I noticed that you are in Canada. How far North? I use two main resources for gardening, one is the "Western Gardening" book by, (I think) Sunset; and the other is "Mother Earth News" magazine. The last two months "Mother Earth News" ran articles on maximizing gardening for summer and winter gardens. Around here I find chicken manure is great (It's still cheap because most people use steer manure). You just need to mix it into the soil a couple of weeks prior to planting or it will burn the plants.
I remember when I was little, my dad wanted to let his kids grow up on a farm. (that lasted about 2 years till my mother put an end to it.) But I remember that my dad had penned in the chickens under an apple tree to shade them. That tree had so many darned apples we were giving them away to all the neighbors and anyone who stopped by.