Growing & eating your own harvest

Lettuce

Red Leaf Romaine Lettuce growing in the hoop house at Gorman Farm (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Many people find it easier to go to the store than to grow their own “crops.”   Classes are being offered at extension offices of universities across the country.  Many of the classes relate to allocating garden space to growing organic fruits and vegetables.  Instructors are using books and their own knowledge to help people create sustainable harvests from home.  In Cincinnati, Gorman Farm recently offered a class on “Four-Season Harvesting.”

What is “Four-Season Harvesting”?

The idea of “Four-Season Harvesting” is allowing people to cultivate fruits and vegetables year-round from their home gardens so they do not to rely solely on the grocery store.  John Hemmerle, garden manager at Gorman Heritage Farm said, “Cold hearty veggies taste better when it’s colder.” With this method, people will now have a better understanding of what pesticides are in their food because they will be the ones growing it.  Phil Erdeljohn, a young male participant, said, “My grandma used to spray the tomato plants with soapy water to get rid of the bugs off the plants.”

Butter Lettuce

A head of butter lettuce that is ready to be harvested from the hoop house at Gorman Farm (photo by Christina Thompson 2012)

How do fruits and vegetables survive the winter months?

“Protection:  moisture and wind will destroy your plants, not the cold,” said Hemmerle.  So, what is the best remedy?  In a book called Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman, he writes: “…I suggest two (4-foot by 8-foot) cold frames per family…I will make a strong suggestion with respect to layout.  Your cropping area, whatever shape, should be easily divisible.  I want to encourage the small succession plantings that characterize a four-season garden.  They are the best way to maintain a continual supply of vegetables.”  Hemmerle, “I suggest hoop houses and row cloth for protection.”  With the “solar winter”(6 weeks before and after the Winter Solstice), the plants will go dormant and not grow, but they will remain green and harvestable.

Planting raised beds with cold frames or using row cloth to cover small crops seems like the most economical idea for people with small homes and little land.  Apartment dwellers could make a fully enclosed cold frame and have vegetables year-round as well. Erdelrjohn said, “I cannot wait to have my own home because I want to be able to use what I learned in the class to have my own organic and sustainable garden.”

One of the raised beds growing in the hoop house at Gorman Farm (photo by Christina Thompson 2012)

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