Storing Root Vegetables in the Ground
One of my favorite ways to store root crops is right in the garden where you grew them. It is very simple to do with some proper timing and some good mulch materials. You have to have a winter climate that gets cool enough to produce freezing temperatures but not so cold that you can't keep the soil where you have the root vegetables from freezing solid. Storing in the garden is not only an efficient way to store root crops it can make them taste better as well. The cold temperatures can cause one of two things to occur with starchy vegetables.
Either way what you get is a much more delicious vegetable after a frost or two then you would have had before. There are quite a few different types of vegetables that will get better including,
In Garden Storage for Root Crops
There are a couple things to keep in mind when you are considering in garden storage of your fall grown produce.
A delicate balancing act occurs between to warm and to cold when you are considering storage in the garden. With the extra exposure that occurs when storing like this you run the risk of your root crops being too warm and starting to sprout again or maybe even freezing solid. The sweet spot to try and maintain your veggies is around 34 degrees with a relatively high humidity. The higher humidity in this case is typically generated by the surrounding soil so very little should be done here unless you have had a very dry fall. If you stray from that 34 degree for too long a time your roots can be frozen or start to grow again which is not ideal for long term storage.
Do you have a long gentle fall or does it seem to skip straight from hot and steamy to below zero. Do you get lots of rain in the fall or is it typically dry and sunny. Questions like these will help you determine when you need to be covering up your root crops with mulching material. With most of them there will be a hardening off period where you want them to get exposed to a few light frosts. This change to cold sends the signal to the plants that it is time to be shutting down for the winter and this is when the sugars will start to form in the vegetables. But you want to hold off on covering the plants with mulch until the last possible day. When the weather forecast starts to call for heavy snow or hard frost and bitter cold the time is about right.
There are all sorts of mulching materials available to the average consumer but for this particular activity there are only a few that will do. The goal is to create a blanket of protection over the crops that will moderate the temperatures and keep them as close to that 34 degrees as possible. The best you can have is nice clean straw. Straw works the best because of its stiff stems which prevent compaction and the ability of it to trap air in its layers. Just like in your house it is the air trapped by the fiberglass insulation not the fiberglass itself that is doing the insulating. So once the time comes to cover them up you will want a minimum of 6 inches. Here is South Dakota where I live I can usually do 6-8 inches of material and my carrots will be just fine. If you live in a colder climate than me you will want more like 10-12 inches.
Another item to consider when it comes to what you use to mulch is some sort of waterproofing layer between your crop and mulch. Since I live in South Dakota and we tend to have drier falls this hasn’t been a concern for me. But if you live in place that gets heavy fall rains followed by cold temperatures you can end up freezing your root crops in place if the ground is to wet. Like I said I haven’t dealt with this personally but it could be a problem where you live.
For more information check out other articles and tips here on the Green Living Library.
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