The Garden Plot: Simply Put, Roots are Important

Roots, Putting Them Up

Red & white onions, pumpkins and delicata squash ready for storage.

If you did not (despite good intentions) plant carrots, beets, onions, garlic, etc… it’s not too late to enjoy them well into the winter. The majority of our locally grown root crops can be stored with ease for up to 8 months. The easiest ones I normally store are: winter squash, potatoes (sweet and regular), onions, garlic, carrots and beets.

Think about visiting a local farmer or farmers’ market and asking about their “seconds” (ones with blemishes) that they normally do not sell. You can often get storage crops really cheaply if you get it in bulk. With proper storage this will take you through the winter for all your veggie needs.

Here is the way I store the my roots:

Winter squash, potatoes, onions and garlic– they like it cool and dry, think an unheated room in the fall. Ideally about 40-50 degrees with normal humidity will keep these fresh for months. But do not let them freeze, or they will be a soup when they thaw! For packaging simplicity you might choose to pile them into a 5 gallon bucket but be careful of spoilage. Because “one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch.”

Carrots and beets– They need a colder temperature and higher humidity than the group above for efficient long term storage. Assuming you do not have a root cellar, here is what you can do: get some 5 gallon buckets and some sand, sawdust or leaves as moisture holding packing materials. Wet the packing materials (I use sawdust) and pack it in around the roots in the bucket. Ideally beets and carrots will be colder then the other crops so if you can find a colder part of the house all the better. Because they are insulated in packing material if it drops below 32 degrees, it is no big deal as they will not freeze, but dropping WAY below 32 then you will have a problem. For this, you can think about a simple hole in the ground with a door on top. I have kept veggies this way for the entire winter.

Local, fresh and inexpensive….what is there not to like? Take your families sustenance and security into your own hands while enjoying locally grown vegetables all winter long!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim McSweeney

Jim is a certified arborist, certified horticulturist, licensed pesticide applicator (needed for the application of organic pesticides in MA) & a professional landscape designer with over 15 years experience. He is also the owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden LLC. Jim is on the faculty at the New England Wildflower Society, teaching courses on a diverse range of topics. He lives and works in Zone 5 (Chesterfield, MA) with his family. Once a month here on Hilltown Families you will find timely gardening tips, from a pro in the field, that can be easily used by both avid and novice gardeners, specific to Western MA.

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