This review originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Northern Gardener.
Growing fresh, clean food. How hard can that be? Well, in USDA Zones 3 and 4, growing organic vegetables and berries sometimes feels like hoping for a series of miracles. In Fresh from the Garden: An Organic Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries, and Herbs in Cold Climates (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), John Whitman says it doesn’t have to be that way.
An organic gardener by birth rather than by conversion, Whitman began his gardening career as a grower for Bachman’s and has tilled his own Minnesota backyard for more than 50 years. He has written five other gardening books, including three on gardening in cold climates.
In Fresh from the Garden, he offers practical and pragmatic ways to incorporate organic methods into any garden and to enjoy the consequences. As he puts it, “…gardens don’t have to be perfect to be good.”
In Whitman’s philosophy, you understand that there are important factors you can’t control, and you do the best you can on the many things you can control. He offers many time-tested suggestions to help.
The book opens with a thorough discussion of gardening basics followed by specific explanations of how to grow (and what to do with) 133 vegetables, herbs and berries. His directions include watering and fertilizing options, and also ways to extend the season and protect perennials during the winter.
In addition to the usual plants, Whitman includes more unusual choices for northern gardens, such as sweet potatoes, edamame and ground cherries. He advises on site selection and preparation, pests and diseases, harvest and storage, and what parts are edible and how to make them delicious.