Master winter gardener Eliot Coleman grows year round in Maine, USA. UK, guerrilla gardener Chris Tomlinson secretly plants food. “HumptyDumptyTribe” warns global famine from climate change comng soon. Winter greenhouse interview from “Locavore,” with Martin Ronda at the U. of Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming. Radio Ecoshock Show 111207 1 hour.


1. “Winter Gardening with Eliot Coleman”

How to grow food in winter, even in Northern climates. Master gardener Eliot Coleman, from Four Seasons Farm in Bar Harbor Maine, grows (and sells) vegetables year-round, using inexpensive portable “hoop house” greenhouses, with no added heat source. Classic how-to interview, from Radio Ecoshock Show 111207 23 minutes 5 MB

2. “Guerrilla Gardening”

How to create an edible landscape on public and private lands. UK “Guerrilla of Love” Chris Tomlinson explains how he secretly plants food, perennials and trees, in waste lands, untended gardens, and even city streets. Fun interview on serious topic, as economy erodes. From Radio Ecoshock show 111207 9 minutes 2 MB

3. “Global Famine Starts in Texas”

From You tube, excellent rant and demonstration of Texas heat killing off ability of garden plants to set fruit. Above 85 degree F days, and without going below 68 F nights – no tomatoes, beans, mellons, nada. A portent of coming global famine as global warming develops, says this You tube poster “Humptydumptytribe”. 9 minutes selected for Radio Ecoshock 111207 Global Famine Starts in Texas 2 MB

full video here:

4. “Locavore: Winter Gardening in Canada”

Nuts and bolts of how to grow vegetables even in a Canadian winter, with no extra heating. Walter Garrison, host of “Locavore” on CFRU Guelph, Ontario interviews Martin Ronda in greenhouse of Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming. Excerpts for Radio Ecoshock 111207 18 minutes. 4 MB


1. “Winter Gardening with Eliot Coleman”

We want fresh, organic, local food. Now with a sour economy, and rising food prices, that all gets even better. But most of us buy agribusiness produce in the winter, when Nature doesn’t exactly encourage growing our own.

Master gardener Eliot Coleman says we CAN grow food year-round – and you don’t have to live in Florida or Southern California to do it. From his famous “Four Seasons Farm” in Harborside Maine, Eliot tells us how, in his “Winter Harvest Handbook“.

A few notes from our interview:

1.1 Coleman uses a combination of plastic and fabric to keep plants from freezing in the Maine winters.

The first is UV-resistant greenhouse grade plastic over simple hoops made out of plastic piping. This outer “greenhouse” is light and portable. Later, Eliot explains why.

Inside, there is a second fabric cover over the rows of plants. This is “spun-bonded” fabric, sold by seed houses and other garden supply stores. It is easily moved off the plants during the daytime, to allow as much light as possible. But it retains the soil heat during the night, to keep crops alive.

2. There are no pots, and no tables. Everything is grown in the ground. See above.

3. The greenhouse is mobile because:

3.1 it can shelter warm weather crops, like tomatoes, to get the maximum, and then moved over the cold weather crops as needed

3.2 fixed greenhouses, Coleman says, tend to build up problems like insects or moulds. If the ground is exposed to the elements for part of the year, this is far less likely to happen.

4. Aside from heat, the critical element is light. Maine, he says, is on a similar latitude to Southern France. It gets as much light as northern Italy, where everyone expects fresh greens daily. There is enough light in the northern U.S., and southern Canada to grow through the winter. (See also the Guelph interview below). People have winter gardens in Norway and Sweden.

5. For sucess, select winter hardy vegetables. These include spinach, arugula, some lettuce varieties, carrot, beets, kale, scallions, swiss chard, and more.

6. Forget the focus on tomatoes! That is not what winter gardening is about.

7. Coleman used some extra heat for about 5 years, but found it was not necessary. Lately his greenhouses have no wood or fossil fuel heat at all.

8. Grow lights are too expensive to run, considering the value of the vegetables.

9. There is a commercial market for fresh winter veggies. They keep longer for restaurants, than those shipped from further South. The most important point is these cold-hardy vegetables respond to the challenge with excellent taste. People love the taste and freshness.

10. Eliot thinks vegetables from California and Florida will not stop coming. They are just so cheap, even if diesel fuel quadruples in price, it won’t add all that much to a head of cauliflower.

11. Eliot lives with Barbara Damrosch, author of “The Garden Primer” and more. He started his “farm” in Bar Harbor, Maine in 1968. At that time, all he could afford was acreage with pine-type forest, not farming land at all. Over the years since, he has worked up the soil into prime shape, about 14 acres in production.

12. The new book “The Winter Harvest Handbook” is an update to his classic “Four Season Harvest” (still an excellent investment). The Handbook has more for commercial growers as well, if you hope to make some extra income from winter greens.

13. Coleman is fascinated by the Transition movement. He’s glad to see it.


All those public lands clothed in lawns and decorative trees, while people go hungry. Why haven’t authorities clued into the rising cost of food and poverty?

We live in lost landscapes of the Victorian and Middle Class past. Chris Tomlinson and the “Guerillas of Love” are determined to change all that.

Actually, Chris confesses he is “the guerrillas of love”. While there are lots of other guerrillas out there, Tomlinson needed a name to get a couple of grants to buy trees to plant. The Lush Cosmetics shops helped him with a few hundred pounds. Good on them.

So what is “guerrilla gardening”?

Chris looks for waste spaces to plant perennial food varieties. These may be close to where he is staying, so he can water them during the summer.

But his most successful plantings have popped up in people’s front gardens, right on private property.

Chris also plants fruit trees in cities and towns. He may put on a jacket that suggests he is a city worker, as he puts in a new tree.

