In mid-January, I did a complete inventory and assessed the success of a variety of storage bins and insulators. I tried three basic bin/insulation types: solid plastic Rubbermaid tubs filled with damp peat moss; the same with damp cedar shavings (as I don’t have access to clean sawdust); and either wicker or plastic baskets with layers of newspaper between layers of produce (3 sheets). For more details, see this post.
|Damp peat moss||Damp cedar shavings||Newspaper/basket*||Notes|
|Potatoes (Kennebec, Russet, Pontiac Red)||Sprouting||OK where dry; sprouting where wet||Excellent condition; a very few are starting to shrivel||Store more than 50 lb next year|
|Sweet potatoes||n/a||n/a||Quite shriveled and spotty – too cold||Store with squash next year|
|Apples (Cameo)||n/a||n/a||Excellent condition. A couple on the edges are a little
less crunchy, but none have gone mealy
|Such a treat! Grow this kind for sure.|
|Rutabagas||A little rubbery, especially if they were near/above the
surface at all
|Slightly shriveled, but better than the ones in peat moss||n/a||Stems make good eating, too|
|Beets||Shriveling and sprouting||Slight shriveling and a few sprouts; better than peat||n/a||Need LOTS of moisture. Also – these were in a paper bag for the first month or so – not a good idea.|
* The flat black plastic baskets are great – you can get them cheap or free from nurseries or other places that sell flower bulbs. They stack and still leave room for air circulation!
Root vegetable summary:
- Potatoes and apples do GREAT in baskets with layers of newspaper tucked around them. I’m very happy – I can see how much of each I’ve got left and I don’t have to dig around to find dinner…or wash damp peat off my arm up to the elbow.
- Rutabagas probably need some kind of damp medium, but cedar shavings seem to work OK. The cedar did seem to impart an odd “sparkle” to the veggies – not sure what that is, looks like little fibers – but they wash off.
- Beets need tons of humidity to stay solid and firm. I night need a better way of storing them.
It’s funny – the damp peat worked great in buckets in the garage. Nothing sprouted or shriveled. I wonder if that’s because the garage was more uniformly cold, and the root cellar often goes up to 40, and the ‘taters thought it was spring?
I also tried cabbage heads sitting in damp sand and covered with plastic and/or newspaper.
|Cabbage – small storage heads||Green; a few dehydrated leaves on outside; inner leaves
still quite good
|Growing roots; a few shriveled, rubbery, blackening leaves
on outside; inner leaves fine
|Cabbage – summer variety||Very pale yellow; several outside leaves drying up; inner
leaves noticeably sub-prime
|Very pale yellow; outer leaves translucent or blackening;
lots of roots (which hold sand)
Cabbage summary: What made the most difference for cabbage was the variety, not the storage method. I haven’t been growing my own cabbage, and it’s hard to get variety names at the market. Small, solid heads work better than large, flat heads, but not all small heads are created equal. Also, I will probably not do damp sand next year because it’s hard to get all the grit out, even after I cut off all the roots. I also expect to have better greens in the greenhouse next winter.
A few other random items:
- Pickles. The pickles were fermented in July, and when they started getting a layer of gunk on top, I boiled the brine (with a little more brine added), wiped the top of the jars clean, and filled the jars to overflowing with boiling brine. This killed the good bugs, I know, but it also sterilized the jars. Note – I did NOT seal the jars; these are “half-sour” pickles and supposedly do not have enough acid to be safe to can. So I put loose lids on them and put them in the root cellar, treating them essentially like refrigerator pickles. They are not moldy or spoiled in any way, though starting to soften a bit.
- Kraut: The kraut was fermented in canning jars and covered with a loose lid – no other processing. Once it was “done,” I put it in the root cellar. This was back in August or September when it was still 55-60 in the cellar, but it’s doing just fine.
- Winter squash (Delicata, Waldham butternut, Long Pie pumpkins) – stored outside root cellar in basement (53 degrees and dry) in flat baskets or on open shelving – all are in perfect condition at this point. I grew these and cured them in the sun for a few days before bringing them indoors.
- Daffodil bulbs: Starting to sprout just a little. I should have planted these in the fall, but I’m hoping they’ll hold on until spring.