Modern Homesteading, Rural Living, Off-Grid, Generators
One of the things many people do when they move to a more rural location is start a garden. While there is much to know about gardens, it is best to start small. Take the time to continue to research as you go, and expand your plot. Depending on your climate and topography, your garden can produce an abundance of produce. Many consider buying a greenhouse and setting up a hydroponic system as well. To enrich the soil, you may want to consider composting as well. Composting is easy to do and will make a big difference in your garden. Even if you don’t intend to live off-the-grid completely, you will enjoy many benefits from gardening.
Gardens and Orchards
Whether you are interested in fruits, vegetables, herbs or an orchard, you can make it work. You and your family will eat healthier, spend more time outdoors, and literally enjoy the fruits of your labor. You will continue to learn new things and skills through trial and error. Having a steady food supply helps in self-sustainability and also provides a sense of comfort for those interested in prepping.
Flowers and other plants are beautiful too. Along with food production, beautiful scenery is an important part of rural living as well.
When you bag them and take them away, you leave the top soil exposed.
Eventually, it will be dirt, not soil.
When you do fertilize with a natural organic fertilizer, use 1/3 of the amount recommended on the package. Combine this with compost in spring and fall.
As for what fertilizer you need, this depends on the problem in your yard.
Get the pH balance of your lawn professionally tested, and then use a fertilizer guide to find the correct natural fertilizer for the job.
The key to using less fertilizer is to use the exact type you need, and to use it moderately.
Lawn Alternatives: Who Needs Grass?
Do you really need a lawn of green grass?
How about a Greenhouse?
If you live in an area of water shortages or intense summer heat, you may have already switched to a lawn alternative.
If not, consider the following:
Rock or cactus garden:
Done well, a rock garden can be beautiful, and very peaceful to overlook while sitting on an outdoor deck or sun porch.
Plus you’re saving even more than a natural lawn care gardener on water usage and upkeep.
I’ve been hearing more and more about converting lawns to meadows lately.
Should you create a backyard meadow?
Your cost will include wildflower and wild grass seed (one-time only), then light watering and only once-annual mowing.
The result is a tranquil space that attracts butterflies, honey bees and birds, is lovely to see, and easy to maintain.
It’s important to consider how you use and enjoy your lawn.
Think about what yard care do you actually enjoy doing?
Easy ways to have a natural lawn
The good news: whether you practice organic gardening, organic lawn care or opt for a lawn alternative, you’ll save time, money, and effort over those struggling to maintain a lawn in synthetic or un-eco-friendly ways.
There are many time-saving and money-saving ways to have a natural lawn.
At my house, we’ll be putting more emphasis on making our yard more environmentally friendly and on enjoying our yard space than on maintaining how it looks!
There is some amount of breakage that will happen every time you put up and take down the Christmas lights but the large majority of them should be in a good enough condition to be reused next year again.
Surprisingly, this seemingly commonsense decision is not that common as you might believe.
Very seldom do people take the time to store the lights in a proper manner.
Instead, they end up just buying more lights next time Christmas comes around.
Green living is to reuse and recycle
One of the tenets of green living is to reuse and recycle whatever you can.
This includes your Christmas lights too.
There are now artificial Christmas trees available quite easily and while it may not inspire the same emotion in traditionalists.
It is time for common sense and responsibility towards your environment to win out over emotion.
Christmas has a deep impact on our culture and we should look at it as an opportunity to imbibe some good core values among the citizens.
Festive messages which encourage people to reuse and recycle Christmas lights, using faux Christmas trees and other such things will really have a lasting effect.
Most of the young children are trying to be ‘good’ during this time and maybe Santa will give them extra credit if they love their environment a little more too!
The Christmas tree decorations are something that have just taken off to another level over the last few years.
The lights and decorations have become very innovative and with the Facebook-culture of posting pictures of everything, the competition to outdo everyone else is intense.
Be sensible and use recycled Christmas decorations this year.
They are very pretty and will make you feel a little better about not polluting the environment.
You can also exchange Christmas decorations with your neighbors so you do not have to have the same Christmas decorations but still avoid wasting older decorations.
There are also a number of people who have much lesser than you on Christmas.
