Tag Archives: Eliot Coleman

Starting the Fall Garden

Last winter I built a greenhouse out back.  By the time it was finished it was too late to be starting seeds for the summer garden because it was already getting warm outside.

A few days ago I whitewashed the greenhouse using some hydrated lime mixed with water and applied with a broom.  This provides some shade so that it doesn’t get too hot in there.  Each rainstorm will wash away a little bit of that whitewash and so as weather cools, the ‘greenhouse effect’ will be stronger.

Inside I prepared some beds and planted kale, spinach, mache, lettuce, arugula, beets, kohlrabi and radishes.  I moved in a few kale transplants that we started outside a month ago, too.  This way we have a succession planting of kale.  As we plan better in future years we will do more of this.

According to some of the Eliot Coleman books we’ve read, we are a little late in doing this planting.  Better late than never!  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Thanks,

Robert

Book Review: Steve Solomon’s “Gardening Without Irrigation”

In searching for more books written by Eliot Coleman and Steve Solomon, I came across this link to a copy of the book on Scribd.  I wanted to share the link with you and offer a few thoughts.

Plant spacing has always been a problem for me in my gardening.  I have this problem with always wanting to maximize value or return, and so I squeeze in as many plants as I can into a given space.  Not only is that bad for the plants, but it is also water intensive.  In order to reduce or eliminate water usage, plant spacing is paramount.  One big idea learned in this book is that capillary action within the soil will draw the water in from much further than I thought possible.

Another idea discussed is mulching.  Steve Solomon is a big proponent of dust mulching.  I’ve been a big mulcher in the past, mostly with grass clippings, though.  I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea of dust mulching, because we live in an area that can get pretty windy and I don’t want my valuable topsoil blowing away.  As for me, jury’s still out on this one.  I would love to hear from other’s experience with dust mulching, though.  I’m still intrigued and open minded on this matter.

Thanks, Robert.

Drying Foods

We usually have more zucchini at our disposal than we can handle and that was the case this past summer, too.   I started cutting them up and putting them in the dehydrator .  We’re now reaping the benefits of this foresight.

They actually taste great once dried.  Courtney has also been tossing them into soups, etc and they plump right back up again and are quite tasty.  They’re even great just for snacking.

Jalapenos and cucumbers were also in abundance, so I cut them up and put them in the dehydrator.  We store them in ball jars in our cool, dark basement using our Tattler reusable canning lids.  We don’t do anything like a water bath to create a strong vacuum seal, just tighten down the rings.  I have read that you can heat the jars in the oven before adding the product.  When the jar and contents cool down it will create that vacuum and hold the lid without the ring.  We may want to keep this in mind for next year because we have now discovered we have a shortage of rings for apple butter season.

At one point this past summer, I just went crazy.  I bought a 25 pound box of roma tomatoes and dried them all.  It took almost a week to run them all through the dehydrator, but they yielded six quarts of dried product.  Eliot Coleman, in his book Four Season Harvest, was a big proponent of drying because it saves so much on time and energy.  He makes sauces throughout the winter with them and so we’re going to give it a try too.

Drying is one of the oldest ways of preserving food.  The removal of moisture inhibits growth of anything that might deteriorate the food.  I dried our stuff much further than anything you buy in the store.  Think about raisins: they are sticky and still have moisture in them.  The dried foods I’ve made this summer are all like baked chips.

Thanks, Robert.

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