Is a Four Season Harvest Possible?
I just finished a very interesting book called "The New Organic Grower's Four-Season Harvest" by Eliot Coleman. I checked the book out of the library, not believing it was possible to harvest fresh vegetables all year long unless you lived in the perfect climate, somewhere I am not aware of. Imagine my surprise when I read that Coleman lives in Maine! This I had to read.
One thing that I realized early on was that Coleman is a very creative man. And he really knows his vegetables. He grows many vegetables that I have never even heard of, which is kind of sad. The thing is though, even though I garden in the summer I tend to stick to the basics like tomatoes and cucumbers. I was shocked to learn about all the cold hardy vegetables that can be harvested all winter.
It doesn't seem very easy to harvest vegetables all four seasons of the year, but I think once you have a system in place it would become easy. I am sure there is a big learning curve. You will need cold frames and they will need to be managed. You can't just put the cold frame on and expect everything to be fine. On sunny days the cold frames need to be vented or you will cook your veggies. There are hinges that you can buy that will open on their own when the inside of the frame reaches a certain temperature, so that would make it easier, but I couldn't help but think that to set this up would cost small fortune. Coleman also uses mobile greenhouses to keep his plants from freezing.
Another key component to Coleman's plan is that whle you can indeed harvest vegetables all year long; however you can't grow vegetables all year long. You have to really plan ahead, something I don't think many people are willing to do. I found this to be a little confusing too. Basically you have to start all the cold hardy plants in the early fall so they can do all their growing before winter hits. Once winter hits they won't grow anymore, but you can harvest them still. I had always assumed that when vegetables were ripe on the vine that they would only stay good to eat for a limited amount of time before rotting on the vine. Maybe that is only in the summer though?
An issue I see right off is the size of the garden. Do many people have a garden large enough that they can plant enough cold hardy vegetables to feed them all winter? Remember that once you harvest them they won't grow back, so you would have to plant everything you need at one time. Space would certainly be an issue for most people.
It might seem like I disagree with the Four-Season Harvest, but I don't. I just think the elaborate system that he has set up would not work for most people. I learned a lot by reading the book and plan on implementing some of his ideas and planting some of the cold hardy vegetables he recommends. I would also love to have a cold frame to extend our growing season by a month or so. Coleman has detailed instructions on building a cold frame that I already showed my husband and he is planning on building me one this summer. The Four-Season Harvest is definitely a worthwhile read for a gardener and if you are interested in extending your harvest season then this is definitely the book for you.