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Book Review: The Winter Harvest Handbook

April 16th, 2010

I mentioned yesterday that I loved to read and that I was currently reading Eliot Coleman’s newest book The Winter Harvest Handbook. I’ve read his other books Four-Season Harvest and The New Organic Grower which are both great. When I read I keep a small notebook at hand to jot down info, quotes and other interested things. My notebook is organized into sections, one for each book, a section for plant ideas and a section for each month so I can jot down when I need to do specific things related to a time line.

While reading this book I found myself jotting down so many notes, I decided I’d better buy the book (so I did). Since the information in this book is seasonal and time specific, I knew it would be a worthy addition to my reference library. I’ll be referencing it often in my efforts to make the most of my garden throughout the long winters here in my zone 5 NE Ohio garden. I knew if I didn’t buy it I’d be constantly requesting it from the library trying to remember when to plant leeks or lettuce for a mid-winter harvest.

If you’re interesting in winter gardening at all, I’d highly recommend buying this book. Now is the time to start reading about winter gardening so you have a good understanding and can start planning for it. If I had spent a little more time last summer and fall I’d be harvesting a bounty of fresh spinach, leeks and other vegetables right now instead of waiting for my spring planted spinach and lettuce to mature enough to harvest. I’m really hoping to overwinter some carrots this year as well as some leeks.

This book is full of charts and graphs to help you understand what and when you need to plant specific crops for late fall, early and late winter as well as early and late spring harvests. Eliot does a great job explaining why we can grow food in our northern cold climates even though traditionally people don’t think you can. You just have to have an understanding of how the fewer daylight hours affect the maturation rate. The list of of specific cultivars they grow at the Four Season Farm that’s included in this book is a great resource and jumping off point for anyone interested in winter gardening. You can’t just plant any kind of lettuce in the winter garden.

While the book is written by a market gardener, and their techniques are done on a large scale, the ideas are easily translated to the small home garden. I enjoyed his previous winter gardening book (Four-Season Harvest), but it felt a bit more “out of reach” for me as a small grower without room for a greenhouse. In this book he goes into much greater detail about all the experiments they’ve done and what worked and what didn’t. It really makes is seem much more attainable for the small home gardening with things like those hoop houses I built over my raised beds were built with winter gardening in mind.

I really like that he recommends specific products, like lighter floating row cover instead of a heavier grade. Which crops they use soil blocks to start seeds for, when they start leek seeds and how and when they harvest different kinds of greens. I just ordered some more floating row cover and some greenhouse plastic for my hoop houses using his recommendations. You can be sure I’ll keep you posted on my efforts to harvest more from my garden in the winter months.

I’ll keep reading stacks of gardening books and let you know which ones are worthy of your time (an in depth feature that will be on my new blog – yep, blog redesign coming soon). Of course if you end up buying this book, buy through my amazon link above or in the sidebar, they give me a few cents and I certainly appreciate it (helps pay my hosting bills).

Have you ever thought about, or had experience with winter gardening? Any great tips or books you’d recommend?

25 Comments to “Book Review: The Winter Harvest Handbook”
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  2. Mangochild on April 16, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’m still trying to understand winter gardening – I haven’t figured out much of anything, except that out of the spinach I started last year, only one “bundle” had appeared. A sad state. Maybe this book is the next one to try to figure this all out. I’m at the “it works for so many, why not me!” phase – figuring out what I’m doing wrong is the first step.
    .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..It’s been a long time… and a question =-.

    Reply to Mangochild's comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

      My spinach did great 2 years ago, but last year I only had a few plants survive. But I planted it a week too late and I didn’t cover it early enough, I’m pretty sure those were my problems. I’ll try again this winter and see how it works.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Wendy (The Local Cook) on April 16, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I REALLY need to get that book. I have always wanted to try to garden outside the regular season because that’s when I don’t have a CSA.
    .-= Wendy (The Local Cook)´s last blog ..Traditional, Better, Best =-.

    Reply to Wendy (The Local Cook)'s comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

      It’s actually a simple concept, I think the harvest part is making sure everything is planted in time and covered at the right time. I’m thinking of making a calendar with all the important dates/info in it so I’m ready and have a master plan.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. denise on April 16, 2010 at 8:43 am

    sounds like a good book. i just got the backyard homestead and am slightly disappointed in it. I wanted something a bit more “meaty” and colorful pictures. I should have checked it out at the library first.
    .-= denise´s last blog ..it’s a start! =-.

    Reply to denise's comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 8:50 am

      I agree with you. I got the book from the library and looked through it. I have the old 70’s version of the Back to Basics book from Reader’s Digest that’s very informative.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Mija on April 16, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I had the same experience – after the 10th page of notes – I decided I’d better buy the book rather than rewrite the whole thing by hand!! We bought a greenhouse and didn’t get it up until November ’09 so this year will be a whole new experience :-)

    Reply to Mija's comment

  6. Kathy on April 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I have the Four Season Harvest book as well and came to the same conclusions as you. The experiments are great though too large a scale for my little backyard garden. I’ll definitely be checking out this book based on your recommendation as I’m going to start prepping for winter. Thanks!

