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Storing produce isn't exact science

Those of you who grow vegetables have harvested them by now and some of you have put the excess away for winter. To those who haven't, some tips may be helpful. It isn't easy to store vegetables unless you have special places to do so because mos...

Those of you who grow vegetables have harvested them by now and some of you have put the excess away for winter.

To those who haven't, some tips may be helpful.

It isn't easy to store vegetables unless you have special places to do so because most veggies prefer cool temperatures and most basements are too warm.

But there are ways to keep them until Christmas or perhaps even a bit longer without them changing flavor.

Squash and pumpkins should be entirely mature before storage. If you have cured them at 70 to 80 degrees, (and no one has pilfered them from your porch), you need to keep them in temperatures of 55 to 65 degrees.


With onions, store them at about 34 degrees. If they are kept dry, they will often be successfully stored for four to six months.

Root crops such as carrots, beets, rutabagas and turnips need to be kept in temperatures of about 32 degrees.

If you have excess space in your refrigerator, this would be fine if they are stored in perforated plastic bags. In a cool basement, they can be packed in damp sand. (An extra refrigerator is especially helpful for this purpose).

When storing apples, make sure the fruits are in perfect condition because one rotting apple will spoil nearby ones. Styrofoam coolers provide necessary insulation as well as maintain humidity.

Stephen Mills, former horticulturist at NDSU, suggested that if you have many apples, successful storage is packing 5 to 10 pounds inside plastic garbage bags lined with a cardboard box. Keep the stems on.

Some folks collect paper apple wrappers from grocery stores, which seems to keep them well. It was suggested that the papers contain a mineral oil that absorbs gases given off by the apples. Tie the bags with a twist and store at 32 to 40 degrees.

The late Bob Askew, horticulturist at NDSU, recommended that potatoes be stored in burlap bags, plastic garbage bags or wooden bins in the coolest part of your basement. Store them in the dark to keep them from turning green, since this changes the flavor and a slightly poisonous condition.

Try to use them before Christmas since basement storage temperatures will often cause sprouting and shriveling by then. If you can keep the temperature about 35 degrees, you can usually keep them longer.


Don't store fruits and vegetables together.

Carrots need to have the top green part cut off. They will usually keep very well in the refrigerator or in sand in the basement.

Good luck. This is one of the tasks of gardening that does not always work as well as it should.

E-mail reply

Penny Jo Vikander of Oxbow, N. D., wonders what to do to winterize clematis and spiderwort.

For clematis, it depends on which kind you are growing. Jackmanii, the hardy, deep purple kind most often grown, offers a choice.

You don't need to do anything in the fall. In the spring, you can cut your plant down to a few feet and it will grow and produce lots of bloom. If you leave the tops and don't cut anything at all, it will bloom fine but the blooms will be larger and they will bloom earlier. However, there will not be as many of them as when you prune them.

Other varieties react differently. Find out which variety you have. Do not plant a variety that blooms on last season's growth because that often kills out over winter and although it will grow fine, it will not bloom.


Spiderwort will do fine without anything being done in the fall. Some varieties are native and wouldn't think of killing out.

We will be discussing house plants soon. If you have one or more that do well without a lot of fuss, would you let us know, along with some notes of care? I know others would love to hear of your experiences.

Collins is The Forum's garden columnist. Write to her by mail at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo ND 58107, or direct e-mail to her at dorothycollins@i29.net

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