Four season harvesting : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Has anyone here read, "The Four Season Harvest" by Eliot Coleman? If so, have you put into practice the gardening concepts from this book, with success?

Thanks! Jo

-- Joanne Schaefer (, January 21, 2001


I am reading it too. I would love to hear from people same as you.

-- Shau Marie (, January 23, 2001.

Yes.Yes.yes. Read it. Do it. Love it. A Must Have book in your gardening library in my opinion.I used to also watch his program on Home n Garden channel, when I lived in IN and had cable.

Rotation Plan I have found to be THE most helpful thing.My garden is complex, so having a master plan and being able to just shift to the right each year is absolute pure heaven.Many of the other things I was already doing,too.

Great author.A do-er,not a look it up in the library and write a book type.He can show you how to be a viable Organic Market Gardener,if one is so inclined.He does it.

I have his more recent, advanced book,whose title now escapes me,but truthfully I like Four Seasons the best.

-- sharon wt (, January 23, 2001.

How have Eliot Coleman's ideas about a fourth season harvest been applied to your own gardening methods?(more details) Have you built a simple greenhouse to extend the season's harvest(such as his or something of your own design)? How is it working out? What are your successes/failures with various longer season crops or with the structures he talks about that are built to sustain them? I'm going to begin applying some of his concepts this coming year and would like to know how well these ideas work when applied. Thanks very much to all who have written so far!

-- Joanne Schaefer (, January 23, 2001.

I don't mean to be contrary but....I was rather disappointed in both the first edition of the book and the second. I did buy the addendum to the first edition before he came out with the second and find it very helpful. I was disappointed that so much of the book was dedicated on cultural practices for individual crops--information that I had in several other books.

I had the opportunity to do a side by side comparison between it and a number of other books at a small farm conference and Coleman's book had far less information on different types of greenhouse/sunspaces than others I saw. I could only afford one that day and it was Greenhouse Gardener's Companion by Shane Smith. Smith is affiliated with the Cheyenne WY Botanic Gardens and has degrees and practical experience as well. It just seemed broader in its scope in dealing with greenhouses over all. FWIW, the book is about twice as thick but doesn't have near as much white space on the pages which always means to me--MORE INFORMATION. There was another on small structures for season extending but a friend has that and has offered it to me. I don't have that title.

I have a "hoop house" basically a walk-in cold frame but the last two seasons I've used it to house my chickens over winter. My intention originally was to do some of the "four season harvest" techniques and as soon as I get a regular hen house, I will try it. I did successfully overwinter some hardy perennials in it last year that I bought late in the fall at discount.

I'm sorry I can't be of more help, Joanne and others. I just wanted you to know that EC, as good as he is, isn't the be all and end all of winter food production.

-- marilyn (, January 23, 2001.

Thanks for the good advice, Marilyn! I know EC isn't the be all, end all, but his was the first book I read that discussed the concept--or maybe "named" it as such. I'll check out the book you wrote about. Guess I liked the idea of a greenhouse without all the trappings...simple...season extending...that is about all I want one to be. Are there other authors that anyone knows of who have written about season extension in the colder climates? If so, I would also like to read what they have to say. Thanks again, Marilyn...for writing about your experiences!

-- Joanne Schaefer (, January 23, 2001.

I've spoken with Coleman extensively about his techniques, visited his farm on Cape Rosier several times in the past 15 years. He has two books on his hoophouse/cold frame methods, one aimed at backyard gardeners and the other at market gardeners. Both have been revised over the years, and Coleman himself has altered his methods a litte. Nothing he says is rocket science, but I listen to him because he was the first person I know of to say it.

Coleman and his wife, Barbara Damrosch, have a thriving market garden business exclusively during cold weather months. That counts high with me, but I'm sure there are other writers out there who till the same ground. I just don't know anyone else doing it in Maine's climate.

-- Cash (, January 23, 2001.

Hmmmmmm Marylin. It seems the reason you didn't care for it is the reason I did.Greenhouses are the most expensive means of season extension.That's part of the information in the book.There are far more cost effective measures.We use grow tunnels.Have for quite a while.10+ years anyway.

So you have not tried other season extension methods? Or the greenhouse yet? Hmmmm.The heating bill may give you pause.Especially a plastic covered hoophouse.You may come to change your mind.Not trying to tell you what to do,mind you.

We have a solar greenhouse.If I had it to do over again,I would not.Not because it isn't nice to have, bc it is.But to look at cost + heating,compared to simpler methods,well, I would have made different choices.And I grow trays and trays of transplants in it,as well.Filled and emptied it 3 times last year.

If your greenhouse is more multipurpose,then that's a different story and would have to be taken into consideration in any final evaluation.Someone had a thread just a while back on chickens, fish and plants all in one.Is that your plan?

I dry in mine,but frankly, the truck is a better dryer.I tried both under the same conditions.

So If someone is looking for a reference on year round greenhouses,then Coleman's will be too general.I did not realize that was the original question.I thought you were interested in all season extending methods.Well, you'll forgive my enthusiam for a general guide that gets folks on the right track.

I will have to review the book mentioned,but from your description,I doubt it's specificity is what I would feel the need to buy, as a gardener.I usually can borrow those kind from the library the few times they are needed as a reference.Completely different perspective,I guess.I could be wrong.

-- sharon wt (, January 23, 2001.

