Winter is a great time of year to relax indoors, warm and dry to catch up on your garden reading and plan for the upcoming food growing season.
This is the first in a series of five posts of How a Gardener can be Productive in Winter
It’s usually not much fun going out into the garden in winter when it is cold, wet and windy.
You can of course dress up very well to stay warm and dry, but when it is just to go out for a short time, I find it’s too much preparation to have to go through.
Instead imagine sitting down with a nice cup of your favourite hot beverage in your nice, warm house and doing some garden reading while a winter storm rages outside.
There are lots of reading materials available in the various different mediums. In this article I’ve listed six but there are likely more specific ones I’ve missed.
These are not only restricted to winter-time reading. You’ll find the info inside them to be useful all year through as a resource. But you’ll likely find you have the most time in winter when your garden is dormant.
Food Growing Books
I prefer a physical book vs. an eBook if I have the choice of either. Simply because I can flip through and find the relevant section I want to read quickly. As I spend quite a bit of time staring at computer screens at work and then at home working on this blog, I also enjoy having a break from screens to rest my eyes.
I have my favourites that are my go-to books. Click on the images below to go to the review and order the book through Amazon.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live – Niki Jabbour
The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse: How to Design and Build a Net-Zero Energy Greenhouse – Lindsey Schiller with Marc Plinke
If you’re on a tight budget or have no space for a large library of books, I would recommend borrowing gardening books from the public library. This is good for books that will just be a one-time read. However it has happened now twice to me that a book I borrowed from the library has been so useful that I bought the book online so I could always have it at my fingertips.
You might also have friends who are gardeners and avid readers. Ask them if you can borrow books and in turn lend them your books. Just make sure you do return the books you borrow and get back the books you lend!
Book sales and garage/yard sales are also good places to look for cheaply priced books. Even if the book may not be that great, if it just costs a dollar or two it is worth getting just for the photos.
When reading a gardening book, you may want to skip any sections that don’t apply to you. Maybe you don’t grow any artichokes or rutabaga so why read about how to grow them?
Unless of course you have lots of time and are just reading for leisure, which I recommend doing once in a while. You don’t need to always be productive.
Take notes as you read. These notes may inspire you to do things differently or try something new. A gardening journal or just a simple notebook works if you prefer physically writing. I use my Notes app on my laptop or tablet to capture info and sometimes take a photo of what I find in books (of course keeping in mind copyright laws).
Of course right now you’re reading this blog article on Healthy Fresh Homegrown!
Unless you have been reading this blog since July 2017 when I launched it, you likely have missed some posts. There are many more articles to choose from and read.
You’ll also see some related articles appear at the bottom under the “You Might Also Like” section. Or go straight to the blog index page for a chronological list.
You might also want to do a search (at the bottom of the page under “Search this Site”) for any topics you are interested in. If you don’t find what you are looking for, feel free to contact me to suggest a topic and I’ll consider writing a post about it.
And I would like to encourage you to become an active participant and post some comments on a post or two. This will encourage others to also post comments and that way we can share info back and forth.
Okay, enough of the self-promotion! What should you look for when reading other gardening blogs?
In general when reading blogs it is important to realize that some posts are written with a particular point of view. You may not agree with that view but hopefully you will still get some valuable information from the post.
Some advice you may want to get a second opinion on.
And be aware of blogs that are created by what are called content mills. Most of the articles are not written by someone with lots of firsthand experience, so some of the advice may not actually work or be actionable.
Reviews of gardening products are usually helpful to read, especially if you are considering purchasing one of those products.
Gardening Forums and Facebook Groups
My preferred forum to read and post on is GardenWeb. It has changed over the years when Houzz took over the forums and some say it has not changed for the better.
However I still find it a valuable resource. It is a bit overwhelming as there are so many sub-categories, general ones such as Vegetable Gardening to more specific ones such as a particular type of flower or a regional area.
There are also Facebook groups that function similar to forums. They are a bit harder to use as finding topics by category is not that easy. You can use the search feature to search within the group.
With Facebook groups you can usually find ones that are local to your growing area, so advice there will be more applicable to your growing and climate conditions.
While forums and Facebook groups can have lots of useful info, you might also find them to be great time sinks, where you get carried away and read every post even those you are not directly interested in.
