Eliot Coleman at Horticulture Industries Show in Tulsa, January 2008

was a new name to me until I became interested in growing greens here at home. Food safety, convenience, freshness and the joy of growing were my motivations. "Four-Season Harvest" is one of the top resources for anyone considering growing their own food for home use or to sell at markets and restaurants.

Today's column in the Muskogee Phoenix summarized the book and an upcoming horticulture show where the author, Eliot Coleman will be speaking. Enjoy!

Published December 26, 2007 06:05 pm - Garden column: Gardeners and those who are interested in selling at farmers' markets will find a treasure trove of information at the Horticulture Industries Show in Tulsa on Jan. 4 and 5.

The Kerr Center, Oklahoma State University, the Arkansas State Horticulture Society and other organizations sponsor the show so costs are kept well below a usual two-day conference.

This year's show, "Celebrating Horticulture Four Seasons of Success," will offer several topics: growing fruit, Christmas tree farming, growing and selling herbs, public gardens and master gardeners, farmers' markets, vegetables and sustainable agriculture.

Many of the classes are repeated on both days so you will be able to attend most of the sessions of interest.Keynote speaker, Eliot Coleman, is a big draw at this year's show because he is so well known. Coleman designs garden tools for Johnny's Selected Seeds. His books include, "The New Organic Grower," "The Winter Harvest Manual" and "Four Season Harvest."

In addition to keynote addresses on both days, Coleman is giving two workshops on Jan. 5. Coleman has been an organic grower for 40 years, raising vegetables in the field and in greenhouses, cold frames and unheated tunnel greenhouses. In fact, he and his wife, Barbara Damrosch, sell fresh salad greens and vegetables from October through May in Maine using minimally heated greenhouses.

One of Coleman's passions is the importance of small scale organic growing. Coleman's wife, Barbara Damrosch, was his co-host of the television series, "Gardening Naturally," and now Damrosch's gardening advice appears in her weekly column in the Washington Post. "Four-Season Harvest" is the book a person needs to have if they want fresh homegrown vegetables all year for their own healthy meals or for selling to restaurants and at markets.

Most vegetable gardeners grow from May to October, then can freeze for the winter. Coleman and Damrosch grow spinach, scallions, arugula, radicchio, miner's lettuce, radish, Swiss chard, corn salad, tatsoi and other cool season vegetables in season-extending structures such as cold frames. Coleman suggests starting a four-season garden on an area the size of a tablecloth.

Selecting the right seed variety, building healthy soil and working with nature are the keys to success Coleman presents in optimistic detail. Living soil, built of compost is the foundation of Coleman's healthy plants. Straw is at the base the foundation of the compost pile and the compost-holding structure can actually be built of straw bales placed under deciduous trees. Legumes, such as peas are planted for eating and for their ability to improve soil fertility. Coleman suggests planting legume seeds under beans, eggplant, corn and other crops so that the peas create green manure while they cool the soil and prevent weeds. They can also be planted in any bed you want to improve for the future.

The chapters on planting and cultivating have sketches of possible methods: structures, rows, beds, cold frame and low tunnel construction, temporary A-frame, and the use of garden-improving tools (including ducks).

One of the cold frame potting soil recipes will serve to illustrate Coleman's practical approach: three buckets sifted peat moss, two cups organic fertilizer blend (made of green sand, phosphate rock and cottonseeds meal), one bucket perlite and three buckets compost. The bucket is eight quarts.

Greenhouse construction, seed selection and growing, planting charts, natural pest control in a balanced garden and charts of planting dates round out the text. "Four Season Harvest" published 1992 and 1999 by Chelsea Green Publishing Co., http://www.chelseagreen.com/ and (800) 639-4099. The publisher's green-theme blog is at flaminggrasshopper.com.

A write up on Coleman's journey to organic growing is at http://family-friendly-fun.com/leisure/gardening/Eliot-Coleman.htm .Four Season Farm is the name of the Coleman/Damrosch business and their Web site is http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/. A Web cast of Damrosch speaking about her love of gardening during a Library of Congress Book Festival is at www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3532.

Highlights of the two-day horticulture show

Anyone who would like to grow herbs will find these seminars of interest since successful growers and sellers are teaching the workshops. Their topics range from growing and cooking with herbs to fall blooming flowers. Sharon Beasley of Beasley's Bounty in Newcastle is speaking on "Flowers that Bloom in the Fall.""Fall does not have to be a sad time of year for gardeners and flower lovers," Beasley said. "There are many plants you can get color from in the fall such as cool weather perennials and annuals like beauty berry, Texas salvia, Toad Lilies and Mexican sage." Beasley said five gallon and other large pots planted with fall bloomers could make a big difference in the landscape. She will provide lists of choices at the seminar.

In the public gardens classes, the Jan. 4 topics include: "Polite Fences — Privacy with Plants," "Rustic Structures in the Garden and Hydroponics."

On Jan. 5, presentations include: landscape design, honeybees, vermicomposting and unusual plants. The fruit presentations are split over two days. Jan. 4's topics include: apples, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and pecans. On Jan. 5, viticulturists, food scientists and horticulture specialists will speak on wine grapes.

Friday's workshops for vegetable growers include: onion production, growing multiple crops, hoop houses and organics. On Saturday, the sessions include: farm labor, plastic mulch and specialty melons. Christmas tree farmers will learn about species selection and disease prevention.

Anyone interested in growing to sell will benefit from attending.


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