HARVESTING AND STORING
It is a very common thing to allow the
garden vegetables not used to
rot on the ground, or in it. There is a great deal of unnecessary waste
in this respect, for a great many of the things so neglected may just
as well be carried into winter, and will pay a very handsome dividend
for the slight trouble of gathering and storing them.
A good frost-proof, cool cellar is the best and most convenient place
in which to store the surplus product of the home garden. But, lacking
this, a room partitioned off in the furnace cellar and well ventilated,
or a small empty room, preferably on the north side of the house, that
can be kept below forty degrees most of the time, will serve
excellently. Or, some of the most bulky vegetables, such as cabbage and
the root crops, may be stored in a prepared pit made in the garden
As it is essential that such a pit be properly constructed, I shall
describe one with sufficient detail to enable the home gardener readily
to construct it. Select a spot where water will not stand. Put the
vegetables in a triangular-shaped pile, the base three or four feet
wide, and as long as required. Separate the different vegetables in
this pile by stakes about two feet higher than the top of the pile, and
label them. Then cover with a layer of clean straw or bog hay, and over
this four inches of soil, dug up three feet back from the edges of the
pile. This work must be done late in the fall, as nearly as one can
judge just before lasting freezing begins, and preferably on a cold
morning when the ground is just beginning to freeze; the object being
to freeze the partly earth covering at once, so that it will not be
washed or blown off. The vegetables must be perfectly dry when stored;
dig them a week or so previous and keep them in an airy shed. As soon
as this first layer of earth is partly frozen, but before it freezes
through, put on another thick layer of straw or hay and cover with
twelve inches of earth, keeping the pile as steep as possible; a
slightly clayey soil, that may be beaten down firmly into shape with a
spade, being best. The pile should be made where it will be sheltered
from the sun as much as possible, such as on the north side of a
building. The disadvantage of the plan is, of course, that the
vegetables cannot be got at until the pile is opened up, in early
spring, or late if desired. Its two advantages are that the vegetables
stored will be kept in better condition than in any cellar, and that
cellar or house
room will be saved.
For storing small quantities of the roots, such as carrots or beets,
they are usually packed in boxes or barrels and covered in with clean
sand. Where an upstairs room has to be used, swamp or sphagnum moss may
replace the sand. It makes an ideal packing medium, as it is much
lighter and cleaner than the sand. In many localities it may be had for
the gathering; in others one may get it from a florist.
In storing vegetables of any kind, and by whatever method, see to it
(1) They are always clean, dry and sound. The smallest spot or bruise
is a danger center, which may spread destruction to the lot.
(2) That the temperature, whatever required--in most cases 33-38
degrees being best--is kept as even as possible.
(3) That the storage place is kept clean, dry (by ventilation when
needed) and sweet (by use of whitewash and lime).
(4) That no rats or other rodents are playing havoc with your treasures
while you never suspect it.
So many of the vegetables can be kept, for either part or all of the
winter, that I shall take them up in order, with brief directions.
Many, such as green beans, rhubarb, tomatoes, etc., which cannot be
kept in the ordinary ways, may be easily and cheaply canned, and where
one has a good cellar, it will certainly pay to get a canning outfit
and make use of this method.
_Beans:_--Almost all the string and snap beans, when dried in the
pods, are excellent for cooking. And any pods which have not been
gathered in the green state should be picked, _as soon as dry_ (as
wet weather is likely to mould or sprout them), and stored in a dry
place, or spread on a bench in the sun. They will keep, either shelled
or in the dry pods, for winter.
_Beets:_--In October, before the first hard frosts, take up and
store in a cool cellar, in clean, perfectly dry sand, or in pits
outside (see Cabbage); do not cut off the long tap roots, nor the tops
close enough to cause any "bleeding."
_Brussels sprouts:_--These are improved by freezing, and may be
used from the open garden until December. If wanted later, store them
with cabbage, or hang up the stalks in bunches in a cold cellar.