Some posts can get quite inflammatory with strong opinions and unfortunately personal attacks. Well-moderated forums and groups will have less of that. Pick and choose the ones you like best.
And if you’re looking for a Facebook group all about growing healthy, fresh, homegrown food, join the Healthy, Fresh, Homegrown Facebook group today!
There are quite a few gardening magazines available. Here in Canada we have unfortunately lost two that I know of: GardenWise and Canadian Gardening. Hopefully in your area you have some magazines that are more regional.
Nowadays you may get a physical mailing once a month, bimonthly or once a season (four times a year), or you can get issues digitally and read them on a computer, tablet, phone or e-reader. As with any other interest, you can spend hundreds of dollars a year just on magazine subscriptions if you find some that you enjoy reading.
One downside of magazines is that a large percentage of the pages will have ads. I’ve seen some magazines where it is almost half the magazine. This is okay if the ads are targeted at gardening but sometimes you’ll get some off-topic ads, especially new car ads.
Through my public library I have access to RBDigital and the best gardening magazine there seems to be Mother Earth News. There are articles in there that are more geared towards homesteads where people grow not only vegetables and fruit but also raise livestock (chickens, goats, pigs, even cows). And some articles on energy conservation and the environment.
I also just recently received a gift subscription to a magazine that has been around for decades here in Canada. It’s also an all-around homesteading magazine, rather than specifically on food growing. Harrowsmith is a magazine for gardeners, weekend carpenters, homesteaders, hobby farmers and urban dwellers with romantic fantasies of country life. Harrowsmith publishes four issues a year in conjunction with the seasons–three print issues and a summer digital exclusive.
If you own your magazines you might want to tear out relevant pages and then recycle the rest of the magazine, otherwise you will have stacks and stacks you need to store! Or if you keep the magazine whole, give it to your doctor’s waiting room or to a friend once you have finished reading it and no longer need it as a reference.
I have left the best to last. These are probably the gold-mine of all of the free reading materials I will mention here. Most seed companies will send you these just for the cost of postage and often they will pay the postage as they know you will likely order something – it’s part of their advertising costs.
So what do seed catalogues have that is so valuable other than of course being a catalogue of seeds the company sells? Here is what type of information you may find:
- Planting charts showing you when to seed for transplants, direct seed, transplant, harvest
- Information on pests and how to manage them
- Information on each type of seed including:
- vegetable family it is a member of
- characteristics of the plants and the fruit/vegetable
- timing of seeding, either direct seeding or seeding for transplants, when to transplant
- how to start seeds
- days to maturity (when you can expect to harvest)
- watering and fertilizing tips
- pruning tips (if
- disease resistance
- type of seed – open-pollinated vs hybrid
- when to harvest
- seed life
- Section containing seed starting supplies, fertilizers, etc.
My favourite seed company is West Coast Seeds, a local company that sells non-GMO seeds (very important to me) that will do well in our climate here on the west coast of Canada. Their seed catalogue and guide is never far from my hands and I use it as a resource all year through. It gets quite beaten up by the end of the year when I get a new one in the mail to start planning next year’s garden.
For additional reading that conveniently lands in your email inbox once in a while, consider signing up for some gardening newsletters.
If you haven’t already, get access to the free Downloadables Library and as a bonus you also get weekly emails packed with easy tips on how to grow food more easily and deal with problems. They come out on Friday morning, so imagine waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting down to read it before breakfast and planning for the weekend.
You will also occasionally get more ad-hoc mailings of tips, techniques and other info I come across.
In addition to getting their seed catalogue, I’m also subscribed to the West Coast Seeds Newsletter that provides timely planting reminders – obviously it is designed to sell their seeds but as with their seed catalogue/guide I get a lot of valuable info from it.
And Mother Earth News also has several newsletters that you can sign up for, depending on what you are interested in.
It literally pays to subscribe to your local nursery’s newsletter if they offer one. Usually you will hear of sales before everyone else and that will help save you some money especially if you are considering a larger purchase.
As you can see there is lots of different sources for information on any aspect of gardening. Find your favourites and sit back with a hot cup of tea or coffee and enjoy some relaxing time, reading about gardening and getting inspiration for the coming spring!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC