Late January Harvest


I will never forget how excited I felt when I first read Eliot Coleman’s book “The Winter Harvest Handbook,” and saw the photos of fresh greens growing under a layer of cloth in an unheated hoophouse in the middle of winter. “Oh, I want to do that,” I thought, and so we did…

This is our second winter of growing food in our own unheated greenhouse and it has been an amazing experience. Last year at this time, we had had over 47 inches of snow, it was so much colder, and we shoveled heavy snow to keep the greenhouse from collapsing, at least 6 times. The small amount of greens we planted in there all got harvested by Christmas. We started some carrots, and several plantings of other hearty veggies, beginning at the end of January, planting several successions through March.

We moved the hoophouse off those crops in April once they could survive outdoors and then planted tomatoes in there a whole month early. All of these crops thrived, pointing the way to our successful future. We got an extra month on either end of the season with the tomatoes, and the early planted carrots and romaine heads gave our CSA customers a gorgeous first couple of shares in mid-June, way ahead of what we were able to do in earlier years. We have already bought the steel to build a second, larger hoophouse.

This year’s unusual temperatures has kept everything alive in the hoophouse much longer, and with much less snow shoveling (yay!). Yesterday, January 26, I harvested spinach, mache, arugula and leeks to sell at a local food event  in Manchester-by-the-Sea tomorrow. I’ll be one of several vendors selling for a couple of hours. Afterward, I’ve been invited as the farmer representative, to speak about local food on a panel, followed by Q & A. A late January market is a first for us, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

But first, I must show you my daily commute. A far cry from my former life as an administrator at a local college, my commute now requires no gasoline to be burned. I’m so happy about this! That’s Charger, my son Michael’s dog, who spent the morning hanging out with me. Since he doesn’t have any sheep to herd, his job of keeping the sticks in order around the farm is taken very seriously.

 You can see how he got his name…

Zoom zoom!

Ha ha! Here I am!

Here we are at last, nearing the hoophouse, about a two-minute walk away…

Inside, the crops are protected under hoops covered by a second layer of Reemay cloth. This protection gives us conditions that are a couple of zones further south to grow in.

Peeling back the cloth is an easy, one person task. We’ve already been eating glorious fresh salads, so there doesn’t appear to be much left…However, appearances are deceiving!

The temperature inside, and out, as well as the relative humidity when I began harvesting at noon. It was a little cloudy.

And of course, the coat comes off right away!

Here was the day’s high, at around 2:30 p.m. after the sun had come out. Note the drop in humidity due to my comings and goings through the open door.

The day’s harvest.

Later, I will show you how we kept the carrots fresh in a deep hole in the ground covered with hay. I will be harvesting those this morning for tomorrow’s market…

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5 Comments

Filed under CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Late January Harvest

  1. Desiree

    HA HA that what charger loves to do all day! its been wonderful eating these fresh veggies every day!

  2. Hi there I’ve just popped over from the Kitchensgarens blog. and what a delight to see and read. I came across Eliot Coleman’s books a couple of years ago too, and also found them highly inspiring. Although not on your scale (I’m a home gardener/grower) it’s amazing what you can grow in winter.

    • maggiemehaffey

      It is. (Thanks for looking in on us. I was blown away by that award…) Coleman’s books made extended season gardening just seem so comprehensible and DOable for us. It made sense, and not for a lot of cost. It’s so great to be growing (and eating) healthy food. Of course, I think everyone should have a garden and it doesn’t matter what size it is. Growing your own food is so satisfying and it’s empowering to know where our food is coming from.

  3. Hi, I found your blog through Cecilia awarding you the Red Shoe award. Congrats on your recognition. That’s a lovely looking harvest from your hoop house. How lovely for you to be able to enjoy fresh greens during your winter months.

    • maggiemehaffey

      Just popped over to your blog and am still smiling over the broken toe story. How wonderful to find such a lively, literate and interesting community of bloggers through Cecilia! The greens are delicious, and just what we need in the winter.

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