The spirit of Christmas is being lost in the excessive commercialization of the holiday.
We can get real meaning back into Christmas and make it more than just mall fights and traffic jams by trying to celebrate it in a responsible and aware manner.
I first began to contemplate its words as a young teenager when I found The Byrds’ rendition of “Turn, Turn, Turn” to be a very catchy song.
I just learned from Wikipedia that it was Pete Seeger who actually put the words to music.
So thanks to you too, Pete!
I can still sing a rendition of that song, and I still marvel at how they squeezed in all the syllables about refraining from embracing.
Since then I have read the verses in the Bible numerous times, always nodding my head at how relevant they are to many facets of my life.
But I think raising animals and plants is the most effective illustration of this concept in my life.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
Using Winter Downtime to Plan for Spring and Summer
Yes, winter is, among other things, a time for planning.
Right now at our house we are deep in that planning phase.
We have the seed, poultry, and farm supply catalogs out.
Our favorite farming books are next to the recliner.
Our computers are humming as we search websites, read publications, and watch webinars.
We’ve attended a few seminars and workshops sponsored by our local extension office and agricultural center.
We are like sponges soaking up information, yet we also have to step away sometimes and clear our heads.
And for that, there’s nothing like a walk in the crisp cool air with beautiful vistas to enjoy.
For the past two years we have been developing our garden, orchard, and chicken systems.
This year we plan to expand on all of those and add pigs to the mix.
Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards – We’ve been talking about various steps along the path to sustainability.
That is, practices that will carry us over from year to year, even if our outside resources fail us.
Like sustainable production of livestock, ongoing success growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs depends on a few specific factors.
We can keep gardens and orchards going year after year without outside resources by establishing perennial plants, saving seeds for annuals, providing us a wellness sanctuary and providing an ongoing supply of good soil amendments.
On our farm we’ve started using all of these methods and we’re learning more and more about them each year.
We’re still buying trees, plants, and seeds, but we feel that we have a good start on being sustainable with our gardens and orchard.
Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards
Most orchard trees and bushes are perennials — plants that live for years without reseeding or replanting.
There are also a number of perennial garden vegetable plants that will keep on producing for many years.
Some require nothing more than mulching, while others depend on pruning for healthy growth year after year.
Fruit and nut trees
Can be planted as saplings of varying sizes.
The larger the sapling, the faster the tree will become established and the sooner it will bear a substantial amount of fruit.
There are some tricks to planting fruit trees, including attention to planting season, protection from animal browse, and watering.
Pruning from year to year is also important.
Berry bushes and grape vines
Are perennial, and usually produce sooner after planting than fruit and nut trees.
Most bramble bushes and grape vines grow best with support, ample water during establishment, and some pruning.
Including asparagus, rhubarb, lovage, and Jerusalem artichokes will also produce for many years.
A number of herbs including sage and rosemary are perennials in some or all climates.
Most perennial vegetables and herbs are planted once and just maintained, while others such as asparagus need some special attention for the first few years.
Some perennial vegetables with spreading root systems–like rhubarb–can be propagated by root division, while other plants including some perennial herbs adapt well to rooting of stem cuttings.
This way you can increase the number of plants for yourself or to share, and replace weak plants with more vigorous young plants.
Generally, plants that yield in spring and summer are best divided in fall so the root systems will be well established by spring.
Allium (garlic, chives) heads may be divided in fall; each planted clove has the potential to grow a new plant the following summer.
A super introduction is a Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work at Mother Earth News.
Author Eric Toensmeier has included 100 perennial vegetables in his book Perennial Vegetables.
Tools of the trade
Part of preparing for sustainable food production is amassing all the tools and equipment you might need.
This can range from small hand garden tools (great pruning shears review) to larger pieces of equipment to tractors and other vehicles, fuel to operate them, and the means to repair them.
One way to get a good idea of what you’ll need is to take notes for an entire year:
what you use, how you use it, how to keep it in good repair.
Then gradually add to your collection of tools and equipment.
Saving seeds for annuals
Most vegetables must be planted each year, and that requires viable seeds.
Today, vegetable seeds may be purchased in many local retail establishments from grocery stores to big box stores to garden shops and nurseries.
