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jal_ut
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Winter Storage Pit

The pit was 26 by 36 and 16 inches deep.
[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/pit1.jpg[/img]

The veggies are put in. I wrapped the cabbage in newspaper.
[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/pit2.jpg[/img]

Covered up. Stakes to mark the spot.
[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/pit3.jpg[/img]

I will pile some leaves on this for insulation.
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jal_ut
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The site

One more picture. This pit is over by the wagon. That ferny yellow stuff behind the wagon is asparagus ferns.

[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/late_garden.jpg[/img]
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shadowsmom
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Does this pit function like a root cellar?

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applestar
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When you say 16" deep, is it to the bottom of the pit or top of the veggies? I guess it's not contingent on your frost line (I think that's what it's called? -- the depth that the ground freezes in winter?)

How deep do you much, and do you hold down the leaves with branches or tarp?

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soil
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great idea, if it weren't so rocky here id love to do this.
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Can't even think of doing that in the New Orleans area. I've dug post holes 2 1/2 ft. into the ground and had them start filling with water. We have so much ground water that many fencing companies simply pour the concrete mix dry into the holes and by the next day, it is set hard as------well,--rock.

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What kinds of vegetables do you put in there? How long do they last?
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jal_ut
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This year I put carrots, potatoes, beets, turnips and cabbage. I know the root crops will do fine, but this is my first time trying cabbage. These root crops will hold just fine until April.

Last year I kept some beets. In the spring, I ate some and planted a couple to go for seed. They bloomed and gave me a lot of seed. Beets have a biennial growth habit, but won't winter over if left where they grew.
When you say 16" deep, is it to the bottom of the pit or top of the veggies?
16 inches total depth.
Does this pit function like a root cellar?
The same principles apply since both systems draw heat from the earth to keep things from freezing. To be successful, both systems need to have the top insulated. Potatoes keep well in a root cellar just dumped on the floor, but carrots will dehydrate in a root cellar if not covered with something, like sand. In this regard, the carrots may keep better in the pit since they are in contact with soil. They never dehydrate in the pit. The advantage of a root cellar is that you can enter it and have easier access to your veggies at any time.
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orgoveg
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You gave me some real food for thought, here.

#1 - I dug a pit for the same purpose and I intended to bury a 35 gallon drum (or bigger). I quit digging when I hit a pipe and some cable wires. I never got around to digging another. I intended it to be about 3 feet deep. You have shown that I don't need to go to all that trouble.

#2 - I have beets, carrots, turnips, and kale overwintering where they were planted, as I want seed. Would you say that I'd be better off to harvest them and store to re-plant in spring?

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jal_ut
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I have many times wintered carrots and beets by tilling both sides of the row then shoveling about 4 inches of soil on top of the row then covering with straw. This usually works here if there is a good covering of snow before the temperature goes down to zero. I like to get them out of the garden so I can till in the fall, so the pit works well. I don't know what your winters are like. Do you know if your ground freezes very deep? Here it can freeze 4 feet or more deep where the snow gets removed, but where the snow is not disturbed it doesn't freeze very deep. Of course like I said, depends on how much snow there is when it gets down to zero and below. Snow is a good insulator. Straw or leaves helps a great deal to insulate from the cold.
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Do you just cover them with dirt, or do you put something on them first, then the dirt?

When do you dig them up? Is it in the spring or throughout the winter?
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Do you just cover them with dirt, or do you put something on them first, then the dirt?

When do you dig them up? Is it in the spring or throughout the winter?
I just cover them with dirt. When winter really gets going here, which is usually Thanksgiving weekend, it is too cold and nasty to want to dig them up. I will wait until we get a thaw, usually in February to go dig up a few carrots. Then the pit will be covered again and opened when it is convenient and the weather is good. In April when the weather is good and it is time to plant early crops, I will dig everything out of the pit.
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In her amazing book, Gardening At The Dragons Gate, Wendy Johnson talks about this sort of process in the root cellar, but she adds layers of bracken between to insulate and seperate. Have you tried anything like that before JAL?

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Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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orgoveg
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I see what you mean by wanting to get them out for tilling. I had thought about that.

For construction purposes, I believe our frost line is 3 feet but it never goes that deep. Snow is hit or miss. You can't count on it for insulation. It does get down to zero and below occasionally. I'm thinking that I'll leave the stuff in the garden covered with mounded soil and leaf mulch, then see what happens. Thanks for your thoughts.

I still wonder when and if to cut the tops down.

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jal_ut
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but she adds layers of bracken between to insulate and seperate. Have you tried anything like that before JAL?
No.
I still wonder when and if to cut the tops down.
I never did cut the tops when leaving them in the garden. Just covered them up good. I have had gophers find them and eat them all too. I have even had deer nibbling on the carrots. Its like planting a garden, you do it in faith and hope for a good outcome.
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What advantages would you say that this method has over a freezer or refrigerator? Or do you just do it for fun?
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applestar
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Judging by the amount of produce jal puts in his pit, I'd say it saves space in his freezer and fridge for other perishables. :wink:

I remember his post from this spring when he opened last year's pit. I do have to say there HAS to be some *fun* factor in there somewhere too! It's like digging up buried treasure -- X marks the spot! :lol:

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jal_ut
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What advantages would you say that this method has over a freezer or refrigerator? Or do you just do it for fun?
The fridge and freezer is full. I put about 100 pounds of veggies in this pit. It will all keep very well until spring. Try putting 100 pounds of veggies in your fridg. The reason for doing this is to preserve the food for later use.

