Sunday, November 27, 2011

Overwintering root vegetables in the garden.

Keep your potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, and other root crops in the ground this winter and harvest them as they are needed. Cut off the tops and cover these vegetables with a thick layer of leaves, straw or hay to keep the ground warm. Depending on how cold it gets in your area, the mulch layer may need to be four inches or more in thickness. These vegetables need to be mulched as soon as possible so don’t wait too long. Once the ground freezes (about mid-December in Grand Junction, CO) it is too late.

When you need these vegetables move the mulch aside and dig what you need. Replace the mulch to keep the ground warm. Be sure to have all these vegetables dug by spring. As soon as these vegetables start to grow in the spring their eating quality will be significantly reduced.

This technique of overwintering your root crops is more successful when you have a sandy soil. If the soil is heavy and you have a lot of rain or snow try to keep the soil dry. Cover the mulch layer with a tarp that sheds water. Dig a trench at the edge of the tarp to direct water away from the mulched area.

If you have a heavy clay soil and can’t keep it dry, dig a trench and fill it with dry straw, hay or leaves. Place the root vegetables on this layer and apply more straw, hay, or leaves to fill the trench. Cover the trench with a tarp if you get a lot of snow or rain. The layers of straw, hay, or straw allow the soil to drain and help keep the vegetables dry and free from rot.

Previous recommendations for overwintering cabbage included the removal of the outer layer of cabbage leaves and the head of cabbage dipped in hot wax. The wax-dipped head of cabbage could be hung in an area where the temperature was just above freezing or layered in the mulch-filled trench. This was said to increase the ability to overwinter cabbage. I’m not sure if this is necessary. No matter how you over winter cabbage the outer leaves will often rot and need to be removed before use.

If you prefer to freeze or can these vegetables, or turn your cabbage into sauerkraut, you can learn more about how to do this safely by contacting Rhonda Follman at the Colorado State University Extension office at 970 244-1834 or