If you grow your own, then you are going to need to seriously address where you store your harvest bounty. The kitchen cupboard may cope with a bag of potatoes but it isn’t the right place to keep half a dozen sacks of potatoes.
Although a freezer is great for keeping many vegetables in good condition from harvest to when they are needed. See Freezing Food. However freezers are not really ideal or necessary for crops such as potatoes, root crops or onions, etc. Root crops in particular are ideal for storing. After all, nature designed them for this purpose!
In days of old, potatoes and some other root crops would be stored in a clamp outdoors which worked quite well for bulk storage but clamps are not the best method for storing the smaller amounts required by a small family or couple.
Clamps are also quite vulnerable to vermin, and building them properly and making them weather proof requires skill. In a wet winter they are vulnerable to flooding, which causes rot and whatever the weather seem to act as a slug magnet.
Nowadays the farmers store their produce in climate controlled facilities at the optimum temperature and humidity, safe from vermin and ready to ship to the packing station.
Best Place to Store Your Produce
The best place at home is somewhere cool and dark but not freezing. A garage is often ideal, especially one attached or integral to the house. (How often do people actually keep a car in there?) Another option is a garden shed. The only problem with sheds is that they do tend to vary in temperature. In the winters they can drop to nearly the lowest outside temperature (and you don’t want to freeze you food store) while on a sunny day the temperature will shoot right up.
It’s easy enough to insulate your shed. Polystyrene is a good insulator and you can often pick up sheets used for packaging for the price of asking from electrical goods retailers. Large and thicker sheets can be bought cheaply from builders’ merchants.
You do need some ventilation to prevent condensation building up. The closable air vent covers can be useful for this and can be picked up very cheaply from builders’ merchants. Ideally you want to keep the temperature above freezing in cold weather, so a thermostatically controlled electric heater is useful. If you keep the area where your crop is stored small (we walled off and shelved a section of our large shed to become the food store), then it isn’t expensive to run.
Another solution we had was at night to run a 60 watt light bulb in an old biscuit tin with holes punched through. It made just a very low wattage electric heater, enough to keep the frost off. However, soon you will not be able to buy old fashioned high energy light bulbs.
When storing vegetables you need to sort out the damaged ones and any showing signs of rot and use these first. The phrase ‘One bad apple spoils the barrel’ is very apt. One rotten potato can spoil the sack very quickly. Potato Blight, in particular, spreads like wildfire, turning a sack into a stinking soggy mess in a couple of weeks. (See storing potatoes)
More on Harvesting & Storing Your Crops
- Harvesting & Storing Onions, Garlic & Shallots
- Storing root crops, cabbages & cauliflowers, marrows & squash
- Harvesting Potatoes Guide
- Storing Potatoes Guide