Preparedness blog

How To Keep Produce Fresh Underground During the Winter

By Ben from Ready Store
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Keep Produce Fresh During the WinterWinter is coming and it’s that time of year where you can start reaping the fruits (or veggies!) of your labor. There are a couple of different methods to ensure your produce stays crisp, fresh, and unspoiled. Today, we will be discussing what options you have as a homesteader to keep your produce fresh during the cold months.

When deciding what produce to store during the winter, keep in mind that biennials (plants that flower and set seed during their second growing season) are the most reliable. This means vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi and onions to name a few. Whatever you choose to store, it’s very important that you prep the produce before storing.

Guidelines for Storing Fresh Produce

• Store fruits and veggies that are NOT cut, bruised or diseased. This will prevent other foods nearby from spoiling early.
• Pick your produce when it is either unripe or overripe.
• Choose an array of fruits and vegetables that are well-adapted to storage; beets, cabbage, potatoes, etc.
• Harvest produce during a dry spell
• Root vegetables need to be chilled once removed from the soil.

It’s important that you prepare root vegetables for winter storage. Make sure to trim the green tops and leave a 1-inch stub. This will prevent the vegetable from decaying. These vegetables do not need to be cleaned before storing. Just brush off any excess soil.

What Vegetables Can I Store During the Winter?

The graph above is a great guide to follow when deciding what vegetables to store during the winter. Some homesteaders will simply pile their produce in crates or baskets and just leave it. Some will use sawdust, leaves, hay or moss to prevent the fruits and veggies from drying out. Especially if the humidity of their storage room isn’t good.

What Vegetables Need to Be Cured?

• Pumpkins & Squash – leave in the sun for two weeks
• Sweet potatoes – cure in a warm damp place for 7 days that is 80 – 85F and 90% humidity (this will toughen their skins)
• White Potatoes – cure in a warm place that is 60 – 75F for two weeks (not necessary but it’ll toughen their skins)

How Can I Store My Food During the Winter?

Root Cellar
This is by far, the most popular way for homesteaders to store their food during the winter. It’s also a great way to store extra food that doesn’t fit in your kitchen pantry since it has low temperatures and a steady humidity. Root cellars can either be attached to the home or built in a completely separate area. Root cellars are a great option if you are looking to store potatoes, beets, turnips, onions, carrots, winter squash, cabbage, jarred preserves, jams, and salt meat. Make sure to invest in a thermometer (to measure the temperature) and hygrometer (to measure humidity).

Make a Garbage Can Cellar
Dig a hole about 6 inches deeper than a standard-sized garbage can, and place the garbage can in the hole. Next, add a layer of leaves or straw to the bottom of the can, then a layer of root vegetables, then a layer of leaves/straw, etc., until the can is full. Put the lid on the can. Fill and pack the area around the can with soil, but don’t put soil right on top of the can. After that, cut some foam and plywood both to the size of the lid. Set the foam cylinder on the lid first, then the plywood cylinder. Cover the plywood with a large rock to keep it all in place. That’s it! Harvest from your garbage can cellar throughout the winter. (You can use this same method for storage apples but keep apples and root veggies separate. Apples release ethylene gas as they ripen, which will shorten the life of other foods if stored together.)1


Mounding – Choose a well-drained location and cover with an insulating mulch. The mound only needs to be 6 – 10 inches deep. Place mulch over the veggies and make a ditch around the perimeter to help prevent water from getting in. You can mix root crops with this technique but they need to be separated by mulch.

Hay-Bale – It’s as easy as it sounds. Simply place a bale structure around the planted garden rows, place a recycled storm door or large pieces of Plexiglas on top. Secure a blanket or tarp for extra insulation.

Tent – Depending on how big your budget is, some will build a tent-garden. We’ve heard of homesteaders using PVC pipe and a thick layer of clear plastic.

When deciding how to store your fresh produce for the winter, do what best fits your lifestyle and climate. The most important thing to keep in mind is that preserving your food during the winter is very doable and there is more than just one way.


8 years ago
8 years ago at 3:15 PM
Don't let fruit or vegetables freeze. To prevent freezing, place several jugs of water near them. The water will freeze and release heat. it is also good to have.
8 years ago at 12:24 PM
This sounds great, but I live in zone 3 in Alaska. we garden every year, and have room to store some milk crates with potatoes in our well house which is attached to house. But I need to store carrots and some cabbage too. Can anyone give me a reference for areas that stay cold from October till end of March?
4 years ago at 7:55 AM
I live in Florida and even in the winter it can have many days that are in the warm range, so rats and wild animals can be searching for food. Would this set up keep the animals away or what extra step should I take?