Fresh From The Garden: An Organic Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries, and Herbs in Cold Climates, by John Whitman. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
John Whitman has been a professional grower and backyard vegetable gardener for better than fifty years, and it shows. In his third book, Fresh From The Garden, An Organic Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries, and Herbs in Cold Climates (he was the coauthor on 3 others and wrote the vegetable section of Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book), he shares his vast knowledge in a tome that could hold a tarp down in a hurricane. It’s packed with all you need to know for gardening anywhere in the U.S. where you can expect freezing temperatures in winter.
Most authors focus on one specific area: tomatoes, soil health, native plants, vegetables, fruit, compost , etc. Whitman on the other hand covers it all, from extending your growing season in cold climates to lasagna gardening and the previously mentioned topics. But of course, the most useful part of any gardening book is in the “how-to” for specific plants – it’s what makes the difference between taking up a permanent place in your bookshelf or ending up at a book sale in 6 months. And this is where Fresh From The Garden delivers its real value – Whitman has included growing guides for nearly 150 vegetables, fruits and herbs. He’s included the standards like tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, beans, and melons, but has also included less written about edibles like currant, perilla, sorrel, new zealand spinach, cat grass, and milkweed.
And his growing information for each edible is more than complete. On Cucumbers alone, Whitman has devoted 8 pages(!), covering everything from how exactly a cucumber grows to when to plant, how to support them, mulching, watering, insect problems, pruning, harvesting, storing and varieties with days to maturity, fruit color and length. And so it goes for the other 149 vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Few single author books on gardening are ever this complete. A reference book of this size is usually cobbled together from the treasure trove of collective knowledge from large publishing organizations, a university staff of horticulture/botany professors, or a team of garden writers. My compliments to John Whitman for managing to commit a lifetime’s knowledge of gardening and growing into one book. It must have been a daunting task.
This book is titled to appeal to gardeners in cold regions, but don’t let that discourage you from buying the book if you live in an area like the mid atlantic as I do – it’s just as valid in Pennsylvania as it is in Minnesota, with slight adjustments to the length of the season.