My intention with the hoop house was to plant beds as EC suggests then cover with floating row cover and such to keep them from freezing until we were ready to eat them. All this is covered in the book I cited plus the other book that my friend owns. It suggests small very inexpensive projects and looked very promising. I haven't called her to remind me of the title.

Anyway, I have no intention of heating the hoophouse because it would defeat one of my goals (keeping costs low) but I was interested in the thermal mass to protect the crops from freezing that the broader book covered. Yes, my hoop house has one layer of white plastic greenhouse film but I am constantly amazed at how it retains heat especially with a small door for the chickens and a gate, not a door open constantly.

I didn't expect anyone to accept all I said as I was expressing my own opinion as you expressed yours. Last time I looked, Baskin Robbins advertised 31 flavors of ice cream and I don't expect you to like my favorite either. We all do the best we can and when we know better, we can do better.

-- marilyn (, January 23, 2001.

a little off the subject, but talking about gardens. We are having our first REAL garden this year. Always did the veges in the flower bed thing before. Anyway, I was wondering, is it a good idea to keep a journal? Or some sort of record of you gardening? Also, I have beets out in my flower beds that are wintering wonderfully. They aren't growing fast but the tops look wonderful. Is this a normal beet thing? Are there other veges that will winter like that? We are zone 7 here.

-- cindy palmer (, January 23, 2001.

Hi Cindy...Yes, keeping a journal is beneficial if you are experimenting with various types of plants and they change from season to season. Also, if like me, you have a really bad memory, it helps in reminding you the following year...what worked/what didn't. It's also great for anal retentive types who love exacting records-- I'm not quite so deliberate in my record keeping.

Zone 7 is warmer than it is here in zone 5. Would think because of your milder climate, you would easily be able to keep certain cold weather crops going all winter (like the beets). Very lucky girl!

Read an article a few years ago about John Robbins (he wrote the book, Diet For a New America)being up on some island in Canada. The winter hit hard and he basically kept going on kale that grew right through the snow. Would imagine besides kale, cabbage, etc., that most root vegetables would do well in your milder winters.

-- Joanne Schaefer (, January 24, 2001.

Cash, do you know if they're still taping Gardening Naturally, It used to be on TLC in late winter, early spirng?

-- Cindy (SE IN.) (, January 24, 2001.

Cheap (or already paid for) ways to heat your greenhouse:

Run your high-efficiency pellet stove/masonry stove exhaust to the greenhouse. This can only be done if your method of heating is efficient enough so that the exhaust is basically warm, damp CO2. If you have a "dirtier" heating system, then consider routing a stovepipe through the greenhouse (obviously works best with a lean-to or near the house type) and just harvesting the heat. If you do the exhaust venting method, make sure that there is plenty of venting so that the CO2 doesn't get you.

Vent your dryer to your greenhouse.

House chickens, goat, and what have you in an attached stable with venting through to the greenhouse.

Place lots of gallon jugs of water around to absorb the sunlight during the day. (Only middling effective, but enough to keep crops from freezing if the day is fairly sunny and it is not arctic out.)

Irrigate in troughs with hot/warm washing machine and dishwasher/dishwashing water. Make sure that the troughs are far enough from plants not to burn them with the heat, but the whole greenhouse will steam up nicely.

-- Soni (, January 25, 2001.

Cindy, I don't think they've taped any new shows for quite a while now, but I could be wrong. I don't get the channel they were appearing on. The advantage of EC's method is that it doesn't call for heating the greenhouse at all. He uses two protective layers -- the hoophouse and then either cold frames (his original method) or floating row covers inside. He doesn't claim that the plants grow during the depth of winter -- they essentially go into hibernation for Dec-Jan, but are still harvested. He figures the double protection gives him the planting zone equivalent of northern Georgia on the coast of Maine. He begins planting potatoes in February and March, for example.

-- Cash (, January 25, 2001.

I have read the book and enjoyed it, though don't have to room to put it into practice. One thing I have done in my climate to extend my harvest: I plant a late fall crop of buttercrunch lettuce and then cover it ( one row) with the bubble wrap (I used an old solar pool cover that was given to me free) and weighted the edges with bricks. I left the lettuce in the ground and picked it as needed. Our days are usually in 40 - 50's and nights in the 20's. The biggest air bubbles you can get to use are the best.

-- connie in NM (, January 25, 2001.

Hi Cindy P., I live in zone 7 also. A journal is a good way of keeping track of your garden. I also forget year to year when I planted things. Last year I planted my peas on Feb. 15, planted my 1st crop of potatoes on Feb. 25 and planted a second crop on March 23. I planted lettuce, radishes and carrots in March, although depending on the weather, they can be planted earlier. Joanne is right about Kale. It will usually grow year round here. I've heard you can pick it frozen, bring it in and let it thaw and then eat it. Never have tried that, But I have grown it just about year round. Same with collards. Kale is also one of the top veggies as far as vitamin content, added bonus! I also plant a second crop of potatoes to mature in the fall. I have raised beds that are on a south facing slope and I leave the potatoes in the ground, well covered, and just go out and get them when needed. I think alot of the garden depends also on micro climates. We're on a hill and get the south sun at a favorable angle. It will frost down below us, long before we get any! Sorry to ramble on, I can't seem to shut up when it comes to gardening! :) Just one more thing, your local extension office should have pamphlets on spring, summer and fall gardening, what and when to plant. They're really helpful. Also, check your local feed store to when they start selling seed potatoes and such. Usually a good indicator. They're usually really helpful to answer most questions.

-- Annie (, January 25, 2001.

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