Originally published in 1992, Four-Season Harvest introduced readers to Eliot Coleman's simple, efficient system for growing and harvesting vegetables throughout the year, no matter what the climate. Now, in this revised and expanded edition, Coleman takes his gardening classic several steps further, describing the continuing evolution and perfection of the winter gardening concept.
Especially noteworthy is the knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration that Coleman received on a winter pilgrimage to southern France in 1996. What he had realized is that, although the climate may be different there, southern France (and parts of Italy) lies along the 44th parallel, the same latitude as Coleman's farm in Maine. That means that daylength is the same in both regions, and the amount of sunlight is the key that regulates plant growth. The simple crop-protection and storage schemes that Coleman has developed enable any home gardener in a place such as New England to. enjoy fresh food year-round, la the traditional cuisine of rural southern France.
A winter read that might make you start gardening now in February.
Now into my second year of growing vegetables through the winter and being fully convinced that having fresh backyard grown vegetables is possible year round, I got this well recommended book to learn what I should be doing.
If you notice the title, he rightly views winter gardening not as gardening, but as harvesting. Plants slow down their growth, so work through the winter is minimal. For the most part, your time is spent harvesting tonight’s dinner. Other gardening chores are watering occasionally and here on the Eastern Shore uncovering or ventilating on those 60 plus degree days. Since plants are growing slowly, you can wait until you are ready to harvest. A few days or even a week can go by and the vegetable is still close to its peak flavor. And some get better the colder it gets.
Coleman’s organic gardening philosophy begins with trusting that the natural world’s processes are the clues and foundation for good gardening practice. This leads him to advocate low-tech and low-work solutions; right up my alley. In keeping low cost, he advocates no-heat added gardening. All and all, the cost to start this is low. You should know that Coleman is not advocating growing a Beefsteak Tomato in January. Instead, crop selection is based on the plants that naturally grow during this time of year, thus work is minimized, since you are working with the season, not against it. He is an advocate of eating seasonally, but not necessarily for some philosophical reason, but for practicality and variety.
The book covers basic year round gardening practices, such as sowing, composting, and crop rotations, but only lightly. The greatest portion discusses cool season practices and techniques. His knowledge comes from years of practice and a trip he and his wife took in mid-winter through lower France to research their winter practices. Winter gardening has long been practiced in England, France and the Low Countries.
You will find the book a stimulating walk through the basics; covering planting times, structures, techniques and harvesting. He covers construction and use of trellises, cold frames, low tunnels, high tunnel greenhouses and root cellars. Yes, you need a way to store those bountiful root crops.
In a large section, Coleman covers the vegetables themselves, giving recommendations and a narrative on each one. He covers summer crops as well, but the focus is on the best winter crops. This might be the greatest long-term benefit of the book, after you have built your structures. Several vegetables you might love are here and many you might not have every thought of growing are presented in a very appealing way. I appreciated that in this section in particular and throughout the book, Coleman limited his recommendations to things he has repeated experience with or discovered in his research through France. It is obvious, that this guy has done his research. A well written read with humor and stories along the way.
And, oh, did I mention? He gardens through the winter in MAINE!
This book inspired me to try four season gardening, here on the down east coast of Maine. You know what? It is entirely doable to have fresh greens year round, in Maine! I made some mistakes, (like not reinforcing the top of the hoop house with a ridge pole and supports = total collapse with heavy wet snow! and figuring out a way to keep the furry little creatures from not only eating the greens, but digging them up by the roots!) The surviving greens that are covered with plastic milk jugs are growing today - March 4th with wind and blowing snow.
I have underlined all the good parts in Four Season Gardening and keep going back and re-reading. For anyone who lives where there is a relatively short growing season this is a book to have on your night stand!
Some friends have said that they are glad when the frost ends the growing season, which can be September here, as it gives them a break.
from the work. In Eliot Coleman's book there is a statement about four season gardening making for less work, as there is more a gentle transition between the seasons and the gardening rolls on at a gentle pace. I do agree with his statement.
I have found one benefit not mentioned in the book. Starting in February, on a sunny day - I can go in the hoop house and feel the warming sun and smell of warming soil ! That is the smell of spring that makes the gardening urge bloom. Great book and a must have.
What an enjoyable read! And incredibly informative. I've got my cold frames ready and will be planting shortly for my first year's go at a winter harvest. A great book will inspire you to action and this book absolutely does that.
Eliot Coleman is one of the best when it comes to gardening (IMHO). He pushes the limit, and when he's told he can't do something, he finds ways he can. He has a fantastic philosophy that is seen in his gardening techniques as well as in his writings.
I purchased this book after seeing Coleman's segment about 4-Season Gardening on "Gardening Naturally". It's a wonderful read, full of wit and charm, and stuffed full of fantastic information on how to make your area a place to four seasons garden.
We have constructed the cold-frame and hoop house according to Coleman's instructions, and are very pleased with the ease of construction and the low cost. We have extended our harvest and have gained more confidence with trying new things, and pushing the limits.
This book is worth it's weight in gold and belongs on every gardener's bookshelf!!