Harvesting Vegetables

Photo: iStockphoto.com/YinYang
Frost in the forecast? How to protect the carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbage in your garden.

As we approach the end of September I like to keep an eye on the overnight temperatures. If the weather forecast calls for frost, it is time to harvest tender vegetables. 

It is best to harvest your tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants before they experience a frost. You can leave the “hardy” stuff like winter squash, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprout, carrots, etc. These actually improve in flavour with frost. 

Once you have harvested your home-grown crops, the focus turns to proper storage techniques to help them last as long as possible without spoiling. 

  • Carrots As winter draws closer, dig all of the keepers and “replant” in bushel baskets two-thirds full of clean, sharp sand (unlike the rounded grains of beach sand, sharp sand is angular and jagged, and used as a potting medium). Place in your garage until temperatures drop below freezing, using them as you please. Before they freeze hard in the damp sand, place them in the coolest part of your basement. This will allow the carrots to last longer in storage. 
  • Potatoes like cool (14 to 18oC) dark and dry conditions. The cold cellar is usually too damp. I store my potatoes in the basement where the dehumidifier works all year to keep the humidity down. 
  • Cabbage and kale Keep as cool as possible without freezing. Your garage or shed works until hard frost occurs, when you can move them into the cellar. Keep your eye on them for signs of rot. Roll them over every week to keep the bottoms from rotting. 
  • Onions Braid the tops of the onions and place in a cool, dark and dry spot. Hanging them works best of all. I wrap fishing line around the beams in the basement and hang onions by their braided tops to allow air to flow around them. 
  • Leeks These actually improve in flavour with late frost. Dig soon though, to avoid rotting. Either make potato-leek soup for the freezer or just puree the raw leeks for later use with potatoes. Store pureed leeks in the freezer. 

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