FOOD: Winter Farming

BY KATHLEEN NIXON
January 4, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

While winter may have us in its icy grip, we do still have access to local seasonal vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and a wide variety of Asian greens. Many farmers markets including our own continue to provide fresh local vegetables. But what about growing your own? Yes, it is still possible to have vegetables growing in your garden like spinach, kale and carrots like I have in mine throughout the winter, but you would have had to plant them a little earlier in the fall. But why share this with you now? If you are like me, the seed and gardening catalogs have started to arrive in your mailboxes. Out with the gift catalogs and in with fantasizing about perfect well weeded tomato, zucchini and pepper gardens.

What I have enjoyed about this year’s seed catalogs is the opportunity to learn about heirloom seed varieties that will do well in our area in the winter. As I plan my spring and summer garden, I also pick a few vegetables that I will put in at the end of summer that will continue to grow throughout the end of the year and be harvested next winter.

Many of the farms in our area practice four season farming to support various CSAs ( Community Supported Agriculture ) and restaurants. My favorite book on this is Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest which I read frequently. While many may think that we cannot grow food year round in our climate, Elliot shows how he has done this in northern Maine for several years based on techniques he learned in northern France.

Better than reading about this, you can actually see how this is done locally through the Winter Farming Lecture Series provided by the Accokeek Foundation. They are offering a four Saturday lecture series starting January 12 at local farms that support the Washington DC area with winter produce. One of the farms featured is Tree and Leaf Farm in Unionville, Virginia who is a regular year round vendor at our local farmers market. You can go to one or all four of the lectures.

This is an opportunity to get out and see winter farms in action, pick up a few gardening tips and maybe think about growing your own vegetables next winter.

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January 4, 2013 

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