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The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses Paperback – April 15, 2009
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"When does gardening become farming? When are you no longer having dinner parties and running a restaurant instead? For those who are ready to graduate beyond coffee-can retail, the incomparable Eliot Coleman is back with THE WINTER HARVEST HANDBOOK: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses (Chelsea Green, paper, $29.95). I'm not one to quibble over the details of a "T-post anchor and homemade attaching bracket for securing the corners of a new rolling greenhouse design." Suffice it to say that this serious, meticulous, inspiring farmer and writer solves the problem of growing lettuce in Maine -- in January. Anyone living near Coleman's Four Season Farm is thrice blessed -- 1) to live in intense denial of the back-breaking effort he or she is 2) being spared in order to acquire what is surely 3) the tastiest, most wholesome and pure food available. Coleman's opus is as much a call to action for town planners to embrace local farms as it is a bible for small farmers. This book is for people who know what they're doing."-- The New York Times Book Review
"I just finished picking my first carrots, beets, and radishes from my new 'cold house' in Bedford, New York. It is so rewarding to harvest fresh vegetables and salads in the middle of winter and I grow them following the techniques of Eliot Coleman. I have been a devotee of Eliot's for years, fully agreeing with his methods for growing in winter, spring, summer, and fall, tasty, nutritious produce with a minimum consumption of fossil fuels. Congratulations on another volume of useful, practical, sensible, and enlightening information for the home gardener."--Martha Stewart
"Eliot Coleman's books have been called Bibles for small farmers and home gardeners. I suspect that's because he writes about not just gardening but about everything that connects to good food and pleasure; a Renaissance man for a new generation, he'll quote Goethe in the same breath as Ghandi, and as a result, you'll dig, weed, eat, think, and live more fully."--Dan Barber, Chef, Blue Hill and Blue Hill Stone Barns
"'Attention to detail is the major secret to success in any endeavor,' writes Eliot Coleman on page 156 of this absorbing and happily detailed report on his ongoing efforts to grow flawless vegetables without hothouses on the frozen 'back side' of the year. In chapters covering everything from The Yearly Schedule and Greenhouse Design to Weed Control and Marketing, Coleman tracks his own constant search for perfection, a quality that has led more than one young farmer to exclaim 'I'd follow him anywhere.' Well worth reading even if you don't grow vegetables, just to watch a master's mind at work."--Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life
"The Winter Harvest Handbook is a treasure trove of practical, proven techniques for producing crops on a year-round basis in any climate. Based on decades of on-farm research, this book is packed with useful ideas, tips and practices that anyone can use in pursuing the increasingly vital dream of local, organic food production using a minimum of precious resources. A masterful book from a master organic farmer. I wish I had had a copy 35 years ago!"--Amigo Bob Cantisano, President, Organic Ag Advisors
"How do you produce first-rate food all year-round in northern places? This is the big question facing the local food movement, and Eliot Coleman, one of America's most innovative farmers, has come up with excellent answers. Brimming with ingenuity, hope, and eminently practical advice, The Winter Harvest Handbook is an indispensable contribution."--Michael Pollan
"If we are going to create a good, clean, fair food system, we've got to learn how to grow affordable, local food year-round and make a living at it. Eliot Coleman knows more about this than anyone I've met. Here he gives the detailed information needed to make it work. The only way to learn it better would be to follow him around for a few seasons. And he won't let you."--Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA
"Eliot Coleman is widely recognized as the 'master' of the master gardeners. His new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook--which tells us how to produce local food even in winter in cold climates like Maine, without a lot of energy--now joins his other delightful books as another lovely read, packed with powerful and practical ideas that every gardener will treasure."--Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
About the Author
Eliot Coleman has over thirty years' experience in all aspects of organic farming, including field vegetables, greenhouse vegetables, rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, and range poultry. He is the author of The New Organic Grower, Four-Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook, as well as the instructional workshop DVD Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman. Coleman and his wife, Barbara Damrosch, presently operate a commercial year-round market garden, in addition to horticultural research projects, at Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine.
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Top Customer Reviews
One caveat: if you grow veggies on 1/4 acre or more you're going to like this book more than if you grow veggies on a small lot (less than 100 sq. ft), on a balcony, or in containers. The reader will have to scale down significantly the concepts in this book. I don't think it's impossible; but it is more work for the reader. also, this is not a how-to book. Coleman gives some guidance but no step-by-step instructions.
The book focuses mostly on unheated hoop-houses, cold frames, and low tunnels (in a commercial setting but again, the concepts can be modified to fit the home grower). Also important to note the focus is on cool season crops (he mentions briefly some summer veggies growing in an unheated green house but I got the impression they were in preparation for the summer, i could be wrong). He may grow tomatoes in a green house all year because of his growing zone. Keep in mind that Coleman's experience is from working on a New England farm so one must modify his suggestions to apply his techniques outside of this growing zone. As a home gardener, I would not let the fact that the book's concepts are based on small commercial farming discourage me. again, though these are unheated greenhouses he's talking about. As inexpensive as he can make them.
One tiny thing that did bother me--Coleman mentions two way overpriced tools, seed planters that can be found at Johnny's Select Seeds. One seeder is nearly 600.00$ and the other seeder is 250.00$. Why do I mention this? Because at first glance, Coleman's organic labor intensive techniques or use of old hand tools may put people off (do a lot of people still use a scythe?). I know it did for me; because even at the home gardener level I'd like to increase my productivity. As a commercial grower I can see the benefit of the 6 row seeder outweighing it's 600.00$ price tag. Regardless of this tool, I think that many of the techniques are worth the effort (even if you just read them) in the long run, if you're looking to rely less on chemicals and more on organic methods. Coleman doesn't tell you to go out and buy these tools but he does encourage you to be creative. Hope this helps.
lastly, i think that Coleman's other book, the Four Season Harvest has many more specific details on greenhouse growing (unheated). I liked that book more than this one, this is why i say it's a great companion book. If i bought this book alone I may have been disappointed.
The three components to a successful winter harvest, according to Mr. Coleman are:
1) Cold-hardy vegetables
2) Succession planting
3) Protected cultivation
As it turns out, if we can protect our vegetables from the winter winds, we can grow many vegetables successfully, even in the snow. Some vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and matte, are actually even sweeter and more tender in cooler temperatures. Think you surely have to provide supplementary lighting? Nope . . . not needed when grown in one of Mr. Coleman's "cold houses". He uses these cold houses even in the Maine winters of Zone 5.
You'll also learn about vertical production of tomatoes and how to create your own cold frame with quick hoops made of electrical conduit and 10-foot-wide spun-bonded row cover held down by sandbags. These hoops can cover the same area as a 22 by 48 foot greenhouse at 5% of the cost. Speaking of cost, a recent article in the AARP Magazine indicated that we can save $1,000.00 a year growing our own vegetables in a small garden. Now add your winter crop savings, and imagine what you'd save. Your Winter Wonderfarm will yield delicious, organic vegetables, improving your diet and fattening your wallet. Forget putting out the Christmas lights . . . just grow vegetables.
Lynette Fleming, Coauthor of Lunch Buddies: Buddy Up for a Better Diet