How to store vegetables in basement or ground?
(Moncton, NB, Canada)
This is our first attempt at storing vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, squash, watermelon, pumkin and cucumbers. Ive heard that i can just put them in a wooden box in a cool dry place, but there seems to be confusion over whether we are to leave them in their soil?
Storing Vegetables from the Garden
Here are some alternative options instead of using your fridge or freezer to store surplus vegetables from the garden. I've given information about summer and winter storage, to help all readers from all areas.
There are several options to keep your surplus longer. Vegetables that store well are: potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, swedes/rutabags and most of the pumpkin and squashes (not cukes – too watery, best to pickle). Other vegetables will store Ok, although often better if left in the ground, such as: Jerusalem artichokes, celery and brassica family. For onions, read Growing and Storing Onions
Leave crops in the garden for as long as possible because the colder the nights the more sugar is produced, but don't be caught out by several deep frosts which will turn your produce to mush. Any warnings, grab an old blanket, or use straw, grass, leaves, sacks etc and cover in the frosty times.
One way to store vegetables for both summer harvests or over winter is to first harvest them, then remove as much dirt as possible. Make sure they are dry then keep them cool, dry and dark as possible out of the weather somewhere, such as a garage, shed, or basement/cellar. Inspect them regularly and turn if there's any sign of dampness. Some should last around 3 months more or less. Using newspaper, wood or similar is better than say, concrete to put your vegetables on.
Secondly, some brassicas, celery and other thick leafy crops (turn cabbages upside down to stop dirt in leaves), root crops like carrots and others, can be dug up and stored in slightly damp, cold sand in buckets or heeled into a sand or straw pile or a pit outside. Put a loose lid or cover on to stop rain, and if winter to stop prolonged freezing. Easy to just pull out what you need when you need it.
Lastly a popular way to store winter veggies because it produces sweeter crops is to just leave them where they are in or on the ground. The caveat to this is if you are in a heavy snow or frost area, then some preparation is needed. Make sure before the first hard frosts that soil is covering all crowns of roots, but leave the leafy tops to continue to supply food to roots.
In fact with this method of storing vegetables over winter, you can also keep winter greens, such as cabbage, kale, celery, spinach and chard.
When the warmth of the sun has gone and cold nights are looking decidedly ominous, cover crops with mulch – a layer of about 15cm (6") will do in areas with little or no heavy continuous frosts and snow. It's Ok for some of the green tops to poke out.
But for the serious winter areas, the trick is to time things right. Leave alone to grow, then before a string of bad frosts hits that freezes the soil, mulch at least 30cm (1ft), covering everything, green, red, brown and yellow. When snow comes and covers everything, no matter how deep, your plants should be fine and getting really sweet and tasty. Snow actually protects the plants from more serious black frosts.
A tarpaulin, sheets of tin roofing or other handy material, over the top of your mulch, be it straw, leaves or similar, makes it easier to lift and harvest what you might fancy, plus it stops the mulch from scattering in the wind. Putting mulch into old sacks is another way to hold it in place and makes it easier to remove a sack at a time.
Vegetables stored over winter like this are mouthwateringly (that's a mouthful) sweet and tasty in spring, and what you don't eat, in most cases will sprout in the warm weather and you can harvest greens or wait until they flower and give you seeds.