Advantage? You don't have to plug it into the grid and pay a utility bill. These are root crops. In the ground is where they keep the best. It is a natural thing for them to stay in the ground through winter. The problem is that in this country if left where they grew they would freeze. Putting the roots in a pit simply prevents them getting frozen.

Fun? More like work digging a pit, but I do get the great pleasure of having fresh veggies in the spring.
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Is a pit like a root cellar? I remember people having root cellars (we didn't) and I'm not sure what they were for. Same idea?

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jal_ut
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Yes, a root cellar is similar in principle, though it is usually large enough for a person to enter.
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digitS'
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I have never thought of putting potatoes in with the carrots. (Done parsnips . . .)

Do the potatoes keep well enough that you can use them for seed? That isn't quite possible in my basement.

[img]https://lh4.ggpht.com/_xQJzrL8scm4/TN2ky2Yf8EI/AAAAAAAAAFg/S31NVE3jiYg/s288/carrots%20in%20storage.jpg[/img]

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This is really invaluable information because as we get better at growing more veggies, we need to learn ways of keeping them fresh & at eating quality longer. 8)

It's also evident that you would want sufficient surplus to make the effort of digging the winter storage pit worthwhile. :shock: Do you ever have trouble with burrowing animal finding the pit? (My potatoes -- both regular and sweet -- were eaten by some animal this season for the first time. I'm suspecting chipmunks.) I HAVE heard of burying plastic trash cans. If soil contact is important, I suppose burying a hardware cloth box/cage might be the answer....

Would you agree that a typical progression would be ...?
(1) Grow enough to sample harvest/supplement purchased produce
(2) Grow enough for day-to-day use in season
(3) Grow enough supplement to preserve by pickling and canning
(4) Grow enough for winter storage to be enjoyed in spring

I know store-bought carrots don't last THAT long in the veggie drawer of the fridge. :roll: Do some of you have a walk-in fridge or maybe a dedicated veggie fridge kind of thing?

Do you have some carrots and other root veggies in root cellar or other more readily accessible storage to last most of the winter as well? (You did mention raiding the pit during the winter but not very easily)

(jal -- if this seems way off topic, I can split this off to start another thread)

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(jal -- if this seems way off topic, I can split this off to start another thread)
Its OK here as far as I am concerned.

I have not had a problem with burrowing animals finding the pit. Yes, it could happen. Its a risk I take.

Progression? I guess my progression developed along with my needs. I had a large family. My parents, and my grandparents grew gardens and canned both fruits and vegetables plus stored some in a cellar or pit in the winter. I did what I saw them do. As the family grew so did my garden and the need to preserve.

Besides what has been discussed in this thread, we dry some things, pickle, bottle and freeze things. Yes, there is a lot of available and accessible fruit and veggies for our use during winter when the pit is under snow. (if this just changed from my, and I, to we, and ours its because this is a joint effort. I always told the kids, "We are all in this together, so we can all help".) At present its just me and the wife. I garden and we do the canning.

I kept out 60 pounds of taters and some carrots that are still in the garage. They will keep for a while. The potatoes keep better than the carrots. Carrots dehydrate very quickly if not protected somehow. Some things will keep a while in the fridg, but there is only so much you can put in a fridg.
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jal_ut
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Do the potatoes keep well enough that you can use them for seed? That isn't quite possible in my basement.
Yes, the potatoes keep very well. Not only will they be good for seed, but good for eating too.
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digitS'
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Good to know!

I haven't grown very many potatoes since I was storing things in a real root cellar. I've had larger spud crops in recent years and am now looking for better storage types and/or better storage facilities.

I descended into my old root cellar by ladder . . . Anyway, buckets of sand didn't go up and down that ladder and I won't be carrying them up and down my basement stairs :? . That is too much work!

I dug a hole just about the size of my carrot hole in a garden bed yesterday - had some compostables to bury. I am sure that it didn't take me 10 minutes!

The way I've set the carrots upright takes the most time but I find that they are really easy to get at thru the winter when they are lined up that way

Burrowing animals - yep. Once a mouse found the carrots before I discovered what was happening. I've stored carrots in a hole in the backyard for about 10 years so this isn't a common problem.

What I learned from the mouse experience was that they too are looking for a cozy winter home with food supplies. I began to wait later in the fall to dig the hole and move the carrots into it. My thinking is that mice move around less and less as the cold weather comes in.

Cold weather is here. First measurable snow this morning and the morning lows are supposed to drop into the single digitS' next week! I've stirred up the leaves twice to make sure there are no mice in Carrot Town. I'll do that one more time and then let Mother Nature confine the little critters to their own homes and hearths.

Steve :)
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Alan in Vermont
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This talk of storage pits has got me thinking (scary thought that it is) that I may put in some potatoes and more carrots next year. I have the technology to bore 18" diameter holes three feet deep with the tractor and post hole digger. Should be no problem to get a major dose of leaves tp use for insulation over them. Soooo, maybe several pits with buried root crops where I can uncover one a month and get away from rubbery spuds and carrots all winter or longer.

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Jal, since you say that the purpose is to protect from a frost, would you recommend that the hole be deep enough so that all of the vegetables are below the frost line for the area?

Here is a thought I had. Instead of a pit to protect from freezing, how about a summer pit to protect things like radishes from getting spoiled by the heat :idea:. This may work with a summer carrot harvest, as well.
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