Thursday, October 25, 2007

Growing Vegetables, and plants year round

Group: The following exchange regarding growing during the winter vs
extending your growing season with the Mittleider Method and storing
your bounty for use during the winter is instructive.

A gentleman wrote: "we need year round food growing in northern Utah
and southern Idaho, not to mention northern Nevada. Who do I contact
to get involved with promoting that?"

My first reply was: "Are you interested in doing it yourself? There
are difficulties to overcome, including lack of sunlight days in
winter, and extreme cold during 4 months of the year. In order to
make year-round growing feasible you first need an inexpensive heat

Some folks have tried burying their greenhouse. If you put it into a
hillside on the North and insulate very well it can help. Also, some
folks fill black plastic barrels with water, and the radiant heat as
the water cools each night helps keep the greenhouse air from
freezing. And if you have access to a thermal water or heat source
you could probably do it if you have the sunlight.

Of course you might be able to grow enough for family survival by
sprouting, and such. And growing the cool-weather crops gives some
success if you can maintain 50+ degrees in the daytime and avoid hard
frosts at night.
We fully agree that people need to be growing their own food in a
serious way".

He then told me he lives near some hot springs, and tries to get
people interested in helping him finance a greenhouse operation, with
little success so far. He enclosed an Idaho Department of Water
Resources paper from 1988 about greenhouse growing, which I'm addint
to the Files section here.

My final response was: "Let me make some observations about year-
round growing, and about alternatives.

In my view, unless things can be done by and for a substantial
portion of the people it is probably not worth taking heroic measures
to do the thing.

If there is a very small community and a large geothermal heat source
it might be possible to grow enough for the community, but the cost
is high even then.

Our experience in 30+ countries has been that if food is grown using
the Mittleider Method, so much is produced that there is ample to
store and use throughout the winter months.

And cool storage is MUCH less costly than building and heating a
greenhouse through the winter. All you have to do is build
underground and insulate.

Fall crops of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnips, beets, winter
squashes, and even tomatoes can be stored and used fresh for many
months if done properly. I've eaten tomatoes from my garden in
January. And cabbage and carrots look and taste as if fresh picked
as late as April of the next year.

I recommend you study the articles I've written on 1) extending the
growing season both Spring and Fall, and 2) winter food storage.
Using the inexpensive materials and procedures I describe can add as
much as 3 months to your growing season, and proper winter storage
can give you fresh vegetables for up to 6 months. Those articles
can be found in the Archives of the Gardening Group, and in the FAQ
section at www.growfood. com.

Add to that the increased yields obtained with the Mittleider Method -
amounting to 3 to 10 times traditional yields - and there is usually
little real need to grow during the coldest winter months in my

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