There are also many online sources of garden seeds.
One day, it may not be so easy to find seeds.
And frankly, many of us would like to cut the cost of seeds now anyway.
Saving seeds from garden production is fairly simple and yields good results with a supply of seeds for the following year…at no cost!
There are a few tricks to saving seeds, and some basic understanding of plant varieties is helpful.
First of all, there are several ways to collect seeds, depending on the type of plant.
Secondly, common hybrid plants yield seeds that are not reliable for consistent reproduction, so it’s important to save seeds from heirloom plants.
Can be as simple as pulling seeds off a mature plant or a bit more complicated, like removing seeds from a pepper or bean pod.
Some seeds are ready for saving right off the plant, while others, such as tomato seeds, must be soaked or otherwise treated.
Learn more at Saving Seed from the Garden and Seed Saving Tips.
Hybrid vs. heirloom
Do you know the difference? Hybrid plants are developed for increased stamina, production, or eye appeal.
However, their seeds do not produce consistently, and a gardener could end up with weak or fruitless plants, odd produce, and other unexpected results.
Heirloom plants reproduce plants and fruits like the parent plant; in other words, you know what you’ll get at harvest time.
Books and online resources have caused confusion over the definition of the term “open pollination.”
Some sources consider heirloom seeds equivalent to open pollinated seeds.
Others define open pollination as natural pollination by insects, wind, etc. as opposed to self-pollination of plants.
In any case, if you plan to save seeds, it’s important to avoid cross-pollination of heirloom plants by planting different varieties far enough apart.
Seeds can be collected from regular garden rows or patches or from a specified seed saving bed
Designating an area just for saving seeds may make it easier to reserve seeds from each plant and also allow for full maturity of those plants that go to seed late in the season.
Just plant one or two of each vegetable in the seed saving bed and make sure no one harvests the produce for the kitchen.
Another type of “seed”
Is actually the fruit of a plant.
You can save small potatoes to plant next year and garlic cloves to plant in the fall.
Store in a cool, dry location.
Sprouting during storage does not necessarily render them useless; sprouting potatoes and garlic can still be planted.
Properly is also important.
Seeds should be stored in dry containers in a cool, dry location.
Too much moisture, heat or freezing can damage or kill some seeds.
A warm, moist environment can invite premature germination during the fall or winter, and the sprouts will die before planting time.
That means less seed for the gardening season.
Read more about seed saving at Seed Savers and at Mother Earth News.
Can be as simple as pressing beans into the soil and waiting.
Or a little more time-consuming, like planting tomato seeds indoors and nurturing small seedlings till they’re ready to go out to the garden.
Just for fun, to save money, or to provide for yourself when you can’t find seedlings to buy, you can be prepared to raise your own seedlings with an assortment of seed starting containers, heat mats, lights, grow racks, and perhaps even a cold frame or greenhouse.
Providing soil amendments
We have three words to say about this: compost, compost, compost!
One of the basic ways to create a rich soil amendment is to compost waste products from the kitchen and yard.
Added to the garden from year to year, compost will improve the texture of your garden soil while contributing food for your plants.
Large quantities of compost can be spread over the entire garden bed; if your supply is smaller, compost can be added directly to planting holes.
Compost tea is simple to make and a great way to spot-feed individual plants.
We encourage everyone to learn how to compost and use as much of their household, garden, backyard, and barnyard waste as they can.
While simply piling materials will yield some sort of compost, it’s far better to mix materials for a balance of carbon and nitrogen inputs.
This is a science, but it can be simplified.
Canine, feline, and human feces and urine should not be used in a compost pile intended for food production use.
Aside from compost, there are other efficient ways to provide nutrients to your garden and orchard.
Then you can supplement your compost with specific materials such as egg shells for calcium or banana peels for potassium.
Find some ideas at Ten Natural Fertilizer Recipes from Home Grown Fun.
Valuable additive to the garden.
If you have access to large amounts of livestock manure from your own place or a neighbor, this can add bulk and nutrients to the compost you create from your own home and yard waste.
Another form, DIY manure tea, is valuable for individual plant feeding.
Can also be planted to improve garden soil during fallow months.
