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Planning and Planting Storage Vegetables

Ripening pumpkinAlthough a lot of fruits and vegetables can be saved for a few weeks or even a couple of months in the fridge after harvest, I'm most interested in the ones that will stay fresh long into the cold months.  White and sweet potatoes, winter squashes (including pumpkins), carrots, onions, and garlic are the obvious six.  We're starting to experiment with some other good keepers too, including beets, cabbage, parsnips, and turnips.  Once our trees mature, we'll add apples and pears to the mix.

You should start thinking about winter storage while planning your garden.  First, take a look at your soil conditions.  Did you know that soil with higher levels of potassium will produce vegetables with better storage quality?  (Add manure, compost, wood ashes, comfrey, and citrus peels to increase your potassium levels.)  Too much nitrogen in the soil will have the opposite effect on root crops since the vegetables will be watery and will spoil quickly.

Next, consider planting dates.  Your goal should be to have your storage crops ripening in early to late fall, just in time to tuck them away for the winter without any risk of them becoming overmature.  The spring carrots I've been munching on all summer are now starting to get woody and bitter --- no point in storing vegetables already past their peak perfection.  Instead, I planted a fall garden with storage carrots that are just now starting to ripen.  Although I didn't think this far ahead in spring, I should have planted my winter squash at the end of May rather than at the end of April, so that the squash would be turning ripe in Sepetember rather than having sat in the rain and started to rot for a few weeks before harvest.  Basically, you should plant your storage vegetables as late as possible to still get a mature crop.

This post is part of our Storage Vegetables lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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