Tuber Experiments

Image: Potatoes, carrots, and sunchokes harvested from our garden today.

Traditionally, we usually harvest our root vegetables in the fall and store them in a root cellar over the winter.  However, with our high water table in the winter, a root cellar just isn’t feasible.  Last year, I harvested my tubers and tried storing them in tubs of sand above ground.  This was a resounding failure – I ended up freezing most of my crop.  This year, it was time for a new experiment.

Last spring, when I was turning the soil to plant the garden, I noticed that a few left over potatoes had survived the winter, and were still edible.  So, I thought, why not try storing the tubers in the ground and use them as needed, rather than harvesting them all at once?  I know this isn’t possible in colder climates, but I wondered if I could get away with it in our moderate coastal environment?

So, last fall, I harvested half of our tuber crop, and left the remainder in the ground.  We were just starting to run out this past month, so I thought now would be the time to test the results of my experiment.

Success!  Only a few tubers which had been washed to the surface by the winter rains had frozen.  I had covered the beds with a layer of leaves and a net to keep the leaves from being blown away, so there was some insulation, but not lots.  Even tubers that were only covered by an inch of soil remained unfrozen.  And that was with exposure to three cold spells this winter, with temperatures as low as -7 °C!  I’m impressed.

For those who are interested – the photo shows four varieties of drought resistant potatoes (Colomba – thin white skinned, yellow fleshed, early season; Goldrush – russet, white fleshed, mid season; Carolina – red skinned, white fleshed early season; Russian Blue – dark purple skinned, blue fleshed, late season) and one variety of fingerling potato (AmaRosa – pink skinned and fleshed, late season).  On the right side are a mixture of carrots (Scarlet Nantes and Cosmic Purple) and some sunchoke roots.

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4 thoughts on “Tuber Experiments”

  1. You have weather that is a bit colder than mine on Powell Lake. Plus, floating on the water I think moderates the freezing temperatures a bit. I did all of my potatoes in the fall and store them wrapped individually in newspaper in open sided plastic baskets under the downstairs bed in our guest room. It’s the coolest room in the cabin when the woodstove is running full bore. I’ve yet to have them freeze even when we leave for a few weeks during the coldest months. I have left my beets and carrots in the ground every winter since I’ve been gardening here (2002). I mound soil around the exposed tops, that’s it. I’ve gone out to harvest them when the ground was still frozen with ice, chipping them out and washing off the icy crusts in the lake. Miraculously the flesh wasn’t frozen and they were as sweet and tender as earlier in the season. The beets ran out last month, I have enough carrots to get me through mid-April when it’s time to plant again. – Margy

    p.s. Did you ever work out something for satellite internet?

    1. I grew up in a colder climate where we never left our potatoes and carrots in the ground over winter. It’s been a bit of a head-switch for me to contemplate a system where in-ground storage turns out to be the best way. Sounds like it works for your beets and carrots as well! We don’t have space enough in the cabin to store all of our vegetables, although, like you, our cabin wouldn’t likely drop below freezing unless we were away for a long trip in the middle of winter.
      Looks like satellite internet isn’t coming our way any time soon. We talked to the fellows in Campbell River about it, and the expense of having them install a system at our location is simply not economical (I can pay the more expensive cellular internet that we have now for a lot of years before it would come close to the install cost of satellite internet, even if the per unit cost of satellite internet is lower). Maybe, like you, we might find an installer who would be willing to install a system in exchange for a fishing trip!

      Cheers,
      Barb

      1. There is a possible solution….it was possible a few years back….install it yourself. I poured a flat concrete pad and embedded some steel to bolt to. I had the dimensions of the tripod to build to. Then I picked up the tripod and dish and bolted it on. Took pics and sent them off to the ‘installer’. Then I ran co-ax from the house to the tripod. They sent me the router and I installed it – easy screw on. The only ‘hard part’ was dialing in the angle of the dish-dangle. I did that by ‘eye’ and waited. As it turned out, my eye’ was close enough but there is some kind of calibration and ‘hook up’ procedure I did not try to do. But waiting did that for me. The guys came out while doing a half dozen others and they hooked me up in minutes. The whole ordeal for them was so little, they didn’t charge. I am pretty sure you can get 85% done by yourself. Maybe more…dunno….

        1. Hi David:
          Good to see you alive and back in Canada!
          Yeah, we definitely could build the dish, no problem there as both of us are experienced with electronics and computer systems, etc. The problem is that the set-up needs to be physically checked by the official technicians before you can be signed onto the system. Since there is no one else out our way, we would have to foot the bill for a day of technician time and likely a charter boat to get the tech here – we chatted with the guys in Campbell River about this, and it looked like the cost for a simple check could be upwards of $3000. I can pay for cellular internet a long time on $3000 …

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