Four season gardeners

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by pickapeppa, Nov 10, 2005.

  1. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,081
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    Anyone out there do the four season harvest method? This is my second year experimenting with it. DH built a big hoophouse this year. We have lettuce (just now getting big enough to start harvesting), green beans (had a mold epidemic but the plants that didn't succumb I'm hoping to mature to harvest their seeds), lots of carrots and swiss chard.

    We also are still getting a few strawberries (permanent bed in the unheated greenhouse), cilantro, parsley and radishes. All are in the greenhouse.

    We had our first hard freeze last night and everything survived with flying colors (even with the high winds). I'm so excited. :goodjob:

    We are in zone 5, Illinois.
     
  2. River Rest

    River Rest Home-Insteader

    Messages:
    252
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2005
    Location:
    Western NC
    Hi pickapeepa,

    I'm in western NC. I am trying out the straw bale & plastic over the garden experiment. I've got carrots, brocoli, cabbage & lettuce plants. The only thing producing right now is the lettuce. I hope to have a greenhouse to do this in next year. Covering & uncovering the garden with the plastic is getting to be a pain. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. It's going to get very cold tonight.
    How long did your plants last last year in the unheated greenhouse?
     

  3. Melissa

    Melissa member

    Messages:
    23,498
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Location:
    SE Ohio
    I don't quite make it through the winter, but I can eat fresh food from the garden and cold-frame about 9 months of the year. Have you considered kale, spinach, turnips, beets, broccoli, carrots and cabbage? These usually last until December as long as you keep the snow from contacting them directly. I find it easier to extend the season in the fall than to get it started in the spring.

    oops, see you do have carrots listed.
     
  4. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,081
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    River, here's the list of plants from last year. That would get old, cover and uncovering. If you've read Eliot Coleman's book, he recommends double protection in mid-winter. I didn't do this. Most everything did well with just one layer of protection.

    Hoophouse: (not to confuse, this one was a temporary test pilot setup)

    Celery lasted until the freeze/thaw in mid-January made it rot.
    Peppers lasted until around Thanksgiving.
    Parsnips of course did beautifully all winter long. They froze so solid in mid-winter that I couldn't get any out until the spring thaw inside around mid-Feb or maybe even early March.
    Leeks lasted until this summer when they went to seed.

    Things that made it through the winter in the GH:
    Broccoli
    Cabbage
    Chinese cabbage
    Parsley
    Carrots, these had an interesting growth habit. In the spring, a second carrot grew from the bottom of the fall carrot. They were tasty, though.
    Cilantro
    Beets
    Basil lasted until it froze inside (sometime between thanksgiving and Christmas).

    Last year the vegies weren't mature enough to bear anything before the cold set in. Most likely because I didn't provide enough water (we've since irrigated all the raised beds that are being protected this year).

    The cabbage didn't form heads, but I hear you can just use the leaves. Wish I would have thought of that last year. The broccoli was bitter, I'm not exactly sure why (I tasted it in the gh instead of cooking it first).

    This year, I'm hoping to do better with it. I just ripped out most of the green beans which did very well except for the mold. Everytime I harvested in there, I would pull anything with mold out of the beds. Eventually I had to pull all but a few plants. If they make it to maturity, I will save the seeds and use them for next years "mold resistant" planting (hopefully).

    Also, I had turnip greens, spinach, chinese cabbage and pak choi planted, but they were eaten down to veins and stems by cabbage loopers. It's too bad, they were sizing up quite nicely. *sigh* I haven't yet made it down to the nursery to see if they still have BT stocked. Almost lost my radishes to them too.

    You're so cute, Melissa! "oops" lol. Yes, thanks for the suggestions. I spent a few hours one day this week organizing my seed collection and found a nice variety of cold hardy vegies and herbs.

    I just planted about 300 more plants to test out for winter hardiness at a more fragile stage of growth. Just crossing my fingers and hoping they make it when I put them out after germination.
     
  5. kitaye

    kitaye Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,184
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Location:
    Canada - Zone 5
    Could I get more information on the straw bale and plastic method of multi-season gardening? I live in zone 4(a or b not sure) and still had a ton of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots in the ground when an unexpected frost killed them all. Is it possible I could extend my garden time a couple of months in either direction of my normal growth season?
     
  6. Melissa

    Melissa member

    Messages:
    23,498
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Location:
    SE Ohio
    I use the cabbage leaves all the time. I have actually come to prefer the darker green ones rather than the heads that turn white.

    Sounds like you have a good plan and will be very successful. I am hoping that we will have an indoor greenhouse in the next few years. I would love to grow more food over the winter.

    Do you grow onions? That is one thing I forgot to mention that I still have growing. I have found that if I plant about the end of August it gives the seeds a chance to germinate and the plants grow enough to start maturing before the cold weather sets in enough to stop growth. Have you read Scott and Helen Nearing? They go into their winter crops and harvest pretty extensively. As they said, you may not be able to extend the actual growing season, but you can extend the harvest season. That is mostly what I am doing right now.
     
  7. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,081
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    It must be you who mentioned using the leaves of the cabbage then. Thanks! About the onions, if you get them started from seed in August, will they develop bulbs in the fall, winter, or spring? I did plant some White Lisbon onions this fall. Hope to have some by spring next year. I might try sinking in some garlic too, still.

    I haven't read the Nearing's book, but would really like to get a copy soon. I have Stocking Up, Root Cellaring and The Four Season Harvest (author actually lived near the Nearings and mentions them in his book).

    An attached greenhouse will be very nice. You could probably even get away with some warm season crops or citrus trees in there. Ooooo, nice. I would love to grow banana, lime, lemon, orange, lemon grass, ginger. Can you tell I like Asian food just a little?

    Someone only thirty miles away from us mentioned she grows a big rosemary bush up next to her house and it survives every winter. She thinks it would winter over nicely in an unheated greenhouse. I'm not sure about that, as the ground does freeze in there eventually. And *sigh* I can't keep a rosemary plant alive to save my soul, lol.

    So besides the kale, what do you have awaiting the harvest?
     
  8. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,081
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    Kitaye, sorry to hear about your frost. It's always dissappointing when it comes and you don't have time to prepare. Lots of hard work gone down the tubes. I haven't used this method before, but I can see if I can dig up some info for you on it. May be a day or two before I can get to it though. I bet you could add at least a month on both sides of the season. Keep in mind, the smaller the area, the larger the temperature swings. It might need a little more TLC, but would probably be worth trying. It depends a lot on the weather still.

    My sister used a glass window over straw bales to start seedlings in the spring. She wasn't around to prop the window for air circulation one sunny spring day and fried all her little plants. Awww. I felt bad for her. It stopped her from gardening that year. :viking:
     
  9. River Rest

    River Rest Home-Insteader

    Messages:
    252
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2005
    Location:
    Western NC
    I started the broccolli & cabbage in peat pots,placed the peat pots inside the plastic containers that have lids & perforations like strawberries come in. When they were big enough I planted them in the garden & made each plant it's own little greenhouse out of 1 liter bottles. They loved this. Then when it started to get cool I removed the bottles & covered the garden with the plastic at night. I also placed jugs of water under the plastic. This helps keep heat in & also helps give water to the plants.

    The carrots are in big black plastic pots. Placed them in the garden still in the pots. They're looking good. In fact better than when I planted seeds directly in the garden last spring.

    The lettuce I just seeded directly in the ground. I also sprout seeds. They're a welcomed freshness in the dead of winter.
     
  10. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    What an inspiration this thread is for me! I'm definitely going to learn more so I can try year round gardening.
     
  11. dahliaqueen

    dahliaqueen Apple addict

    Messages:
    368
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Location:
    Back in New England
    I have been using this set-up for years to give 500 potted dahlias a huge jump start- set them out April 1(zone 5A) and they have buds by June 1 planting time.

    Inspired by Elliot Coleman, am doing a test this fall- i think i started my plants way too late- direct seeded lettuce, beets, chard, scallions, turnips at end of Sept- the plants are tiny but there has been no frost damage and it was 23* last nite.
    There are a couple of things that help alot-
    wet the bales -they decompose slowly and throw some heat
    make the north side 2 bales tall and the south side 1/2 bale or at least
    lay the front bale on it's side- you need to have a sloping 'roof' to shed
    precip-the plastic must be tight or rain will pool and collapse your cover.
    i lay saplings or 2x2's back to front every 4' or so, use 6 ml plastic, have some remay pulled to the back inside the frame to pull over plants for xtra cold nites.
    I use heavy-duty tarps to cover everything at nite, using bungee cords to tie it all tight
    If you have room, put a few gallon jugs of water-painted black is best,
    spaced throughout.

    I have never lost anything to cold, at least in the spring- this current experiment will be interesting!
     
  12. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,081
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    Dahlia, thanks for posting that detailed info. Sorry Kitaye, I haven't had time to look it up. I've been :dance: the last couple of days. That sounds like all the information you will need to get started.
     
  13. southrngardngal

    southrngardngal Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,185
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2005
    Location:
    Philadelphia, Mississippi
    I have lettuces (Only had a few so I mixed the seeds and planted), kale, radishes and onions that we are harvesting at this time. I also have carrots, beets, turnips, mustard and collard greens that haven't reached maturity yet. I live in zone 7b and so far haven't had to cover anything. We have had some light frost but no damage to any of the plants.

    I don't have a greenhouse. That is on the top of my want list. Maybe one day. I really would like to have a hot house so I could grow tomatoes all year long.

