How to store potatoes for excellent preparedness as well as frugality in your organic gardening. Did you get a bumper crop of potatoes this summer? Or do you simply want to save some of your potatoes for seed for the following spring? If so, you'll soon find that simply storing your potatoes in a cabinet or refrigerator are not enough. They'll spoil long before you are ready to cut them up and plant them.
If you have a root cellar, you can solve the problem by storing your potatoes there. But if you don't, try this low-cost technique instead suggested by the book, Putting Food By, by Ruth Hertzberg.
The best potatoes for storing are the ones grown during the summertime, but these can also shrivel and sprout when exposed to warm temperatures. So keep your potatoes in the ground as long as you have good drainage and the weather isn't too wet.
Then, in the fall when the temperature outside is 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, dig up your potatoes and store them in a sheltered area where they can cure for about two weeks.
Make sure your potatoes are not exposed to sun, rain or wind. By the end of two weeks, they'll have thickened skins and any nicks will have healed.
One way to store potatoes without resorting to a costly root cellar is to dig a pit that is about two feet deep and four feet wide at the bottom and four to six feet in length. As you dig, throw dirt up all around the sides to form a rim that will keep the water from running into the pit. Then once you have your walls built up, dig a drainage ditch all around the pit for extra protection.
Stones will conduct frost from the outside into your pit and onto your vegetables, so remove any stones from your pit.
About three quarters of the length of your pit will be used to store vegetables. The remaining one quarter of the length will be used to place a slanting door to give you access to your vegetables.
Next, pack the bottom of your pit with two to three inches of dry mortar sand. Because the ground will freeze, you need the sand to protect your vegetables from the frost.
Then start adding your vegetables in the pit portion of your root cellar. Make a layer of whatever vegetables you plan to store not more than one foot deep. Cover the vegetables with more sand, filling all the crevices and filling it up to nearly to the level of the ground.
Cover the sand with either straw or spoiled hay, putting in enough to allow it to mound up. Then cover that with plastic sheeting, holding the sheeting down with one to two inches of earth to keep it in place.
You will need a door to be able to have easy access to your stored vegetables throughout the winter. Cover the end of your mound with a door lying on its side and slanted back so that it resembles a bulkhead entrance. To collect your vegetables during winter, pull back the door, remove some potatoes and then push the door back into place.
This in-ground storage method also works well with beets, carrots and turnips.