In the fall, many of us expended a lot of time and effort to store vegetables for the winter; we also dug and stored many flower bulbs and corms to use in our flower borders in our 2013 summer gardens.
Sometimes it is a case of "out of sight, out of mind", and we neglect to give these vegetables and flower roots a second thought during the winter.
We would be wise, however, to check the aforementioned stored items to ensure that they are in good shape. A quick check will catch any problems that might exist and allow us to take action to prevent the loss of these stored-away items.
Vegetables in storage probably get checked on a more regular basis simply because when we go to get some carrots or potatoes or a squash to use in the kitchen we unconsciously look over the storage area to see that things are as they should be. It doesn’t hurt, however, to do a thorough checkup once in a while.
Some vegetables store best in a refrigerator and we are fortunate enough in our house to have a second fridge in our heated garage that is used for such a purpose.
Here I check carrots in plastic bags — with holes punched in the bags — to spot any rot that might be occurring.
If there is any undue buildup of moisture in a bag, punching a few more holes in the bag or perhaps taking the carrots out of the bag for an hour or two to let them dry off a bit will solve the problem.
We store beets the same way but the last of those were used up a month ago — they were beginning to get soft anyway.
We still have a couple of kohlrabi in the fridge. They just sit, uncovered, on the fridge shelves and are still quite firm and their flesh is still crisp and tender — I absolutely love the storage variety of kohlrabi called ‘Kossack’ because it stores so well.
We have used up the last of the winter cabbage, stored in the same way as the kohlrabi. I have never been successful in wintering cabbage much beyond Christmas.
Our heated garage, where I keep the temperature just above freezing, serves as our cold room. Here we store cardboard boxes of potatoes and I see that some of them are just starting to show signs that they are beginning to sprout so I will keep an eye on them and sprout them when the sprouts get long enough.
I have several boxes full of canna, callas, elephant ear, and dahlia roots. They seem to be keeping well. I check them to make sure they are not drying out and becoming desiccated. If I found that to be the case, I would sprinkle a bit of water on the peat moss that is covering them in the boxes.
I also store my many pots of oxalis in the garage. After allowing the foliage to die down in the fall by withholding water, the soil is quite dry and the bulbs go dormant. I simply stack the pots one upon the other and ensure they are in the dark by covering the pots with several layers of newspaper.
Both the refrigerator and the garage are very cool and moist — the kind of environment suitable for many but not all produce. Some vegetables like to be stored in a warm and dry location. Hence, we store our onions — both the red ones and the white cooking onions — in our basement where it is warm and dry.
We store our ample supply of buttercup squash in the same location, and other than gradually turning from dark green to orange, they don’t seem to change in appearance. We will still be eating squash in late March.
My gladioli corms are also in the basement, in the furnace room next to the light garden. I have them in brown paper bags so they are warm, dry and in the dark.
They seem to keep well for me in this location although I know many people who store their glad corms in a cool spot. We all do things differently and keep using the methods that have worked successfully in the past for us.
Canned and frozen produce doesn’t normally require a checkup.
These methods of storing vegetables are certainly the most reliable, but in our house, we prefer the taste and texture of vegetables stored in their natural state.
If you have vegetables stored for the winter or if you are trying to winter flower bulbs and corms to use in your outdoor garden come spring, take a few minutes to make sure that they are in good condition.
What a disappointment it would be to have gone through all that effort in the fall only to find that your efforts were in vain!
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.