Four Season Harvest: A book review

I can’t seem to put this book down.  Now that is saying a lot for a gardening book.  Robert recommended I read an article on Survival Blog about winter gardening, where I found the reference for this book.  We did have a winter garden in CA with much success but the idea of one in Colorado seemed impossible and downright crazy.  But after reading this book I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The author, Eliot Coleman and his wife live in Maine in zone 5 nonetheless and they eat fresh greens and veggies all winter long, without a heated greenhouse.  How is this possible?  Well, read the book but here are a few things I learned.

Latitude is more important than most people realize.  Latitude determines day length which means sunshine.  Plants need a longer daylength to grow.  Believe it or not but Maine is on the same latitude with the South of France.  Not the same zone but the same winter day length, thus the same growing potential.  Europe is much further north than I realized and they have long traditions of winter gardening so we can too.  Here in the US we do have harsher winters due to our friendly frozen neighbor to the north.  So plants will need more protection than they do say in the South of France.

Being in Colorado we are much further south than Maine so we are in an even better position to grow a winter garden.  Yes, we are in zone 5 too but that just means we need the proper cold frame, not even a greenhouse!  Many gardeners (I use that term loosely) in this area have complained to us about how difficult it is to garden here.  Frankly when you grew up in the dessert with no water falling from the sky, sandy soil and 115* summer temps, you call that miserable.  What people complain about here is the short growing season they call it.  I must admit most of the folks doing the complaining are from out of state, and warmer states in fact, and they aren’t gardeners at all.  I think they planted tomato seeds in June and hoped for a crop before frost, when it didn’t happen they became discouraged.  There are drastic shifts in temperature here but where aren’t there drastic shifts in temperature?  Okay, the beach.

I really enjoyed this book.  He explains everything very well, all the way down to when and how much you should vent your cold frames.  He also recommended planting dates and vegetable varieties that do particularly well in winter.  In addition to the advise he gives detailed instructions on how to make everything he uses, even his homemade hand trowel.  The back of the book is an appendix that has several vegetables with detailed planting instructions.  There is so much information packed into one place.

We are going to try a small cold frame this year and we searched through our seeds for all cold season crops he recommends.  We will need to purchase only a few but we’d like to try growing mache, Belgian Endives, spinach, carrots, baby mesclun mix, radishes, scallion and arugula.  I had a mache salad once made by a German friend of ours and I still think of those delicate, sweet, tender leaves.  I have found mache in Trader Joe’s before but it was nothing like her fresh salad.  Now I figure if I can still remember a salad 4 years after eating it, then I should definitely be growing those greens.

After we get the cold frame thing figured out, it’s on to an unheated mobile greenhouse.  He has a rotation worked out so you can start asparagus a month sooner and extend raspberries into November.  I love this guy, he just keeps getting better and better.

The best part about the book, he recommends keeping a few ducks and I think I almost have Robert convinced that we can get a few ducks for our small backyard.  I am so excited but need to do more research since we know very little about them.

Happy reading,  Courtney

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