Storing Carrots in Garden Overwinter
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You look out at the garden in December and you see nothing but bare trees, brown grass and snow covered ground. How could you possibly leave carrots in the garden and expect them to be fine when you want to eat them. The key to storing carrots in the garden overwinter is a combination of good timing and insulation. If done correctly you could be enjoying fresh carrots all through the winter in most climates and what could be better then biting into a fresh garden carrot in December.
Step 1- Gather Your Insulation Materials
In order to properly store carrots in the garden you will need to insulate them as heavily as you can before the winter fully sets in. As the time when the cold really comes changes from year to year it will be a good idea to have your material on hand and ready to go so you are not scrambling last minute to find it. The best insulation material you can use is straw. Its hollow stems and rigid strength help keep it fluffy and loose as snow piles up in it. But in a pinch you can use other materials like pine needles or tree leaves as well.
Step 2- Wait Till The Time Is Right
This one is tricky and it pays to know when the first frost dates for your area are supposed to occur. The frost date will give you an idea for when to watch out for the truly freezing temperatures that are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important not to insulate them to soon because that could cause moisture issues with the carrots that would ruin them. Carrots are a cool season vegetable crop and as such will keep growing in temperatures that would shut down other crops. As the temperatures continue to go down they will begin to enter a hibernation mode and when they do that is the time to cover them up to protect them from getting to cold. You can usually cover them up when the nighttime temperatures start to get consistently below 32 degrees.
Step 3- Cover Them Up
Now that the temperature is where you need it to be you can cover them up with your materiel Before you start to cover them flag the location of the carrots with sticks or pin flags so that you aren't playing the where did I leave the carrots game in the middle of December. Then begin to cover them with a nice even layer of the material you have. If you have straw I would lay that down first and then cover it up with leaves or pine needles. The colder the climate the deeper you will want to layer the insulation. Here in South Dakota I have found a layer 4-6 inches deep to be sufficient. Also if you are in a colder climate you will want to insulate past the edge of the carrots as well to give them even more protection.
Step 4- Harvest
When you harvest the carrots from the garden carefully remove the snow and materials from where you want to dig. If you did everything right the soil around the carrots will still be easy to move and you can dig some carrots right up. After you have taken what you want carefully cover up the rest of them with the material you moved.
Assuming you did everything right and you don't get weeks of subzero temperatures you will be able to enjoy the carrots long into the winter season. If they do last over the whole winter make sure to dig them up before spring so they don't start growing again on you. However if you want to harvest carrot seed then you should let them grow and harvest the seed for another years crop.