Storing Root Crops Outdoors Over Winter

Storing garden vegetables whole is quicker and more economical than freezing, canning or dehydrating them.This is especially true for certain root crops. Potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, winter radishes, and parsnips, adapt well to winter storage. No room indoors? No worries. These crops store best at cold temperatures with a high relative humidity and temperatures between 33 and 45 degrees. Under the right conditions, they can be kept outdoors all winter long. Here are 5 cheap and easy ways to store root vegetables outside over winter.


Outdoor Pit

Outdoor pits can be lined or unlined. The advantage to a lined pit is that it is better protected against ground water infiltration and damage from rodents (Liners might consist of a plastic tarp or styrofoam). Place a thick layer of straw on the bottom of the pit (or liner) and place your veggies on top. Cover the vegetables with another layer of straw, and finally a layer of soil to hold the straw in place. The straw layers should be 1 to 3 feet deep, depending upon how cold your winter gets.

Above Ground Mound

The above ground mound is similar to an unlined pit, but it's above ground. It works well in low areas where groundwater infiltration is a problem, or where storage periods will be shorter and temperatures milder. Pile your vegetables on a layer of straw on top of the ground. Cover the vegetables with an additional layer of straw, and finally a layer of soil to hold it in place. A mound like this will usually accommodate one or two bushels of mixed root crops, but bear in mind that they will not be protected from rodent damage.


A Cardboard Box and Sawdust

This technique isn't really suitable for outdoor storage, but it does work well in an unheated garage or garden shed. Use fresh sawdust to avoid adding any unpleasant taste to your veggies. Add three to four inches of sawdust to the bottom of a large cardboard box. Next, add a layer of carrots. Make sure that the carrots are at least 4 to 5 inches from the sides of the box so they stay properly insulated from the cold. Cover the carrots with an inch of sawdust and keep alternating layers of carrots and sawdust until the box is full. In lieu of sawdust, you may also use thick layers of vermiculite.

A Gym Locker/Kitchen Cabinet

This technique is similar to an outdoor pit. Bury a metal gym locker or old cabinet in the ground with the door facing up for easy access. Line the insides with 2 to 3 inches Styrofoam or a thick layer of straw for extra insulation. Fill the cabinet with alternating layers of vegetables and straw. Cover the top with straw bales.


A Whiskey Barrel/Garbage Can

Place a layer of straw in the bottom or a whiskey barrel or garbage can that is lying on its side. Create alternating layers of mixed vegetables and straw, leaving a small amount of room near the cover for air circulation. Once full, the barrel or garbage can either be turned upright and sunk into the ground, or with thick enough layers of insulation, stored above ground on its side.

Storing Root Crops

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.


January 2, 20090 found this helpful

I would like additional information about this. I live in Zone 5 and would like to store potatoes/sweet potatoes through winter, but have no space indoors--can these suggestions be used in my zone? Please advise.

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