The Winter Bounty Project


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How five households in the Hudson Valley are harvesting food year-round from an unheated greenhouse

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  • Or these salad greens? Not from a supermarket, not grown in South America.
  • One thing we have in common. We all like to cook and eat.
  • This is one of Eliot Coleman’s innovations.
  • Soon we were harvesting things like this.
  • And this.
  • Got close to 80 degrees. In February.
  • But we were still doing a lot of this.
  • Now we’ve got a drip system in place. The water comes directly from the well pump through a series of hoses. It works really well.
  • We are really proud of what we’ve learned and accomplished and are always excited to share information about our project. We hope to inspire others to follow suit. In particular, this would be a great project for schools, because the timing follows the school year naturally. But wouldn’t it be great if some local farmers started extending the growing season in this way so that those who aren’t gardeners could purchase food like this year-round?
  • The Winter Bounty Project

    1. 1. The Winter Bounty Project
    2. 2. What if you could get locally grown radishes like this inDecember? Without going to a supermarket.
    3. 3. Or salad greens like this in January? Straight out of your garden.
    4. 4. What if you could grow cilantro for a Super Bowl Party dip, andharvest it fresh on game day?
    5. 5. How about pulling carrots and harvesting herbs and greens for afresh salad in January?
    6. 6. What if we told you that all of the food in the preceding slidescame from this greenhouse in New York’s Hudson Valley?
    7. 7. This unheated greenhouse.
    8. 8. Our project was inspired by Eliot Coleman, a Maine farmer whogrows food commercially in unheated greenhouses and haswritten about his successful experiences. In 2010, five familiesin the Hudson Valley decided to test Coleman’s approach.
    9. 9. In August 2010, our Rimol greenhouse was delivered to a fieldin Stanfordville, NY, owned by one of our members.
    10. 10. In August and September, the greenhouse went up.
    11. 11. Fortunately, the rep from Rimol was interested in our project,and he came to help.
    12. 12. We all joined the project for different reasons and broughtdifferent skills. Some of us were expert gardeners, and otherswere novices. Some were better than others at building things.
    13. 13. We all shared concerns about food treated with pesticides,crops grown in distant locations, which affects flavor andfreshness, and the fossil fuels used to transport food. All of uslove to cook and eat.
    14. 14. While the greenhouse was going up, garden beds were beingcreated.
    15. 15. If you look in the background, you can see some beds that havealready been planted.
    16. 16. This kale was planted in August, because we needed to bring itto maturity by December. Keep in mind, this is a winter harvestproject, not a winter growing project.
    17. 17. From December to February, when the days are shortest, thereis very little growth. We also chose cold-hardy plants, especiallyvarieties recommended by Eliot Coleman.
    18. 18. One chilly day in late September, the greenhouse was finishedand rolled over the beds of growing plants.
    19. 19. The greenhouse is on wheels.
    20. 20. This is one of Eliot Coleman’s innovations. Two people canmove it.
    21. 21. That allows for crop rotation. This picture shows our first winterconfiguration. The next year, we planted and harvested in thebed between the rails in the foreground.
    22. 22. Soon we were harvesting things like this kale and these blackradishes.
    23. 23. And lovely heads of lettuce.
    24. 24. By mid-December, these crops had assumed a second layer ofprotection. By using the greenhouse and fabric row covers, wegained two horticultural zones. So under those covers, it waslike Gainesville, Florida, even though there could be snow orsubfreezing temperatures outside.
    25. 25. If it warmed up, we could remove the covers to allow the plantsto absorb some sunlight.
    26. 26. But there were many overcast days when we left them coveredall day. This was the winter of 2010-2011, when we had 65inches of snow in the Hudson Valley!
    27. 27. That year, we often only removed the row covers for harvesting,and frequently did that in winter gear. If it was overcast outside,it could be quite cold inside—even below freezing. Because ofthe row covers and the careful choices of crops, the plantsthrived.
    28. 28. Our second winter was unseasonably warm, and the row coversweren’t used as much. On one February day when it was in the50s outside, it was shirtsleeve weather inside.
    29. 29. That’s because it was 80 degrees in the greenhouse—even withthe doors opened!
    30. 30. One of the things we loved was how sweet the plants were in thewinter. We learned that plants develop sugars in response to coldas a sort of antifreeze to protect them. It made them delicious.
    31. 31. A lot of people ask us about watering. During winter, the plantsrequire no watering. But we have a well and solar-poweredpump to use when it’s warmer.
    32. 32. For awhile, we were doing a lot of hand-watering.
    33. 33. Then we experimented with this gravity-driven drip system. Itwasn’t terribly effective.
    34. 34. This year, we rigged a system that comes directly from the wellpump through a series of hoses. It is in place from March toapproximately November.
    35. 35. We grow using organic methods, so here is a cover crop thatwas eventually tilled under to provide soil nutrients.
    36. 36. We have soil testing done and use the recommended organicamendments.
    37. 37. We like to encourage pollinators, so we don’t use anypesticides.
    38. 38. That means we have to tolerate intruders like this cabbagebutterfly, who is thinking about laying eggs on the collardgreens. We use an organic-approved substance called Bt tocontrol caterpillars.
    39. 39. We’ve been encouraging bug-eating bluebirds and treeswallows to take up residence.
    40. 40. We get an assist during warm weather from garden spiders.
    41. 41. We garden on this site year round. In the summer, we grow beans,eggplants, peppers, and squashes.
    42. 42. And a bumper crop of tomatoes in 2011!
    43. 43. We grow most of the summer crops underneath, with the side-and end-walls open. Our group’s gardening experts believe thatplants like tomatoes do better when protected from rainfall;they aren’t as susceptible to blight. This is when the dripirrigation comes in handy.
    44. 44. Even during high tomato season, it’s already time to think aboutwinter. Here’s a row of leeks in August, started earliest becausethey are slow growers.
    45. 45. In September, the winter garden bed for Year 2 is wellunderway. There are those same leeks at top left, and carrots,beets, turnips, and lots of greens. We did have trouble withexcessive rain brought by hurricanes and with caterpillarsduring the fall growing season.
    46. 46. In the fall, we shifted the greenhouse over that winter bed, andjust in time, because of the October Surprise snowstorm. Oursummer garden bed is covered with snow in the foreground,but our winter crops are well protected, along with a fewtomato vines that we brought inside for ripening.
    47. 47. Other people are trying similar projects on a smaller scale.These low tunnels were constructed with about $20 worth ofhardware and helped a neighbor to extend his growing season.In some cases, cold frames could do the same work.
    48. 48. We are not commercial. We think of ourselves as a collective.The greenhouse provides produce for five or six households at atime, and we provide most of the labor. It’s a labor of love.
    49. 49. In addition to the benefit of harvesting fresh, green vegetablesyear round, we gain an enormous psychological boost frombeing in the greenhouse when it’s cold out, smelling the soil,shedding our winter coats. On a sunny day, it can be 20 to 30degrees warmer inside than out!
    50. 50. We’re proud of what we’ve learned and accomplished and hopeto inspire others to do the same. What a great project thiswould be in a school setting, and wouldn’t it be great to havecommercial operations producing local veggies for us to buyyear-round?
    51. 51. winterbounty.wordpress.comWe have a blog with lots of day-to-day reports, chronicles ofsuccesses and failures, and a handful of recipes. If you live in orare visiting the Hudson Valley and would like to visit, you cancontact us via the blog.
    52. 52. “All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.” —permaculture expert Geoff Lawton All photos except slide 48 © Lisa M. Dellwo. Do not copy or use without permission.