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Overwintering biennials for seed? Storage location  RSS feed

 
Posts: 54
Location: Southern Michigan
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Hello, I'm interested in collecting seed from some favorite biennials; carrots, parsnips, celeriac and rutabaga.  My problem is where to overwinter them.  The books suggest that in my climate I dig them up and store them at 32-35 degrees and then replant in spring.  This sounds like a great idea except I don't have anywhere that stays that temperature!  We have an auxiliary refrigerator in the garage but the contents will freeze (luckily, apples still taste good when frozen.) I would love to move the fridge indoors and use it but it won't fit.  Suggestions of somewhere to store these veggies? I would like to keep at least 2 dozen of each variety (4 carrots, 1 var each of the others) so it's not a tiny amount of space.  I do have room in the barn to add something like a used chest freezer or fridge but then I would need to find a way to heat it slightly. We have electricity out there but it's uninsulated.
   Thanks for any ideas! 

Zone 6b, winter temp vary from 57 two weeks ago to -11 routinely but it's almost always below 35 from Nov30- Mar/April
 
gardener
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Location: Manitoba, Canada
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Hi Grace,

This is the same advice that someone once gave me for carrots and frankly I felt like it was way too much work. So instead of digging it all up and worrying about storing it all winter, I just left them in the ground exactly where they were. Then, when I went to put the fall leaves on the garden for mulch and soil building I just made sure there was an extra thick layer near the carrots. They won't all come back up but I had a significant number that did. We get below -30°C here so that's much colder than your environment.

Actually, the most exciting part was that I actually pulled and ate a few fresh carrots first thing in the spring, at least 3 months before anyone else was going to. All it required was laziness. I also got a  ton of seeds out of it. Each carrot that comes up gives 1000s of seeds!

I can't say for sure if this will work with parsnips, celeriac, or rutabaga but I am pretty sure it would work.

Shawn
 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 54
Location: Southern Michigan
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Thanks Shawn, I like your style. I think I’ll try this, goodness knows I have plenty of leaves to cover with! If it doesn’t work then I’ll come up with something fancier.
I’ll post results next year 😊
 
pollinator
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Shawn Klassen-Koop wrote:..... I just left them in the ground exactly where they were. Then, when I went to put the fall leaves on the garden for mulch and soil building I just made sure there was an extra thick layer near the carrots. They won't all come back up but I had a significant number that did. We get below -30°C here so that's much colder than your environment.



Thanks for this post, Shawn, as we are south of you in possibly the same soil type (Red River Valley).  Indeed, our parsnips keep coming back year after year with no mulching....typically have -20 to -30 F (-30 - -35C) periods in mid-winter, although usually with some layer of snow.  But we've never tried just leaving the carrots in the soil.  Even more exciting....you are probably selecting for those individual carrots that can tolerate the cold overwintering conditions so that you are 'improving' your carrot genetic stock for your location this way.  I'm excited now to try this for the coming year.
 
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hau Grace, I was going to suggest simply mulching them in but Shawn beat me to it.  Leaves or straw work really well for this, plus you can leave some in place come spring as a decaying mulch (compost in place).

This works for just about all the root vegetables that are biannual for seed production.
 
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Sometimes, I dig root crops and store them in buckets of peat/coir/sand overwinter in someplace like an unheated porch, or garage, or even just in an inside closet.

I have found that winter survival in the garden tends to be higher for young plants than for old. So a turnip planted in mid-august that goes into winter at about 1" diameter has a much better chance of surviving than a turnip that was planted months earlier and is 4" in diameter going into winter.

For crops left in the garden, winter survival varies from species to species and year to year. Mulching might help, and it might create damper conditions that encourage rotting.

 
gardener
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Some older homesteaders near me store their carrots in the garden as well.  They mulch heavily with straw and possibly put down vole prevention (hardware cloth).  They dig carrots all winter so I'm sure they overwinter.  In my garden I always have parsnips come up in the spring that I missed digging.

If you need to dig them and store them, what about putting them in a bucket in a window well and covering with a bunch of straw or leaves?
 
Grace Gierucki
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I'm definitely going to see what comes up this spring.  I just pulled some more parsnips for eating and have a question, how small is too small to leave for seed production? Unfortunately I already pulled the bigger parsnips and all thats left are ridiculously small ones.  They do look and taste great, seemingly unaffected by the frozen ground. 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Grace Gierucki wrote:how small is too small to leave for seed production? Unfortunately I already pulled the bigger parsnips and all thats left are ridiculously small ones.  



By growing seed from the smallest parsnips, you will be tending to select for parsnips that are less productive in your garden.  One of the great sadnesses for me while growing my own seed, is that the best of the best stays in the garden for seed production, and I take my seconds to farmer's market.
 
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