A lot of us are trying to stretch our food budgets by growing our own or purchasing in bulk. Many are also joining CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, which provide them with produce (and sometimes other items) throughout the growing season. To take full advantage of local food sources, we need to find ways to store food after harvest. This post will give you a brief overview of different home food preservation methods, and direct you to addition resources. Then you can decide which methods works best for you.
A root cellar is a great option to include in your food storage plan, since they require no energy to use and require very little maintenance. It’s great if you can build in a root cellar when your home is under construction, but it’s also possible to add a root cellar to your basement, or build one outside your home. Root cellars are a great low-cost, no-energy way to store food and extend the shelf life of fresh produce. [Read more…]
In this post I'll discuss the easiest vegetables to store and how to store them. These crops have all moved onto my “must plant” list because they require little or no processing and last reliably in storage for months. I also have a quick video of our awesome new root cellar makeover. August and the boys did a great job adding a ton of storage to the root cellar under our front porch. [Read more…]
Over the years I've received many inquires about what above ground root cellar type options might be available for people in cold and warm climates. For those in warm climates – sorry, the physics are not in your favor, unless you have a spring house, but this post will give you some ideas to keep homegrown food on the table year round. For those in cold climates – there are a number of above ground options that may help you store your harvest without processing for at least part of the non-growing season. We'll cover those, too. First, let's talk root cellar physics. (Don't worry, I've got a minor in physics to go with my math degree – I'll get you through this.) [Read more…]
Now that the bulk of planting is finally done (other than adding a few things later in the season for fall and winter harvest and maybe a few more flowers – you can never have too many flowers), it's time to settle down into regular maintenance. Weeding, mulching, thinning, staking – turn your back for a couple of days and it's amazing how much things can change (and get out of control).
The root veggies planted from seed are coming along nicely, so they need to be thinned out so they are not overcrowded. I've tried planting more thinly, but then it always seem to happen that they don't germinate well for some reason or another and I up up replanting. Thinning is easier for me. My mom never thins, and I didn't when I first started, but the roots grow so much nicer when they have more room. The last few growing seasons have been short on rain, too, so more room equals less stress on the plants.
You can see in the “before” pictures that the carrots are growing in bushy little clumps without much wiggle room between plants. The goal for the first thinning is so have about an inch between them.
Here's the after. Much easier to see individual plants. As they grow, they'll get thinned again, and the small carrots will end up as salad fixings, and the larger carrots will be left for winter storage.
The potatoes are around a foot tall, so they are ready to be mulched or hilled to get more plant undercover to produce a better harvest. I prefer mulching, as I find it easier to move around leaves and straw than dirt. Also, if it gets rainy in fall (not a problem recently, but it does happen), you don't end up with such a muddy mess. Given that I mulch almost all of my garden anyway, this is just a better all around solution for me.
I saved several bags of leaves from my in-laws last fall (and actually stored some of my root cellar vegetables in leaves, which worked well), so my Kennebec potatoes received a leaf mulch this year. The leaves also acidify the soil, which reduces potato scab. (Note to self – avoid planting potatoes in beds that were occupied the previous year by brassicas that were mulched with lots of composted manure, as too much nitrogen contributes to potato scab….sigh…garden rotation is not as straightforward as it seems.)