While often used in large agricultural fields, green manure crops are also very effective in small home garden plots.
Ask your local extension or agriculture agent about the preferred green manure plants for your area.
With deciduous leaves, evergreen needles, straw, and other materials helps plants and trees throughout the year.
Mulches help retain moisture and proper temperature while adding nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
Be aware that some materials such as evergreen needles may contribute too much acid or other element for certain plants.
And don’t forget that most vegetable garden plants and orchard trees need water
If you’re in a climate with dry phases and are on a public water system or rely on electricity to run a well pump, consider a rain catchment system or another source of water for your garden and orchard.
Food for other senses
Vegetable gardens and orchards provide a feast for the taste buds.
But don’t forget about enjoyment for the eyes and noses as well!
All of the concepts mentioned above are also effective with flower gardens and landscaped areas.
In closing, just a warning: Raising your own food can become addictive!
Enjoy the path to sustainable food production!
Please add your ideas for garden and orchard sustainability in the comments section.
The problem of Building a Compost Pile
We’ve had a compost problem…but we’ve found a compost solution.
Our compost pile was started two years ago in a location that has now become the middle of a through-way in our garden area.
Our two wonderful dogs, our chickens, and the local magpies can’t seem to resist the buffet.
You’ll see why we want a better setup when you look at this picture of our scrappy patchy system that temporarily protects the pile from dogs that dig at ground level and birds that land right on the pile.
The solution Building a Compost Pile
We decided to move the compost pile, fence it in with wood pallets, and cover it with a screened lid.
Some other materials to add in small amounts are sawdust/wood chips (will pull nitrogen out of soil if used too much), evergreen needles (will add acid), wood ashes (will add alkalinity and other minerals), and bone meal for calcium.
You can make your own calcium ash supplement by burning leftover meat bones after you’ve boiled them to stock.
The resulting ash is a very available source of calcium and other minerals for your plants
Rural Living Today readers Fin and Sue told us that they built soil where they had a lot of rocks and sand.
They used a combination of chicken tractors, composting, and lots of labor.
Now, a few years later, their soil is very good for gardening!
Materials to till in
Lasagna gardening/sheet composting:
This involves layering various materials on top of the ground and allowing them to compost in place.
Lasagna beds do not require tilling; usually turning the soil is sufficient between crops.
A lasagna bed should be created right where you want your garden to be, as the layers will become the garden itself.
Each layer should be wet down well before adding the next layer of material.
A good first layer is corrugated cardboard, which acts as a weed barrier.
Lay it right down on dirt, sod, gravel, whatever. Hose it down, then pile on the fillings.
Stack layers one to two feet high of any of the following materials: manure, compost, food scraps, dead leaves, wood chips–anything that will decompose.
Whenever you have more material, spread it on top and wet it down.
Before long you’ll have a rich bed of great growing soil.
You can get materials from lots of sources.
Place an ad in Craigslist or Freecycle for clean yard debris.
Many people will drop it off instead of paying for removal.
Also ask farms and horse stables if you can take a load of free manure (if you have a truck available).
You may be able to get wood chip mulch from Arborists or wire maintenance crews trimming trees on a city street.
In the fall, we like to drive around in the truck and snag bags of leaves off the curbside that have been set outside for trash – easy composting materials!
To help speed things along, we “inoculates” lasagna garden beds with a healthy dose of composting worms.
They will multiply quickly and the compost they create within the beds themselves is of the highest quality available.
You can buy red worms online or you can sometimes find them in old leaf piles.
raised bed waist high
Raised beds and containers:
This is the simplest in some ways, though it requires containment or shaping of beds.
It involves bringing good soil in from somewhere else.
The simplest raised bed is good soil mounded on top of poor soil.
Wood or rock frames can be used for edging, or you can just rake tumbling soil back into the mound as needed.
Raised beds constructed of wood, concrete blocks, straw bales, or other materials can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet tall.
The height depends on the root depth of your plants as well as your physical comfort while gardening.
We love gardening in the waist-high raised bed built from lumber and corrugated metal roofing.
It’s great because we can lean across to the center from either side without straining our backs.
We can pack a lot of intensively planted veggies in the 4’ x 40’ bed.