Occasionally, other city crew see them. A few got yanked out. Others were thought to be official, so they get mulched and maybe even get a railing or fence put around them. Success! More public food planted.

Since tree planting can be time intensive, Chris has also scheduled some activity “in the wee hours of the morning.”

In Britain, the worst that can happen is a civil fine – no criminal offence. He’s been rousted by a couple of cops. One of them was friendly, and had a garden in a community allotment himself.

Chris moves to different communities. He was in Nottingham for a while. Now he’s moved on to places unmentioned.

Tomlinson said he became depressed, partly about the state of the world, a few years ago. “Gardening saved me” he says. Looking back, I think gardening might have saved me too, when I went back to the land (as polluting civilization drove me a bit crazy…)

Many, many people have found balance and satisfaction from gardening. Perhaps you would like to become a guerrilla gardener too? Try for more info. That’s Richard Reynold’s site in the UK.

Our cities seem purposely hostile not just to nature, but to the citizens. We pave over as much as we can, to save maintenance costs. Then we plant the most boring ground cover, and trees with no possible help for the population. How did we get into such a situation?

When I was in Morocco, the avenues were lined with orange trees. Everyone had free oranges. When will we rethink the ban on creating an edible landscape?

As the economy tanks, Peak Oil kicks in, and climate spikes the food prices, I can see a new department of food and agriculture opening in every city.

With very tough economic times coming, we’ll need the food, especially for the poor (which will be most of us). Plant now, and plant often.


I was surfing You tube just this past week, and found a gem in the new uploads.

“Humptydumptytribe” (a.k.a. Hambone Littletail) says he is going to show us the first sign of the start of global famine, due to global warming.

He starts out with his frustration with the deniers in Austin Texas. Then I expect a tour of the dried out caked ground, maybe with dead cows, after the record drought in Texas.

Nope. Not about that. His camera stays on a lush green garden. Why?

On closer inspection, the plants grew big, there are lots of blooms, plenty of bees, and hardly any fruit.

For example, the first row of tomatoes planted in April grew tomatoes only on the very lowest branches, and nothing after that. The second row of about nine plants look grand, and have just ONE tomato.

Searching on the Net, for “poor fruit set on tomatoes” – he found out: if the daytime temperatures are above 85 degrees during the time of fruit set, and night temperatures stay hot (above 68 degrees) no fruit will be set.

This applied not just to tomatoes, but to his melons, and his pole beans. If Mr. Littletail needed this garden to survive, he would starve.

Austin, and all of Texas had the hottest spring and summer on record. This will be normal in the coming decades. Where these heat conditions apply, crops will fail in many parts of the world, becoming a global famine.

Countless scientific studies and food experts confirm and warn this is coming. In just one example, Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute, a recognized expert in grain crops, said rice is within one degree of its tolerance. If the rice growing areas go up one degree of average temperature, they may not set fruit. No rice, or greatly reduced rise equals mass starvation in Asia.

On our current course, various experts and institutes warn, we are headed for a global mean temperature rise of at least 3 degrees C., maybe 5 or 6 C.

In the You tube video, Humptydumptytribe wonders if the 2010 record increase in carbon dioxide emissions is responsible for the heat and drought in Texas this year. It isn’t proved, he says, but it looks like good circumstantial evidence.

In any case, a lot of studies have shown the U.S. south will get around three months of days over 100 degrees every year, or every second year, within a decade or two. Texas almost got that this year. Maybe it has come already?

Check out the video. It’s excellent.

Find his video channel here.


We end with this excellent recording about the nitty-gritty of growing veggies in the winter, unheated, in souther Ontario, Canada.

Here is some information about the original program, from the host Walter Garrison’s blog.

“I host a radio program called Locavore! on CFRU 93.3 FM, based out of Guelph, Ontario. On this show I talk to farmers, processors, restaranteurs, chefs, retailers, brewers, winemakers, researchers, nutritionists, politicians, pretty well anyone who has an impact on the food system as we experience it.

Fifteen years ago I grew fruits and vegetables for a local restaurant in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Some people did not believe I could grow field tomatoes commercially in central Alberta. I did.

The Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming is located on-site of the University of Guelph. The farm provides a place for students from the university and the local school board to obtain practical experience in learning how to grow food. It is intended to be a trial garden for urban food production. Martha Gay Scroggins oversees this initiative. A few years ago, Dr. Ann Clark and a number of others on campus decided that they wanted an organic farm on campus. The university donated the northwest corner of the University of Guelph Arboretum for this project.”

Martha Gay Scroggins at the University of Guelph has been one of the driving forces behind this experimental greenhouse.

The interview was posted on last winter, but now I can’t find the original link. It was broadcast on CFRU on January 27th, 2011.

The guest is Martin Ronda. He laboriously dug up the compacted soil in the greenhouse, and hauled up many wheel-barrow loads of water from a stream, before a well was installed.

They get electricity from an extention cord from a nearby parking lot. The power runs two fans which blow air to inflate the two layers of plastic on the outside of the greenhouse. It is a fixed base building.

Like Coleman, Ronda uses a second sheet of row covering which can be drawn over the plants at night. Unlike Coleman, the Guelph crew use black water barrels to absorb heat during the day, and keep the temperature up at night.

Most of the same hardy vegetables are planted. There is good advice on timing in the interview. For example carrots and beets might be planted in late August, and then again in September, to give at least two crops. Planting of other vegetables might go on into mid-October.

During the winter, with less light, in fact during the 6 week around the Solstice, plants hardly grow at all. They need no watering at this stage. They they take off again as more light returns. You can still eat most of them right through the winter.

Ronda observes younger “teenage” veggies survive extreme cold better than mature plants.

There is a lot of down-to-earth knowledge passed on through this fine interview. Thank you Walter and Locovore for getting this info out.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock