Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Winter garden magic

Lisa and Kasey grow our garden using methods developed by Eliot Coleman, author of a popular book Four Seasons Harvest. Coleman has been a leader in the movement toward small-scale sustainable farming for many years. What he teaches dispels the notion that reliance on local farms for your produce means you only get fresh vegetables in the summer. He teaches ways to have fresh produce year-round.

I had the pleasure of experiencing this joy for the first time last year. Lisa kept a couple of cold frame garden boxes near the house. She grew spinach, kale, chard, and lettuces last year. A cover made with a wood frame and greenhouse plastic was placed over the raised bed any time the temperature dipped below freezing. The cover kept the plants warm and protected from frost. When the sun would shine and the temperatures jumped above freezing, the cover came off, allowing the plants to soak up the sun's rays or get some moisture from the rain. When it was frigid or snowy, the lids stayed on tight, keeping the plants protected from the damaging weather.

This year, Lisa and Kasey planted a winter garden at the farm to provide produce for our community supported agriculture (CSA) members. Rather than using raised bed boxes, they planted in a plot of land that receives a lot of sun from the south and has some protection from the north winds. Small metal hoops were placed in each of the beds, over which they lay a layer of fabric insulation and greenhouse plastic. They've planted all of the same things Lisa planted last year, and included some broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

Amazingly, the plants, for the most part faired well in the Christmas Eve storm. With the exception of the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, which were in a bed where the plastic was blown off in the strong winds that we received, the plants have done well. Lisa and Kasey will have to work quick to harvest in these frigid temperatures, but even with the cold weather they can provide the CSA members with fresh produce.

A friend from work got curious about gardening this past year and learned a lot from Lisa. She's been keeping a cold frame of her own in her back yard in midtown Tulsa. She's so excited about it she told a friend who lives in Texas what she was doing. He's in town this week for a class at the seminary and is watching her cold frame with curious skepticism. He bought the book Four Seasons Harvest and is considering options for himself.

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is getting to eat fresh salad from the garden in the middle of winter. It's magic!
Pictures were taken by Lisa.

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