To minimize the soil need, we filled the bed with tree branches in Horticulture fashion and capped them with topsoil.
As the branches decompose and the soil settles we’ll just top the bed off with our farm compost each year.
At our farm we use all these methods.
We have a large garden patch in an area where we amended already-good soil with manure and green compost just for good measure.
A lasagna bed was layered in another area.
We use some low raised beds for overwintered garlic and strawberries and our tall raised bed for kitchen veggies.
Make sure you mulch. When I was younger and learning about gardening I did not understand why I kept hearing about mulch.
But now that I am more experienced, I will not garden without it.
I use dead fall leaves, wood chips, spent straw, or pretty much whatever I can get my hands on.
Spread the mulch in a thick layer (a few inches) around your plants and in your beds.
This will not only help retain water but it will really help attract beneficial insects and worms.
When I build a new garden bed, I usually use the lasagna layering technique but I always make sure the top layer is a thick blanket of mulch for this reason.
Sometimes mulching can be the difference between sun baked hard & compacted soil, and damp, loose & rich soil.
Once you have soil of a good substance and composition, it’s wise to have the soil tested for nutrient levels.
One tip is pick your flowers often which causes them to produce more.
They also advise on smaller spaces. You can start a successful cutting garden with up to 20 plants in just a 3 foot by 6 foot raised bed.
One publication I found, Maintaining a Succession of Cut Flowers, lists many varieties ideal for cutting.
This year, I made a pledge to plant a colorful cutting garden each year — eye candy that will do my heart good!
Getting Ready to Grow Some Groceries
We are getting antsy to get our country gardens going. Though there’s still some snow in the forecast and spring won’t arrive for a few more weeks.
We’ve been pacing out the garden area and getting ready to start some seeds indoors.
Last year was our first for our country gardens at our new place.
Due to other urgent projects, we got a late start, but fortunately spring arrived late, too.
Since it was our “test drive” in a new climate zone, we started slowly with several different veggies and herbs grown in small scale.
We experimented with rows, hills, and raised beds and tweaked our drip irrigation system.
Afterwards, we realized that dill and mustard are too tall to grow in our waist-high raised beds.
Also, we couldn’t even dig up all our garlic—some was so firmly embedded in rocky soil.
We took note of what really grew well, what didn’t quite flourish, what worked and what didn’t.
Between our experience and conversations with neighbors, we learned what to generally expect during a shorter but warmer growing season than we’re accustomed to.
Expand and Grow More Varieties
This year, we’re ready to expand a bit more, grow a few more varieties, and plant more of everything.
We’re still eating some frozen veggies and using dried herbs from last year but ran out of other things months ago.
This time, we want to grow enough for the full year.
We like starting our plants from seed.
Last year we were limited to four south-facing windowsills.
This year we attached lights to the underside of some closet shelves.
We’ll be able to get quite a few seeds going.
It’s not too late to start!
We’re planting the first seeds this week.
How about you? Will you be growing some food in your country gardens this year?
We’d love to hear about your plans in the Comments.
The Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruits and Nuts in the Home Garden
Gardening in the Snow
Yes, I have been gardening in the snow. I’m not talking about checking the garlic plants under their deep white bed.
And unfortunately, we didn’t get around to fixing up a cold frame and no longer have fall stragglers surviving in our raised garden bed.
The other day I was out in the snow sowing seeds!
Last summer and fall, I collected seeds from several types of wildflowers growing on our property.
I wanted to plant them in a few areas around our living area where our clearing and leveling had eradicated whatever was growing there before.
Only the lupines seemed to survive the turmoil of the soil.
I’d planned to plant the wildflower seeds in the fall, but our chickens were having such fun wandering around in the fall sunshine that I didn’t want to pen them up yet.
And I knew they’d eat any flower seeds they could find.
It’s kind of a good thing I didn’t sow seeds in the fall, because we had an unusually dry period between November and January.
Gardening with Heavy Snowfalls
Heavy snowfalls just didn’t come.
Seeds would have been sitting on the ground in plain sight.
I can pen up my chickens, but the wild birds are another story.
They would have scarfed up any seeds they found.
It seems like spring planting time is just around the corner.
