Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Winter Growing of Vegetables in Cold Climates – Practical or Necessary?

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 source.

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,

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, and in the FAQ section at

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 opinion."

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Mittleider gardening books Now on CD & by Digital Download!

We are SO excited to announce the availability of 5 of the very important Mittleider gardening books, as well as his 9 Manuals, for digital down-load - right here on the FFEF website!

You can now have instant access to The Mittleider Gardening Course, Grow-Bed Gardening, Let's Grow Tomatoes, Gardening by the Foot, and 6 Steps to Successful Gardening.

Two books, Let's Grow Tomatoes and Grow-Bed Gardening are out of print, so this makes them now available once again. All books and manuals even cost 20% less than the discounted prices for which the paper copies sell on the website. Scroll down the pages on the website and you will find the digital books listed. Enjoy, and tell your friends!
you can find more info at the PDF section of

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How To Save Crops From Freezing In Your Garden

Q. I have a farm in Afghanistan, which is about 30,000 square
metres, in which mainly grapes are grown. In the cold winter the
grape vines are buried under the ground because of the very cold
weather and then in the spring the vines are exposed to air and
light, then the vines become green. Mostly this works, but in some
years, after the plants grow their leaves and grapes, the weather
becomes cold again for only one night. All the grapes freeze and
become black in color, and there is no time for the plants to grow
new fruits because of the arrival of the winter.

Is there any solution for this problem other than a green house,
because it will be too expensive to cover all of the farm. Is there
a way to warm the plants for one night only? This year the whole
yield of grapes was frozen. Please help, PLease help!

A. 1) Watering everything, including the ground as well as the
entire plant, immediately before it freezes, can sometimes save a
crop if the frost is not too hard.

2) Another solution may be to have many small fires burning throughout your vineyard during the time temperatures go below freezing. In america this is done with propane and kerosene heaters, but that would be too expensive for you. We also use fans to blow the warm air throughout the orchard, garden, or vineyard.

The book Food For Everyone, available at, is a college-level text with hundreds of pictures, and should be in the library of every serious vegetable grower.

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