Outdoor Root Cellars

You don’t need an underground room to have an effective root cellar — you can easily use soil, mulch and a few other tools to store vegetables and fruits without ever leaving your garden. Based on your winter weather and your available space, choose from these five ideas for outdoor root cellars to store your harvests through the snowy winter months.

The Organic Garden Blanket

The earth holds a surprising amount of summer heat in its mass. If you can trap this heat with some kind of fluffy organic blanket — leaves, clean straw, sawdust or even banked-up snow — it’s entirely possible to keep soil from freezing for months longer than if it were left bare. In areas with mild winters, you can even keep soil soft enough to dig in year-round, allowing you to harvest snapping-fresh, cold-tolerant vegetables while everyone else is relying on food from the grocery store. To make handling the blanket easy, tuck your leaves or other material into recycled trash bags before you lay them over your root crops.

Vegetables that can be harvested when the soil is covered in snow include beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, endive root, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, parsnips and salsify. After the first hard frosts mark the end of the growing season, nestle your crops under an organic blanket and they’ll keep reliably down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. They might even be OK at somewhat lower temperatures, depending on snow cover, the soil moisture level and the variety of vegetables involved. (You’ll know the weather has gotten too cold if the vegetables are soggy and soft when they defrost.)

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