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.

Winter Reading

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

A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide, Revised Second Edition

Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life

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).

Gardening Blogs

Of course right now you’re reading this blog article on Healthy Fresh Homegrown!

Healthy Fresh Homegrown By Tranquil Urban Homestead Logo

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

houzz

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!

Magazines

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.

Harrowsmith magazine

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.

Seed Catalogues/Guides

West Coast Seeds Gardening Guide 2017

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.

Newsletters

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!

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Marc Thoma

Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC

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Marc Thoma

Marc is the founder of Healthy Fresh Homegrown, a published author and owns Tranquil Urban Homestead, an urban homestead on 1/8 acre in beautiful Victoria, BC, Canada. He has more than 15 years gardening experience and is working steadily on improving his own urban homestead, working toward being more self-sufficient by growing most of his own vegetables and fruit for his family.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Joanne Libonati

    Nice to meet a fellow West Coaster! I live in Burnaby, BC. I used to subscribe to Canadian Gardening, so I have quite a few issues. I also have a collection of gardening books. There are a few books I have borrowed from the library which I found very interesting. One is Indoor Edible Garden. Did not write author’s name down. Another is Urban Flowers by Carolyn Dunster.
    I don’t grow veggies and I mostly have container plants, except for some raised beds. The gardens are built over the parking garage on cement.

    1. Marc

      Thanks for the comment Joanne! Looks like you are talking about Indoor Edible Garden: Creative Ways to Grow by Zia Allaway? I’ll have to check that one out.

      You can grow lots of veggies in containers – I grow most of my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers in various containers in the greenhouse. And some fruit too such as strawberries. And I’ve seen people grow fruit trees in larger pots successfully and get a harvest!

      Wishing you all the best in your gardening – luckily with our mild weather it is easy to grow year-round.

  2. Joanne Libonati

    That could be it. Would like to own that one. Great ideas! I tried growing tomatoes & peppers in pots but the squirrels got to them. We also have raccoons, a skunk, & coyotes who visit. I stick with flowers! The rain,helps with watering, otherwise my neighbour & I have to hook the hoses (3 ) up way around the back of the building. Haven’t had to do that for several weeks because it’s been wet.
    I have several Pinterest boards about plants & gardening, & have added several of your articles.

    1. Marc

      Yes, gardeners have to be resilient and try different things. We have racoons too so have to battle them for our fruit every year. And it has been a dry summer here in BC – I know I have a huge water bill coming soon for all the watering I had to do this summer!

  3. Joanne Libonati

    I found another book at the library that might interest you. It is Extraordinary Ornamental Edibles by Mike Lascelle. 100 Perennials, Trees, Shrubs & Vines for Canadian Gardens. Beautifully illustrated & lots of useful information. The author is a nursery manager & certified arborist.
    This is a book which would be very good to own.
    I have been busy cleaning up the gardens a bit while the weather is nice!

    1. Marc

      Thanks Joanne, I’ll put it on my list of books to check out. We’re looking to add some more edible perennials to our garden next year.
      And yes, we’ve had some great weather this weekend. Spent a few hours yesterday cleaning up. 🙂

  4. Joanne Libonati

    Congratulations on your newest venture – Urban Homesteading! Sounds like it’s going well so far. My nephew & wife have made their city front yard into an edible garden. They have two young children so it’s a learning experience for them, also.
    I checked out a new book from the library called ‘Cooking Scrappy’ – 100 Recipes to help you stop wasting food, save money and love what you eat. It’s about using food that is normally tossed, hopefully into the compost, but that’s not usually true. The stems, leaves, not so perfect specimens. It’s by Joel Gamoran, the national Chef for Sur La Table.

  5. Marc

    Thanks Joanne for your kind comments. I’ll have to check the cookbook – that sounds interesting. We do try and use all parts of our vegetable plants. I have a green smoothie every morning and use a lot of the greens that people usually throw out such as beet greens and turnip greens.

  6. Joanne Libonati

    Recipes to inspire for sure! Some that people might not have thought of!
    Happy Holidays to you, and great gardening in 2019! My gardens are soggy & muddy right now. Can’t wait for warmer weather!

  7. Marc

    I found an electronic version of the book through my library’s cloud service. Looks interesting, especially using banana peels – didn’t think they were that edible!

    Yes, Happy Holidays and a great 2019! My garden is very wet now too. Luckily with raised beds, drainage isn’t too much of an issue except around the beds and the ground-level flower beds.

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