-weather Solar Gardening by Leandre Poisson and vegetables like kale, leeks, scallions, carharvest vegetables Gretchen Vogel Poisson helped point the rots, parsnips, tatsoi, spinach, arugula, and way and introduced me to cold tolerant claytonia. Even in the dead of winter, we’re veggies that I had never heard of before, much less eaten. able to harvest the most cold-tolerant varieties of these These included mâche, claytonia, tatsoi, and more. vegetables, with the help of season-extending devices like I also discovered that cold-season gardening involves cold frames and mini hoop tunnels. And we don’t live in much less maintenance than warm-season gardening. a sunny corner of the world, either. Our garden is perched Once the temperature plunges in late autumn, little work on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in the Great White is needed to keep crops happy. You don’t need to water, North — Nova Scotia, Canada. fight bugs (okay, maybe I find an occasional slug hiding In this book, I’ll walk you through the process of creatin the cold frames in late autumn), or weed. I think of our ing a year-round vegetable garden. But it’s only fair to warn winter cold frames as in-ground refrigerators that protect you that the ability to harvest fresh, organic vegetables and hold our crops until we’re ready to eat them. year-round from your own garden is potentially addictive. As I learned during that first winter, even the most basic Plus, it’s extremely satisfying and easier than you might season extender — the row cover — can be a valuable think. Interested? Keep reading. tool. We use our row covers in spring, fall, and winter



Year-Round Vegetables G
I was a very picky eater, and it wasn’t until I became a serious vegetable gardener in my 20s that I truly embraced the diversity of the food available to me. No longer did my salads consist of chopped-up iceberg lettuce and a few chunks of carrots. Instead, I took great pride in mixing a variety of greens: leaf lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens, for example. When I realized that I could push the gardening year well into the depths of winter, I encountered many vegetables
row i n g up ,



that I had never heard of before, much less tasted — arugula, mâche, tatsoi, mizuna, and claytonia — and soon they became garden staples. This opportunity to try new things is one of the greatest pleasures of being a yearround gardener. The arrival of the seed catalogs in my mailbox in midwinter is a welcome reminder that spring is just around the corner. In spite of the fact that the garden is usually blanketed with a thick layer of snow at this time, we’re still enjoying crunchy sweet carrots, tender mâche, succulent claytonia, hardy kale, peppery arugula, and many other cold-tolerant crops. I tend to order from a handful of my favorite catalogs each January, keeping in mind that I will be planting seeds throughout the year — not just in the spring! Picking which vegetables to grow is one of the highlights of having a garden. Should we try Tom Thumb lettuce and Black from Tula tomatoes? What about Costata Romanesco zucchini? Don’t shy away from unfamiliar crops; instead be open to new tastes, textures, and flavors, trying something new each year. Also keep in mind that some varieties or cultivars may be more cold tolerant (or alternatively, heat tolerant) than others. For example, most lettuces thrive in the cool temperatures of spring and fall, but certain ones, like Winter Density or Merveille des Quatre Saisons are extra cold resistant and thus ideal for winter plantings. Be sure to read the descriptions in seed catalogs carefully before you order your seed to make sure you’re selecting the best cultivar or variety for each season. If that sounds like too much work, you’re in luck, as I’ve listed
cold season crop

Niki’s Picks — the best cultivars or varieties for a year-round garden — at the bottom of each vegetable description. I love that my children are growing up with a garden. Because we grow such a wide variety of veggies, they think that it’s normal for a cucumber to be round and butter yellow or carrots to be purple (or red, or white, or gold) or lettuce to be deep burgundy. They also think nothing of going up to the cold frames in the middle of winter to brush snow from the sash and help pick greens for a salad or dig a few super-sweet carrots. To them, the mini hoop tunnels are tents for vegetables, and covering a crop with a floating row cover is like tucking it in for the night with a cozy blanket. I don’t know if they’ll be gardeners when they grow up, but I do know that they’ll appreciate the quality and variety of the food they grew up with — even if they didn’t actually eat all of it! (“What do you mean you don’t eat broccoli raab? Just try it, you’ll love it!”)

cool season crop

warm season crop


carrots 
C a r ro t s
our year-round garden. Not only are they an easy-to-grow, low-maintenance crop, but they’re also cold tolerant and may be stored right in the soil where they’re grown for a winter-long harvest of sweet, crisp roots. In fact, as temperatures take a nose dive in late fall, their flavor continues to improve as the starches in the roots convert to sugar. In terms of yield per square foot, carrots are also tops. Because they can be grown so close together and take up so little space, carrots offer a big harvest from a small plot. But perhaps the most important reason to grow carrots is their taste. The flavor of just-dug garden carrots is sensational: crunchy, sweet, and absolutely delicious! They even smell good — fresh and earthy. Carrots are one of the few vegetables our kids will eat without my nagging; they even run up to the garden to eagerly dig a few for their lunchboxes and after-school snacks. It probably helps that, thanks to increasing demand, heirloom carrots in shades of purple, white, yellow, red, and of course, orange have been re-introduced into seed catalogs. Digging for carrots is also so much fun! Everyone loves to harvest from our “rainbow” bed because you never know what color you’ll end up with. (I’m partial to purple.) Whatever types of carrots you choose to grow, with a basic cold frame or even just a thick layer of shredded leaves and a row cover, you’ll be able to enjoy them practically 12 months of the year.
a re one of the most important vegetables in

P l a n t i n g

c a l e n d a r

10–12 weeks before: direct

sow in a cold frame

2–4 weeks before: direct

sow in the garden

sp r i n g f ro st

❆ last

sow in the garden in cold frame or for fall/winter mini hoop tunnel for harvest fall/winter harvest
s u m m e r

10–12 weeks before: direct

8–12 weeks before: direct sow

fir st fal l fro st

s P r i n g


types of Carrots
Although you can pick from hundreds of varieties of carrots, these are typically bunched into five main groups:
imPerator. These are the big ones! Imperator carrots are long, typically 9 to 10 inches with narrow shoulders that taper to a pointed tip. Because the roots grow so long, they do best in a deep, loose soil.

soil. The extremely tapered roots are shaped like an ice cream cone and grow just 5 to 6 inches long with 2-inch-wide shoulders. The flavor is sweet and crisp, and it improves with a few light frosts. Extremely popular, Nantestype carrots are known for their crunchy sweetness and cylindricalshaped roots with a blunt tip. They grow up to 7 inches long and are a good choice for winter plantings.

danvers. Similar in shape to Imperator carrots, Danvers are shorter and can be grown in shallower soils. The conical roots grow 6 to 8 inches long and are resistant to cracking and splitting.

Chantenay are the best carrots to grow in shallow or heavy

This category is reserved for unique carrots like the round Parisian-types that grow 1 to 2 inches across. We enjoy them straight from the garden, but they are also delicious roasted or steamed.

Plant your carrots in a sunny spot with deep, well-drained, and clump-free soil. A raised bed is ideal, especially for varieties with very long roots. Before planting, dig the site well to make sure any clods of soil are broken up and rocks are removed. If possible, enrich your spring-planted carrot bed the previous autumn, so that the organic matter has had plenty of time to break down. Manure must be well aged (at least 2 years), or the elevated nitrogen levels might result in a patch of forked, hairy carrots. In fact, when growing carrots, it’s more important to loosen the soil well — to a depth of about a foot — than it is to make it super fertile. To help encourage super-sweet carrots, I also sprinkle a thin layer of wood ash onto the planting bed, raking it into the top few inches of soil. Carrots love the potassium in the wood ash, and it also boosts my soil pH, which tends to be low.
s p r i n g . Carrots are best direct seeded into the garden, starting about 3 weeks before the last spring frost. You can also start an early cold frame or polytunnel crop about 10 to 12 weeks before the last spring frost. You may occasionally see carrot transplants for sale at nurseries, but don’t buy them. Carrots, like most root crops don’t transplant well and should be seeded directly in the spot where they will grow.

If you don’t have nice deep soil for carrots, don’t despair; try baby or round carrots, which don’t require deep soils. Carrots can also be grown in deep containers (at least a foot deep).

Carrots that are direct-sown into deep, rich soil will form lovely, straight roots (left). those that are transplanted will fork (right).

cold season crop

cool season crop

warm season crop


napoli f1 (58 days). This has become our go-to carrot for a fall and winter harvest. I seed a whole cold frame full of napoli in early August, cover the soil with a thick layer of shredded leaves in late December, and we’re able to pick super-sweet roots from December until we run out. The 6- to 7-inch-long orange roots are cylindrical and have a blunt tip. As the temperature drops, the sweetness increases, making napoli one of the best cold season veggies available.

Niki’s Picks

carrots, continued
I plant intensively to get the most out of my space, and in a 4-foot-wide garden bed, I plant 7 to 8 rows of carrot seed, spacing them around 6 to 8 inches apart. I try to sow 2 to 3 seeds per inch, planting them ¼ to ½ inch deep. Carrot seeds are small, so it can be difficult to spread them thinly and evenly. It helps to plant pelleted seed, which is simply seed that has been dipped in an inert material, such as clay, that dissolves when planted. The pelleted seed is much larger and easier to handle than uncoated seed and makes sowing carrots a breeze. The downside is that only a handful of carrot varieties are available in pelleted form, so you sacrifice selection for convenience, and pelleted seed also costs more. Some seed companies also offer seed tapes, which are long strips of seeds suspended in paper for ease of seeding and spacing. Like pelleted seed, these seed tapes eliminate the need to thin, but they are more expensive and only a few varieties are offered this way. Don’t despair though; there are a few simple tricks to help you sow carrot seed more evenly. Many gardeners find that mixing their carrot seed with sand helps ensure even planting. Others like to combine carrot and radish seed, sowing them together. The radish seed will germinate quickly, marking the row and when they’re harvested in 25 to 30 days, they’ll loosen the soil to make room for the growing carrots. Carrot germination can be slow, but most seedlings will emerge in about 1 to 2 weeks, with the slowpokes taking up to 3 weeks, depending on the temperature and soil moisture levels. Warm, moist soils are best, so keep newly planted beds well watered. Crusty soil can reduce and slow down germination rates. To prevent soil crusting, cover newly planted beds with a thin layer of sand, a row cover, or a board, removing the board as soon as the seeds sprout. You can always sprinkle more seeds in the empty spots to fill in spotty germination. mid spring until about 8 weeks from your first fall frost — early to mid August in my garden. I also sow my cold frame carrots at this time. It can be difficult to keep soil cool and moist for midsummer carrot germination. For the cold frame crop, I lay an untreated piece of scrap wood over the just-seeded wooden frame to cast shade for a few days until the seed germinates. With the warmer temperatures of summer, germination is much quicker than in the early Spring. In the garden, a thin piece of wood can be laid over the beds. Just be sure to check every day for germination. If you wait too long to remove the wood, the crop will be damaged. Another option is to use the ribs of your mini hoop tunnels to support a length of shadecloth. The dark fabric will shade the soil, preventing water evaporation and ensuring a good germination rate. Again, remove the cloth as soon as the seed germinates. once the cold weather arrives in late November and the tops begin to die back, I add a 1-foot-thick layer of shredded leaves or seedless straw over the beds, securing a row cover, old sheet, piece of burlap or length of chicken wire over the top to hold the mulch in place. To make winter harvesting easier, I mark the end of the rows with a bamboo pole or stick.
fa l l / W i n t e r . The last garden planting will be for our winter harvest, so s u m m e r . For a long season of crunchy carrots, sow seed every 3 weeks from

parmex (OP) (60 to 70 days). A nearly round carrot, Parmex has sweet orange roots that are best picked when they’re around 1 inch across. Plant these uniquely shaped carrots in containers, window boxes, or directly in the garden. They’re a real hit with kids, so make sure to pick up a packet if you have any young garden helpers. atomic red (OP) (70 days). This is an imperator-type carrot with long, tapered roots in an unusual shade of reddish purple. The roots get their eyecatching color from the antioxidant lycopene. When the carrots are cooked, the red color intensifies, as does the mildly sweet flavor. purple Haze f1 (73 days). Each autumn, I bring a big basket of mixed vegetables to our local elementary school to show the children the diverse variety we grow. As I pull out the bunch of Purple Haze carrots, the room goes quiet and all eyes are firmly glued to the long, deep purple roots. This All America Selections winner is a stunning carrot whose dark exterior hides a bright orange center. The sweet tasting roots grow 8 to 10 inches long and will lose their color if overcooked. We like to eat them raw or lightly stir-fried. Yellowstone (OP) (75 days). A unique yellow carrot, Yellowstone is vigorous and sweet, producing roots up to 10 inches long. We pick them when they’re about 7 to 8 inches for optimum quality and mild flavor.


once they’ve gotten past the first month or so, carrots are extremely low maintenance. but for the initial few weeks, the tender, newly germinated carrot seedlings can be finicky and will benefit from a bit of babying. The young seedlings are no match for weeds, so keep competition at bay by hoeing shallowly or plucking any offending plants that pop up. also, if earwigs or slugs are a problem in your garden, be vigilant, as they can munch an entire bed of carrot seedlings to the ground in just one night — something that I can confirm from personal experience. a row cover makes a great babysitter for delicate carrot seedlings by keeping pests out and locking in moisture and heat. I’m sure there are expert carrot seeders out there, but I have never been able to plant a bed of carrots that didn’t need thinning. Thinning doesn’t have to be a chore, though. If you planted your seed uniformly — about 2 seeds per inch — you’ll be able to eat your thinnings as gourmet baby carrots. Simply thin every other carrot when the tops are about a ½ inch wide, leaving about 1 to 2 inches between the remaining roots. once the carrot tops grow together, they will create a dense living mulch that will shade the soil and discourage weeds, but until they reach this stage, a 1-inch-thick layer of grass clippings, seedless straw, or screened compost will keep weeds at bay and prevent the soil from drying out. as the carrots mature, use additional mulch or soil to cover up any roots that poke out of the ground. If exposed to the sun, the shoulders will turn green and the top part of the root will be bitter. If deer like to graze in your carrot the simplest way to keep patch, bend a sheet of 6-inch concarrots for winter harvest is crete reinforcing mesh over the bed to cover the bed with bales in a half-circle. This low wire tunof straw. Whenever you’re nel will prevent the deer from nibready to dig some roots, bling on your carrot greens, but light, just move the bales aside, water, and air can still penetrate. Plus, replacing them over the the 6-inch squares will allow you to reach in for a quick and easy harvest. remaining carrots when This also works great for low-growing you’re done. salad greens.

although you can pull your carrots out of the ground by their tops, the greens are often not strong enough to withstand this pulling, and you’ll be left with a handful of leaves. So, I always bring along my trusty garden fork when it’s time to harvest some carrots; a quick dig will loosen the soil and reveal the bounty hidden just beneath the surface. baby carrots are typically ready in about 50 to 60 days and can be pulled when the shoulders are around ½ inch wide. Mature carrots, on the other hand, will need a few more weeks and, depending on the variety, are typically ready to harvest in around 75 days.

winter harvested carrots.

cold season crop

cool season crop

warm season crop


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