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Are you thinking about your Winter needs yet? What to store and what to not?
In most areas we are full on into the harvest season for our vegetables and fruits.
Late Summer and early Fall are typically the peak harvest times for most fruits and vegetables.
If you are an off-the-grid liver or a homesteader this is a big time for you to be thinking about storing a lot of your harvest for the Winter months.
Typically you will rely on your harvest storage during these times to provide you with your fruit and vegetable needs.
Depending on the area your family lives in, it may not be easy to just be able to go to the store in the Winter time.
Did you know there are proper and improper ways to store vegetables for the winter?
Proper Vegetable Storage Is Key
There are right and wrong ways to store your vegetables for the Winter.
If done improperly or vegetables are not picked at the correct times it can make them rot quickly.
Always make sure that you are only storing mature crops. If crops are not mature they will rot quickly.
It would be horrible to go through all of the work of harvesting and storing vegetables just for them to barely even last the beginning of the season.
Vegetables or fruits that are bruised or have any kind of cuts in them should not be stored since they can end up rotting very quickly and cause the others to rot as well.
Do not clean them prior to storage, but do make sure to wipe off any excess soil and let them dry before storing.
Different vegetables prefer different temperatures to be stored at.
The University of Maine has a great guideline article for proper storage temperatures for fruits and vegetables. They also have guidelines on how long the crops can be stored.
For your crops such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, dry beans, pumpkins, garlic, or onions you can necessarily do a cold storage.
A very simple cold storage idea is to just use your basement.
Pick a dry, cool, dark area for storing these vegetables.
Darkness is a helpful key when storing your crops for the Winter.
Root Cellar for Vegetables Which Like Moisture
Building a root cellar for the crops that like dark, cool, and moist environments.
The crops that like these conditions are:
- Winter Radishes
- Brussel Sprouts
Root cellars are not hard to build and the size can depend on your needs.
It is a fantastic idea to store these types of vegetables in.
Building a Root Cellar
If you have the option to use a backhoe or rent one this can be very beneficial for the initial step.
Say if you are building a smaller root cellar you may be able to hand dig it with a shovel, but the use of tractors saves energy and time.
Firstly, you will need to dig a hole. You will want the area quite deep, six to eight feet if possible.
Digging it deeper underground helps the temperatures in the Winter not be as freezing cold.
In the Winter the cellar, if built deep enough, would be around 30 degrees. During the Summer months it would be more towards 50-55 degrees.
The dimensions of the root cellar is up to your needs. It can be a 6×10, 8×8, 10×20, whatever your heart and needs desires, and of course what you are able to dig.
Second, you will want to pour a concrete footer around the edge of the hole for the walls. It only needs to be a foot and a half or two wide.
Next, you will start laying your concrete blocks.
Of course, be sure to properly mortar the blocks together to help keep excess moisture from running into the cellar and construct your door opening in the process.
Think of it like sealing your basement blocks to keep water from getting into it.
Do make sure that you leave a few “vent” areas in the concrete walls towards the tops of the walls.
After these tasks are done you will want to start constructing your roof.
Making an angled roof is a great idea to help rain to slide off instead of staying on top of the cellar.
How you do your roof is your preference. It can be rounded, angled, etc. you just want to make sure it will help keep the cellar cool and not warm it up in the sun.
Attach your roof. Then you can add plywood to the whole top of your roof form.
If you have decided to concrete your roof then you can add rebar for extra reinforcement within the concrete.
Once the plywood and rebar are in place, then you can pour your concrete roof.
Considering the concrete has sat for a few days and is fully dry, you can then finish the inside of the cellar.
Building stairs in the entrance is an important first step.
A proper door is also important, you can also add a lock to the door if you would like.
Say if you do not want a concrete top, you can build a shed type building over the hole and walls.
It can still keep the building cool since it will be much taller than the hole.
Not All Vegetables Store Well
There are certain vegetables that just cannot be stored whether in the fridge or a root cellar.
Vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, peaches, etc. just won’t store well.
With these types of crops you can easily cut and freeze them to store for the Winter or you can store them through canning.
Canning 101 is a great article to read for canning ideas and how to’s.
Homesteading and living off-the-grid can be great!
Proper planning and thinking ahead for your Winter needs can be key.
For extra Fall gardening ideas and tips, we have a great article here.
Always check on your vegetables and fruits every week or so.
Making sure that nothing is rotting is important.
If anything is starting to go bad, remove it from storage and use it. Bad foods can ruin the rest of your storage.
Do not let your stored crops get below freezing.
Crops that freeze and unthaw quickly go bad.
Once crops are removed from storage they will need to be used quickly.
Always properly plan. Being more prepared and thinking ahead can be your best ally.
Farm Fresh Tuesdays! Check it out here.