    Reply to Kathy's comment

  7. Miranda on April 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Awesome – thanks for the tip. I love really good gardening books and really must have them in my personal library, or i forget the valuable info as fast as i learn it.
    Is this book applicable to a variety of zones/locations? Here in Austin winter gardening is often better than summer gardening – but we plan a move back up to the Yamhill valley in Oregon which is also zone 8, but a very different kind of zone 8. Soon my Central Texas Gardening books will be moot! Any recommendations for gardening books with flexible locations will be most helpful.
    .-= Miranda´s last blog ..Texas Blind Snake! =-.

    Reply to Miranda's comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 10:49 am

      I think it’s applicable for a variety of zones, although since they’re located in zone 5 it’s most applicable to that zone and those around that zone. I believe the techniques can be used in just about any zone though.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. MAYBELLINE on April 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Winter gardening for me is probably like spring gardening for you. It’s lovely and cool. Sometimes it even rains.
    .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Minding My Peas =-.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  9. melissa on April 16, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I’m still waiting to get some experience with winter. :p
    .-= melissa´s last blog ..Top Chef: Masters–go, Monica, go! =-.

    Reply to melissa's comment

  10. the inadvertent farmer on April 16, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Next to my Bible and ‘The Long Winter’ this has been the book I have read the most over the winter…I am determined to garden 12 months this year. Living in the Pacific Northwest I have no excuse whatsoever not to.

    Susy…may I just say that your blog is a highlight of my day! Kim
    .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..A Vase of Sunshine and the need for Therapy =-.

    Reply to the inadvertent farmer's comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks Kim, you’re very sweet. I look forward to hearing about your 12 month gardening – good luck!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Morgan G on April 16, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I read and re-read Pat Welsh’s Guide to Organic Southern California Gardening all year long. Though the title specifies Southern California, the book is relevant to all Mediterranean climates. Pat is well into her 80’s and still doing book signings and sharing her love of the garden. For us Southern Californians, she is a true gem.
    .-= Morgan G´s last blog ..Whiting Ranch =-.

    Reply to Morgan G's comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Always great when we can find a great resource that’s specific to our zone. This is the way Eliot Coleman & Barbara Damrosch’s books are for us here in the colder climates.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Louise on April 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Susy, thanks for the great post! I noticed that you use a metal frame to over-winter your veggies. May I ask you how you got the frames so nice and round at the top?

    p.s today I am using your tomato soup (canning) recipe. I made it a few weeks ago and it was so very good that I needed to make more of it. I found a good deal on tomatoes today. I hope this summer/fall I will be using my home grown tomatoes to make the soup and stock up. Thanks again for sharing the recipe!

    Reply to Louise's comment

  13. stefaneener on April 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Fascinating. We do four season gardening but it’s just because we have a Mediterranean climate. It can be daunting to keep up with when to plant what, and I’m discovering, for instance, that I can’t plant spring crops at normal times. Just fall carrots here.
    .-= stefaneener´s last blog ..Promises, promises =-.

    Reply to stefaneener's comment

  14. Joan on April 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I have all of Eliot Coleman’s books – they are great. Tried mini-hoops this past winter, and they worked well, except that at some point the plastic froze to the ground and we couldn’t open them. Still, if you don’t have a greenhouse they are a nice way to go. And I’m harvesting stuff from them now – it’s nice to have a few fresh veggies in April in Maine.

    BTW – I just saw Eliot Coleman speak about an hour ago at the Midcoast Alternative Energy Expo, in Damariscotta, ME. It was interesting to see him in person – I am so jealous of his gardens!

    Reply to Joan's comment

    • Susy on April 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      So jealous that you got to see him. Joel Salatin was here speaking last summer but I couldn’t make it.

      I’m hoping to go to Eliot Coleman’s farm when we got on vacation this summer.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Beegirl on April 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Your HOOPS are fab-u-lous!!! Okay.. Im sold. Have two of his other books so will have to check this one out too. At this point they may as well put a bed in for me at the library.. sigh.
    .-= Beegirl´s last blog ..Cold Frame =-.

    Reply to Beegirl's comment

  16. Reading up on Winter Gardening on August 7, 2010 at 3:31 am

    […] For the rest of my review: chiotsrun.com/2010/04/16/book-review-the-winter-harvest-h… […]

    Reply to Reading up on Winter Gardening's comment

  17. Cool Organic Farming Books images on August 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    […] For the rest of my review: chiotsrun.com/2010/04/16/book-review-the-winter-harvest-h… […]

    Reply to Cool Organic Farming Books images's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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