_Cabbage:_--If only a few heads are to be stored, a cool cellar
will do. Even if where they will be slightly frozen, they will not be
injured, so long as they do not freeze and thaw repeatedly. They should
not be taken in until there is danger of severe freezing, as they will
keep better, and a little frost improves the flavor. For storing small
quantities outdoors, dig a trench, a foot or so deep, in a well drained
spot, wide enough to admit two heads side by side. Pull up the
cabbages, without removing either stems or outer leaves, and store side
by side, head down, in the bottom of the trench. Now cover over lightly
with straw, meadow hay, or any refuse which will keep the dirt from
freezing to the cabbages, and then cover over the whole with earth, to
the depth of several inches, but allowing the top of the roots to
remain exposed, which will facilitate digging them up as required. Do
not bury the cabbage until as late as possible before severe freezing,
as a spell of warm weather would rot it.
_Carrots:_--Treat in the same way as beets. They will not be hurt
by a slight freezing of the tops, before being dug, but care must be
taken not to let the roots become touched by frost.
_Celery:_--That which is to be used early is blanched outside, by
banking, as described in Chapter XI, and as celery will stand a little
freezing, will be used directly from the garden. For the portion to be
kept over winter, provide boxes about a foot wide, and nearly as deep
as the celery is high. Cover the bottoms of these boxes with two or
three inches of sand, and wet thoroughly. Upon this stand the celery
upright, and packed close together. In taking up the celery for storing
in this way, the roots and whatever earth adheres to them are kept on,
not cut, as it is bought in the stores. The boxes are then stored in a
cellar, or other dark, dry, cold place where the temperature will not
go more than five degrees below freezing. The celery will be ready for
use after Christmas. If a long succession is wanted, store from the
open two or three different times, say at the end of October, first
part of November and the latter part of November.
_Cucumbers, Melons, Egg-plant:_--While there is no way of storing
these for any great length of time without recourse to artificial cold,
they may be had for some time by storing just before the first frosts
in a cool, dark cellar, care being taken in handling the fruits to give
them no bruises.
_Onions:_--If the onions got a good early start in the spring, the
tops will begin to die down by the middle of August. As soon as the
tops have turned yellow and withered they should be pulled, on the
first clear dry day, and laid in windrows (three or four rows in one),
but not heaped up. They should be turned over frequently, by hand or
with a wooden rake, and removed to a shed or barn floor as soon as dry,
where the tops can be cut off. Keep them spread out as much as
possible, and give them open ventilation until danger of frost. Then
store in a dry place and keep as cool as possible without freezing. A
few barrels, with holes knocked in the sides, will do well for a small
_Parsley:_--Take up a few plants and keep in a flower-pot or small
box, in the kitchen window.
_Parsnips:_--These will stay in the ground without injury all
winter, but part of the crop may be taken up late in the fall and
stored with beets, carrots and turnips, to use while the ground is
_Potatoes:_--When the vines have died down and the skin of the new
potatoes has become somewhat hardened, they can be dug and stored in a
cool, dry cellar at once. Be sure to give plenty of ventilation until
danger of frost. Keep from the light, as this has the effect of making
the potatoes bitter. If there is any sign of rot among the tubers, do
not dig them up until it has stopped.
_Squash and Pumpkins:_--The proper conditions for storing for
winter will be indicated by the drying and shrinking of the stem.
_Cut_ them from the vines, being careful never to break off the
stem, turn over, rub off the dirt and leave the under side exposed to a
few days' sunlight. Then carry in a spring wagon, or spring
wheelbarrow, covered with old bags or hay to keep from any bruises.
Store in the dryest part of the cellar, and if possible where the
temperature will not go below forty degrees. Leave them on the vines in
the field as late as possible, while escaping frosts.
_Tomatoes:_--Just before the first frosts are likely to begin,
pick all of the best of the unripened fruits. Place part of these on
clean straw in a coldframe, giving protection, where they will
gradually ripen up. Place others, that are fully developed but not
ripe, in straw in the cellar. In this way fresh tomatoes may frequently
be had as late as Christmas.
