Self-proclaimed Salad Green Queen

So, why the crazy title?  It was the fall of 2008 and I was finishing up the Master Gardener course through the University of Maine Extension.  They had planned a potluck dinner for the awards ceremony.  Now when you ask a group of eager volunteer gardeners to bring food during harvest time, things get very creative.  Most people love food but gardeners are at a whole different level here.  They relish every tasty bit of their labors.    img_1314

When  I reached the enormous salad taking up most of the space in a large wooden bowl, I couldn’t get over the gorgeous array of greens and reds mixed with nasturtium blossoms.  Then our class coordinator said that all the greens had been harvested that very morning in her hoop house.  What?!?!  I had used up the greens in my garden months ago.  This began my quest for learning about season extension.  Yes, I had learned about greenhouses and things, but until I saw that salad my interest in lettuce had been relegated to a few ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ plants harvested sometime in July.  The idea of wintering over greens hadn’t really taken seed in my brain yet.  What I was about to learn sent me on a journey to learn with a ravenous need for knowledge that I had never had before.                                                    

Under wraps! Growing in December.
Under wraps! Growing in December.

For the next six months I embarked on a learning adventure.  I devoured any information I could find on season extension.  At that time, many other gardeners and farmers were also interested in feeding their families longer and extending their profits for their businesses.  It seemed like every new issue of Mother Earth News had another article on the topic.  The following spring, a friend and I make the trek up to Harborside, Maine to visit the farm of Eliot Coleman.  He is somewhat of a celebrity in the gardening world, authoring several books on the subject of season extension like The Winter Harvest Handbook and Four-Season Harvest.

Harvesting in the greenhouse.
Harvesting in the greenhouse.

By the next fall, after having my husband build a hoop over one of my raised beds, I was ready.  The results were astounding!  Now what was once a mystery has just meshed with the rhythm of the seasons.  Multiple planting times ensure continual harvests.  It is rare that I have nothing to pick.  Yes, I still do buy lettuce when I need to but for the most part my salad bowl is full!

Fabulous greens!
Fabulous greens!

This would be the first chapter in my season extending salad green adventure.  Future blog entries will chronicle hoop house growing as well as just about anything that grows.  Subscribe in sidebar if you like!  Please join me for tons of info on season extension!

Hilary|Everlongardener