Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Review: Winter Harvest

We have a cold frame that allows us to grow a 12 month garden.   It's a miracle.   See the search bar on the right sidebar?  --->   Do a search for cold frame and you can see what we've been doing with them for the past few years.

Because I want to increase our winter harvest, I picked up a couple of extra books to read up this winter.    I found a real gem!

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman  [photo from Amazon].

Did you read the part in the subtitle about unheated greenhouses?

Un. Heated. Greenhouses.

Since our electric bill almost doubled due to federal regulations [we live in a coal state], we're all over the unheated thing.   Which is why you're seeing a lot of posts about wood burning stoves, cold frames and unheated greenhouses.

The author, Eliot Coleman, operates a 12 month organic vegetable garden/farm in Maine.    They use a lot of horse poop and careful cultivation to keep the weeds down and they use low tech greenhouses to keep things going all winter long.

The trick is double covering the vegetables all winter, knowing what the sun is doing at your latitude, and knowing which vegetables to sow when.

The book describes in detail how to cover your beds and how to build inexpensive structures to do the job.    He describes in detail how to compost and what to use.    He describes in detail how to figure out what the winter sun is doing in your area  and how to use that to your advantage to figure out both fall planting/winter harvesting and early spring planting schedules.   

What I loved best is the whole discussion of when to plant things.   I had used my cold frames to grow things in the winter.    The problem is that there isn't enough sun for things to grow during Dec and Jan, and so things I planted in December [after the first harvest] weren't growing.    He explains that what you have to do is plant early so you can harvest all winter.    You're not growing things in deep winter, you're holding them stable for harvest all winter.   Which means I have to re-think how I plant in the fall and that I can plant a lot earlier than I thought in the spring - as long as things are under cover.   

I do know that the radishes we're eating this month are a whole different creature from the same radishes grown with the same seed planted in April.  And those carrots that tasted like trees in August - will taste a lot better in December.   Next year's winter garden will be a lot better.

If you are at all interested in 12 month gardening and harvesting, read this book.  


  1. This is great! I need something like that...especially the Unheated. Greenhouse. part! :-) I've been working on planning starts I will keep in mine, but it's something I could have been doing all winter! Buying book now....

  2. Hubby is a huge fan of Coleman's and this must be why our greenhouse is unheated. ;) I think we have the Four Season Harvest book of his.


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