    I have grown collard greens & onions during the winter before but this is my first year to try the other veggies.
     
  14. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,081
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    Well, as some of you may have read, our hoophouse collapsed from the high winds. Dh went out in the rain and tried to salvage a couple of beds. I had one full of our winter supply of carrots and some lettuce that was just getting big enough to harvest. There were some green beans that survived a mold epidemic I was saving for mold-resistant seed for next year, and a few trays of newly sprouted seedlings.

    The next day we had over 40mph wind gusts again which whipped the plastic free from the ropes in the back and the temp dropped down in the teens that same night, so needless to say, everything out there froze. I'm not giving up yet. :grump: :viking: This is to important to me, and we've invested way too much time into learning how to do this to give up. Like I've said before, the system gets tweeked as we go. It's a learning process. There is no actual person I know doing this, I've only read about others experiences in books and here at HT. Each mistake makes you that much wiser next time around, right? :baby04:

    This just gives me more time to plan for next year. :angel: All is not lost, we still have monster sized radishes in the greenhouse, along with a ton of cilantro, some parsley and a few spinach plants. Now that the sun is lower in the sky, there is light farther into the back. I may actually be able to get some short-season greens growing in there too. I stays warmer in there than it is in a hoophouse. Sheesh, if it hadn't dropped below freezing in there over the week, we'd still be getting strawberries out of it. :goodjob:
     
  15. dahliaqueen

    dahliaqueen Apple addict

    Messages:
    368
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Location:
    Back in New England
    Well, everything grew slowly but steadily until VOLES found this little frost-free paradise and ate everything. GRRRRRRR. :flame:
     
  16. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,727
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2003
    My panels are still laying out beside the driveway where they were unloaded. I was hoping to get a couple of hoops put together and a little straw bale garden near the door. Not happened yet. Been spending all my time on the road running kids to doctors, Christmas shopping, etc. here, there, and yonder. Dang, I thought that would end when they grew up and flew the coop! :shrug:
     
  17. Zebraman

    Zebraman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    401
    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2006
    Location:
    Venice,CA.
    Hey Guys; Is there a way to Delete a duplicate post that I seem to be missing?
     
  18. Zebraman

    Zebraman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    401
    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2006
    Location:
    Venice,CA.
    Hey Guys;I have Elliot Colemans book as well but I live in Venice,and were still getting 80-85 degree weather.I still have tomato,pepper and eggplants outside with no protection and all are still putting out fruit.My Gray shallots are sprouting,still waiting on the garlic.Lettuce beds are doing as well as the peas.Swiss Chard is growing well also.
    I am sure if you follow his designs verbatum you'll get the same results he does.-

    Hey Dahliaqueen check out www.aztecdahlias.com
     
  19. rwinsouthla

    rwinsouthla Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,054
    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2005
    Location:
    South Louisiana
    Raven,

    Yor're close to me and I have quite a bit of veggies still going. Lettuce (romaine, buttercrunch, and red oak leaf), new zealand spinach, swiss chard, celery, carrots, sweet peas, broccoli, cauliflower, shallots, winter squash, zuchini up until 3 weeks ago, ditto with cucumbers and tomatoes. First frost got 'em but I got about a bushel each of cucumbers, tomatoes, and a half bushel of squash before the frost!

    I also have strawberries with first buds on them. I'll probably pick the first berries mid January. My satsumas and meyer lemons are still going strong. I've given away about 40 grocery sacks to different folks as Christmas gifts. The only thing is timing it right in September. Normally, I shoot to get the first plantings of broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, and carrots the first weekend in September. Sometimes I get burned with the heat but can make it up with the planting I make three weeks later. I usually pick lettuce until the first week in May and then it just bolts due to the heat. A little work but worth the salads we eat in the winter. This year, we ate salads at dinner for 4 straight weeks in November and December, then the heat this last week caused some of it to bolt. The second and third plantings are doing great still.

    ETA: BTW, I don't cover anything except the tomatoes, squash and cukes. And, I grow bush cukes in the fall as they are easier to cover.
     
  20. tchan

    tchan Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    210
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    northern arizona
    I live in zone 6 but I keep my greenhouse heated all winter so until the bees go for the winter I can have tomatoes producing. I also have cukes, lots of peppers that produce almost all winter and lots and lots of tropical plants. I have found that because of the shortened winter days that most things grow quite a bit slower or sort of sit waiting for spring. As soon as the days lengthen they take off like a shot! I do keep things like lettuce and broccoli in an unheated greenhouse for the winter and them plant them out in the spring. I did have a problem with the heater in the gh one night(the only night in years that it has gotten as low as 5 degrees) and lost some tomatoes. The backup heater just could not keep up. But some tomatoes, the peppers, papaya, snail vine and angel trumpets just needed some pruning and they are bouncing right back.