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Winter Harvesting

January 15, 2010

Last night was a free event frrom Transition Colorado entitled PERMACULTURE PANEL: The Winter Harvest.  It was presented by Sandy Cruz, Barbara Mueser, Jason Gerhardt, Jeff Graef, and Natalie Shrewsbury.

We thought the principles can apply almost anywhere and this topic will become more and more important as our population continues to multiply…

The presentation started with a startling fact; that we will need 50 million new farmers in the next 10 years to keep up with food needs.  Microclimates were the first topic discussed.  The interesting thing, though, was how they broke down microclimates into those you as a person can actually control.  Here’s some examples; use milk jugs to protect your plants from wind -or- place rocks around your plant beds to absorb sun.  They described microclimates in the context of what local materials can you use to alter your plant performance without altering the climate.

The next topics focused on some products and plant coverings.  One that stood out to me was called Remay which is a floating row cover that protects your plants from frost.  I have seen this before in large operations but did not know it could be used in smaller plots.  They also brought up another interesting fact; that if you make all your plant beds the same size and have moveable greenhouse type covers, that this will eliminate bugs from living permanently at each planting bed.  We listened to discussions on numerous cold frame ideas as well as cloches (bell shaped glass coverings for individual plants).  We are well versed on cold frames;

Here are some cold frame photos from my house (the 1st photo is from January 2009, the 2nd is from March 2009, and the 3rd is a home made cold from from March 2009):

We have been encouraging the use of winter harvesting in our projects here at FLA as well.  Here is a recent project where we needed to show what the beds would look like prior to installing them:

The panel later discussed a number of plants.  I couldn’t write them all down but here are the notable ones that are absent from my own winter beds; bolivian sunroot, parsley, parsnips, endive, chinese cabbage, english and snap peas, leeks, cletonia, salvia, myers lemon (yes, lemons do grow here), and leeks.  To eat these plants now, you need to sow the seeds in September or October.  It would take 40-50 days to grow spinach here in spring/summer and double that time when you are preparing a winter harvest.

Preserving food is probably more important than growing it.  Why go through all that trouble if you are going to throw some of this delicious fresh food away?  Here are the methods discussed to preserve your harvested foods:

1.  A food dryer will preserve foods such as broccoli and mushrooms

2.  Hot water can bathing will preserve sauces

3.  Fermentation will preserve things like kimchi and sauerkraut

4.  A root cellar will keep most foods preserved as well as your refrigerator but without any energy costs

Finally, herbs were presented in the light that we should be growing these for our winter health to fight against bacterias, colds, flu, and viruses.  There is a herbal medicine makers handbook for anyone that really wants to delve further into the subject.  Sambucol, Usnea, Elderberry, and Mullenflowers were the ones we discussed being here in the Rocky Mountains.

In any case, I hope more people start growing their own food.  It is delicious, nutritious, cheap, and can provide aesthetic interest to any garden.

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