Gardening and Good Storage in Seasonal Climates

VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

I'm trying to reduce my dependence on the store, which is still suffering higher prices and empty shelves.

The challenge for me, and for many others, is that my growing season is only about half the year. And at the beginning and ending of my growing season, cool weather means I can only produce cool weather crops, which tend to be greens rather than calorie crops. In winter, I can grow a few sprouts and shoots indoors, but that's a minor supplement at best.

That means I have to grow twice as much food during the growing season, and freeze, can, dehydrate, or cold cellar the other half.

It's on my mind right now because I have almost finished eating the potatoes grown last year. There's probably only one more meal of potatoes remaining. I'm also about out of green beans, peas, and onions. The remaining garden food is mostly jams, jellies, pickles, applesauce.

We won't start getting fresh greens again until April, and peas until early June.

What do you do to grow and store enough vegetables and fruits to last as much of the year as possible? How do you deal with spring, which has traditionally been known as the "starving time?"

I'd especially like to hear from those with limited growing space and short seasons. If you have acres of garden and plenty of storage space, you probably don't have this issue, but those on smaller properties do.


  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 910 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I find myself in a similar situation. I also have the goal of reducing my dependence on the grocery stores. I am also in an area with a shorter growing season. I have yet to have a year where I was able to grow enough to preserve large amounts. Every year I get a little closer. One thing that I do to supplement and keep costs down is to go to the local produce stand and buy things in season when they are least expensive and preserve them for the rest of the seasons. It still costs more than growing it myself but usually less than the grocery stores.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Michelle D Yes, supplementing by buying locally grown food is a good suggestion. I've been disappointed at the small quantities I often see available, which are more suited to a meal or two than to putting up larger quantities for winter.

    But I need to do more searching locally this year and see if I can find a source that offers larger quantities. If I could buy about 3 baskets of sauce tomatoes, that would go a long way towards my sauce requirements for the year.

    I'm expanding my potato growing this year with grow bags that will contain soil, mostly a mix of peat moss and compost. If that works, I can grow a lot more potatoes in only a little more space. And reducing the amount of space in the regular beds used for potatoes will free up more space for other crops, especially peas and beans.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 910 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I have had great luck with potatoes in grow bags. That has made a huge difference for us. I hope it works well for you also.

    My current garden space is about 600sqft. I sneak stuff in other places with grow bags and pots. My husband has always been picky about wanting the yard to be available for recreation as we have 5 children. So although I have more space I haven't been able to use it. Because of food prices increasing so much he has finally agreed to let me have another 200sqft!

    I have been trying different techniques to extend my growing season. I have done a lot that allows me to start earlier. This year I have plans to try a fall garden and use techniques to extend that grow time. I have not attempted it yet but I'm hoping to get quite a bit of winter squash this year as they store well. We have a room in our basement that I am now calling the root cellar even though it technically is not. It stays cool all year and I recently blacked out the windows and doorway. I'm hoping that I can fill it with potatoes, squash, onions, etc this fall. It will be a game changer for us if it works out.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Michelle D I only have about half the area of your garden, but that area is grown intensively with highly enriched and fertile soul. Also, that area includes my strawberry beds, but does not include a handful of raspberries plants or several large apple and crabapple trees.

    Outside of the enriched beds, we have Class 6 heavy clay soil, and most of the yard gets limited amounts of sun. The beds are in the sunniest spots.

    Would you please give me some specific advice on using the grow bags? How many potatoes did you put in each bag, and how much soil? Do some varieties work better than others? Is rain adequate to water the bags, or do they dry out quickly and need more watering with a hose than raised beds? What is your typical potato yield per bag?

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 910 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I realize may not have explained my garden space well. My sectioned off space that the children know not to play in, my garden, is 600 sqft. That includes my walking paths. It is not all grow space. Last year was the first year that I tried growing anything intensively and I was very happy with the results. My entire garden plan this year was created using the intensive method. I hope I get a much larger yield because of it.

    As for the potatoes in the grow bags it isn't to difficult. I learned by watching a video on YouTube a few years ago. To start roll the bags down really short. Then put a few inches of dirt in the bottom, add your seed potatoes or pieces (maybe 8-10 per bag depending on the size of your bag), then another layer of dirt. Water that in well until everything is damp. As they grow add more dirt to the bag rolling it up as you go. Do this every few days leaving a few inches of stem out of the soil (probably at least 4 inches) until the bag is full. Water to dampen the new soil. This will increase your yield per bag. The first year that I did it the potatoes didn't get very big. They yielded about 10lbs per bag. The seed potatoes weren't very big to start with so I shouldn't have been surprised. I had to use them all as new potatoes. The second year I got better seed potatoes and spaced them out better with much better results. I didn't think to weigh them out that year but I think the average you can expect is about 20lbs per bag. I water them a bit more frequently than the garden during the drier part of the year. My grow bags have holes in the bottom so it is easier to not over water.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Even 10 lbs per bag would be an improvement over my normal yield. 20 lbs per bag would be amazing.

    Part of the problem I've had with potatoes is that you get higher yield relative to initial seed weight when they have plenty of space to spread out. The books I've read suggest that a 4 ft x 4 ft bed should only have a single row of potato seeds running down the middle! I have put in more than 4 times that much, but potato seed is expensive.

    Even planting 4 of these 4x4 beds in excellent soil has only produced two paper grocery bags of potatoes. :-(

    Okay, our garden sizes are more similar than I thought. I have roughly 300 square feet of actual growing space in enriched beds, not counting paths.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 888 ✭✭✭✭

    I left my beet greens and celery in the ground. I have harvested several times from the beet greens and the celery. Two weeks ago we had a freeze in the teens for about 10 days. I just this morning harvested the greens that went through the freeze and they look good. They have also gotten dry (I watered again today) because they are protected with a soffit on the second story.

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