_Turnip:_--These roots, if desired, can be stored as are beets or
It is hard to retain our interest in a thing when most of its
usefulness has gone by. It is for that reason, I suppose, that one sees
so many forsaken and weed-grown gardens every autumn, where in the
spring everything was neat and clean. But there are two very excellent
reasons why the vegetable garden should not be so abandoned--to say
nothing of appearances! The first is that many vegetables continue to
grow until the heavy frosts come; and the second, that the careless
gardener who thus forsakes his post is sowing no end of trouble for
himself for the coming year. For weeds left to themselves, even late in
the fall, grow in the cool moist weather with astonishing rapidity,
and, almost before one realizes it, transform the well kept garden into
a ragged wilderness, where the intruders have taken such a strong
foothold that they cannot be pulled up without tearing everything else
with them. So we let them go--and, left to themselves, they accomplish
their purpose in life, and leave upon the ground an evenly distributed
supply of plump ripe seeds, which next spring will cause the perennial
exclamation, "Mercy, John, where did all these weeds come from?" And
John replies, "I don't know; we kept the garden clean last summer. I
think there must be weed seeds in the fertilizer."
Do not let up on your fight with weeds, for every good vegetable that
is left over can be put to some use. Here and there in the garden will
be a strip that has gone by, and as it is now too late to plant, we
just let it go. Yet now is the time we should be preparing all such
spots for withstanding next summer's drouth! You may remember how
strongly was emphasized the necessity for having abundant humus
(decayed vegetable matter) in the soil--how it acts like a sponge to
retain moisture and keep things growing through the long, dry spells
which we seem to be sure of getting every summer. So take thought for
next year. Buy a bushel of rye, and as fast as a spot in your garden
can be cleaned up, harrow, dig or rake it over, and sow the rye on
broadcast. Just enough loose surface dirt to cover it and let it
sprout, is all it asks. If the weather is dry, and you can get a small
roller, roll it in to ensure better germination. It will come up
quickly; it will keep out the weeds which otherwise would be taking
possession of the ground; it will grow until the ground is frozen solid
and begin again with the first warm spring day; it will keep your
garden from washing out in heavy rains, and capture and save from being
washed away and wasted a good deal of left-over plant food; it will
serve as just so much real manure for your garden; it will improve the
mechanical condition of the soil, and it will add the important element
of humus to it.
In addition to these things, you will have an attractive and luxuriant
garden spot, instead of an unsightly bare one. And in clearing off
these patches for rye, beware of waste. If you have hens, or by chance
a pig, they will relish old heads of lettuce, old pea-vines, still
green after the last picking, and the stumps and outer leaves of
cabbage. Even if you have not this means of utilizing your garden's by-
products, do not let them go to waste. Put everything into a square
pile--old sods, weeds, vegetable tops, refuse, dirt, leaves, lawn
sweepings--anything that will rot. Tread this pile down thoroughly;
give it a soaking once in a while if within reach of the hose, and two
or three turnings with a fork. Next spring when you are looking for
every available pound of manure with which to enrich your garden, this
compost heap will stand you in good stead.
Burn _now_ your old pea-brush, tomato poles and everything that is
not worth keeping over for next year. Do not leave these things lying
around to harbor and protect eggs and insects and weed seeds. If any
bean-poles, stakes, trellises or supports seem in good enough condition
to serve another year, put them under cover now; and see that all your
tools are picked up and put in one place, where you can find them and
overhaul them next February. As soon as your surplus pole beans have
dried in their pods, take up poles and all and store in a dry place.
The beans may be taken off later at your leisure.
Be careful to cut down and burn (or put in the compost heap) all weeds
around your fences, and the edges of your garden, _before_ they
If the suggestions given are followed, the vegetable garden may be
stretched far into the winter. But do not rest at that. Begin to plan
_now_ for your next year's garden. Put a pile of dirt where it
will not be frozen, or dried out, when you want to use it next February
for your early seeds. If you have no hotbed, fix the frames and get the
sashes for one now, so it will be ready to hand when the ground is
frozen solid and covered with snow next spring. If you have made garden
mistakes this year, be planning now to rectify them next--without
progress there is no fun in the game. Let next spring find you with
your plans all made, your materials all on hand and a fixed resolution
to have the best garden you have ever had.