You've grown it - now keep it!
As we drop ever deeper into autumn, it’s time to consider how we can store some of the crops which have reached maturity in the garden for winter use - and who better to talk us through the storage of vegetables than our horticulturist Martin Fiddes?
Let’s start with any easy one – potatoes. These have now been lifted, dried and the surplus housed in traditional paper sacks, which in turn have been placed in a cool environment and are regularly checked – any tubers showing signs of rot will be promptly removed!
The storage of carrots requires rather more preparation. They need to be placed in a box, filled with moist sand or peat and the box in turn needs a similar cool, dark place, like the potato sacks. Carrots can be left in the soil (especially if it is well drained) until required but run the risk of pest damage, need protection from frost (provide a layer of straw, bracken or soil about 15cm deep - possibly double for heavy frosts) and also the ground may be required for winter crops.
Also in the ground are the leeks, and that’s where they are best left! Leeks do not store well but if the ground they are occupying is required, it’s an idea to heel them into the soil in another location, where they will happily sit until required.
Onto brussel sprouts - the plants we currently have can also be left until the end of the autumn, and then the stem, with the sprouts still attached, can be cut and hung in a cool position away from direct sunlight.
Finally, pumpkins and squashes both need to be left on the plant for as long as possible, turning where required to avoid pale areas, and removing the foliage around the fruit as harvest time approaches. Protect any fruit from frost, remove from the plant when the skin begins to harden and leave for a couple of weeks to cure, either in the sun or under glass. Pumpkins should keep until midwinter if stored in cool, dry conditions. Winter squashes meanwhile have been known to store until spring under the correct conditions (very dry and reasonably warm) but summer squashes do not store well at all.