Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Harvesting and Storing Vegetables by Donna Duffy


In many parts of Jefferson County, we’ve already had a frost or freeze. You may be wondering what to do with vegetables still growing in your garden. Following are several tips to prolong your harvest of root crops, squash, pumpkins, cabbage, celery, kale and collard greens.

Harvesting
  • Root Crops can remain where they are grown until there is a danger of soil freezing. Postpone harvesting by hilling the soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets to protect from freezing. If straw and soil are piled over the row as insulation, harvest may be delayed even longer.
  • Harvest onions soon after the tops fall over. Pull the onions, remove the tops, and cure the onions in mesh bags or crates where they have good air circulation until the necks dry down. When they rustle upon handling, they are ready to move to a cool, dry storage area.
  • Do not harvest winter squash and pumpkins until the vines are frost-killed and the skin is hard to the thumbnail. Leave stems on the fruit to protect against disease invasion.
  • Celery and late cabbage may be harvested after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with its roots attached. Cut cabbage and remove the loose outer leaves.
  • Kale and collards can be left in the garden long after the first fall frost. Harvest as needed until the foliage finally succumbs to cold weather.
Storage
Storing vegetables produced in the home garden can be easier, quicker and more economical than freezing, canning or dehydrating them.
  • Root Crops, including potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, winter radishes, kohlrabi and parsnips, adapt to home storage. This group stores best at near freezing with a high relative humidity.
  • Pack cabbage upside down so the covering soil does not work into the heads.
  • Pumpkins and winter squash store longer at 50 to 60 degrees F and a low relative humidity.
For more information about harvesting and storing vegetables, take a look at CSU Extension’s Fact Sheet 7.601, Storage of Home-Grown Vegetables. There is also information about storage structures, including outdoor pits, storage mounds and house cellars.