But some of my seeds need to have a cold winter nap.
They actually benefit from several weeks of chilling.
This part of the dormancy phase, called stratification, can be artificially provided in a refrigerator or a cold building.
But when possible, I prefer to let nature do its job.
Where we live, it’s common to scatter hardy seeds before the first big snowstorm of the fall.
In a normal year, the seeds literally chill out under a layer of snow much of the winter.
As the snow melts, it carries the seeds down into the soil, moistening and softening the seed coats.
The seeds settle there and wait for spring thaws to wake them up.
As it turned out, this was not a normal winter.
But finally now in mid-January we are getting another wave of measurable snowfall.
So in between storms, I went out and raked snow away, scattered the seeds, and raked some snow back over them.
Sure enough, the next snowfall settled that layer down and nicely tucked the seeds in for a chilly snooze.
I can’t even tell there are seeds under there, can you?
I don’t think the chickens will, either!
Hopefully I’ll see green sprouts in the spring and a variety of wildflowers all summer.
If not, there’s always next year!
Celebrating Real Food!
You know, eating real food that’s real good for you.
According to the Food Day website
“Food Day’s goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet—to inspire a broad movement involving people from every corner of our land who want healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.
In other words, we want America to eat real.
We want to get Americans cooking real food for their families again.
We want fewer people at drive-through and bigger crowds at farmers markets.
Let’s celebrate fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains—and to support the local farms and farmers that produce them.
Wouldn’t it be great for all Americans—regardless of their age or income or geographic location—to be able to select healthy diets and avoid obesity, heart disease, and other diet-related conditions?!”
In a similar vein, Slow Food USA recently launched a $5 challenge: create a SLOW FOOD meal for $5 or less, the cost of a FAST FOOD meal.
“The organization, a national non-profit working for good, clean and fair food for all, is encouraging people across the country to cook slow food that costs no more than five dollars per person.
Slow food – the opposite of fast food – is food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.
“Slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.
It’s time we take back the ‘Value Meal,’” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA.
Slow Food’s challenge and Food Day got me thinking of a further challenge: Create a slow food meal of local foods for $5 or less.
And then, an extended challenge: if we’ve raised our own meat and produce, how about creating a slow food meal of homegrown foods for $5 or less?
I’m up for the challenge! How about you?
Start by thinking about what you may have grown yourself and what’s available locally from neighbors, farmers’ markets, or savvy supermarkets that stock local products.
Be creative—how can you combine some of those products into a tasty and satisfying meal?
Granted, this might have been easier during the summer when many backyard gardens were producing fresh salad ingredients and farmers’ markets were at their prime.
But still there are stored or processed foods and fall-growing crops to help.
Here are some examples:
A soup or stew can be created with several different veggies.
Add a local source of protein—eggs, cheese, legumes, meat, poultry, or game—and you’ve got a complete meal.
Ditto with a main dish salad, especially if you’ve still got greens and other veggies growing.
If you are a fan of bread or rolls with every meal, one of the challenges might be finding local flour or grain to grind.
If you can’t think of a substitute and must have your bread, at least you can make most of your meal with local ingredients.
As I’m writing this, I’m planning a Food Day $5 homegrown slow food meal. My experimental patch of soup beans was not a stellar success, but I did manage to get enough beans for one pot of soup.
We had a good crop of potatoes and several other veggies and herbs.
To complement the beans’ protein I can also choose from eggs and meat from our own chickens.
This is the first year I could ever say this, but from garlic and onions to chicken and beans, we can create a tasty hot meal using only ingredients from our backyard.
If I hadn’t raised enough myself, I could buy other locally grown products in my community.
If the local grocery stores all shut down, we’d still be able to eat some good meals.
That’s a good feeling!
Extended-season gardening information
Thinking about starting your plants early in the spring?
Want to make harvest last longer in the fall?
Wish you could pick fresh greens in the middle of winter?
Extended season gardening for Growing Fresh Vegetable in Fall and Winter
Many of these concepts and materials will also work in spring.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour
Four Season Harvest
The Winter Harvest Handbook
Sow Seeds for Fall Garden from National Garden Bureau at GRIT Magazine