Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Harvesting Carrots and Potatoes

The temps went down to 19 here for a couple of nights, so I'm so glad I'd gotten the carrots and potatoes dug up the day before (both can be damaged by freezing temperatures). I got a good crop of carrots, by shading the seeds with an old sheet at planting time. It really helped germination in our dry climate by keeping the seed bed moist. By sitting out there later and thinning the carrot patch, I have enough nice big roots to store in the cellar until next summer. After digging, I clipped the tops to less than an inch (longer, they'll shrivel the root; too close and the top of the carrot will start to rot). I put an inch of straw into the bottom of a couple of 3.5-gallon buckets, filled both with the unwashed carrots, put lids on to keep moisture in, and put them down in the cellar. A few that had cracked, and a few that were too tiny to store I brought in to eat now.

I'm still experimenting with potato growing methods. This year, I planted my seed potatoes, saved from the year before, about six inches deep and then piled straw 15" deep over the top inside a wire cage. So now, evaluating the results of my experiment: the Yukon Golds (right bin) did really well, with big potatoes both on top of the dirt and underneath the surface; the Russets (left bin) I got were nice, but the yield wasn't as good as last year's. The straw did keep them from greening up, but some of the plants didn't make it up through the straw. We still had to do quite a bit of digging and sifting through the dirt to make sure we got most of them, too. The goal is lots of nice-sized potatoes, easily harvested without missing any. So, next year, I think I'll try planting only a inch or two deep (potatoes make new potatoes only above the seed potato), use the wire and sticks cage again, and add the same amount of straw over the top but only a couple of inches at a time.

The Yukons I left in their bin, the Russets filled a 5-gallon bucket. They're all in the cellar now too - lids on both since I also have fruit down there. The ethylene gas that the apples and grapes put out can cause the potatoes to sprout in storage (some old-timers say to not store fruit and potatoes together), but since it's the only space I have, the lid barriers work well enough.

We also found something interesting in the straw, inside the cage near the edge - an abandoned clutch of quail eggs. I wonder why she laid that many and then left them. Maybe something happened to her - the cat isn't allowed in the garden (I hiss and run him off whenever I see him even nearby, and besides, he doesn't kill his catches anyway), but we do have hawks and owls living nearby. Oh well, there's certainly no shortage of quail around here - I think they're why I haven't gotten a decent lettuce crop for years.


Nancy M. said...

I would love to plant potatoes next year, and maybe some carrots too. My rabbit would probably like that.

I love quail, but I might change my mind when I have a garden next year.

annette said...

What cage and stick set up did you have for the potatoes? I hope to plant potatoes in springs garden.

Also, what is the best way to store fruit in the cellar. Do you use wood or plastic bins?

Thanks Sadge!