Use this easy method to store your garden potatoes through the winter without basements or traditional cold storage areas.
We eat a lot of potatoes here - there are two teenagers in our household, need I say more? So of course I'd want to grow them when I started growing our food. As my garden skills grew, I added potato plants here or there where I could fit them as my vegetable garden pushed out the flowers, but as soon as I had more space when we moved to our cottage, I planted more.
We ate them as "new potatoes" in the summer and then had great fun harvesting them in September (here's more about the method I use - no digging and clean harvest - it's great!).
However, after our harvest there were four 5-gallon buckets full of organic potatoes (these days, worth a lot of money!) and I had no idea how I was going to store them. I searched my gardening books and the internet and came up with these options for storing potatoes through the winter:
- Cool basement (not in this house)
- Root Cellar (hey-we live on the West Coast - I don't know anyone with a root cellar!)
- Bury a plastic trash bin in the ground with the lid at ground level (dig 4 feet down? Uh...I don't think so)
- Make an above-ground "root cellar" with straw bales and plastic (too complicated, not to mention sounds like an eyesore)
- Build a cold storage room in your garage (no garage at the time, and build a whole room for a few potatoes?)
Honestly, I couldn't find anything easy or within my abilities. I actually was a little discouraged and started thinking about all the recipes with potatoes I was going to have to make over the next few weeks...
Then I read somewhere online about putting potatoes in a food cooler (the kind you take camping) for about a month. I thought, well, if they don't last longer, it's still better than nothing. So I found our old cooler out in a shed:
And loaded it with potatoes in September. It was about 3/4 full that first year.
I kept it out in the shed and would go "shopping" for potatoes whenever I needed them. They lasted until the middle of January! The last ones were starting to sprout a little, but they were still good. I've since learned you can choose varieties that store better and I also now use up the varieties first that aren't good storage potatoes. Yukon Golds and other yellow-skinned potatoes last longer than red-skinned and even brown-skinned russets.
This year when I when out to the shed to get a few potatoes for dinner on February evening, this is what I found:
They look pretty good for being stored so long, don't they? Not too many are sprouting - the potatoes on the right are a russet-type which are sprouting before the Yukon Golds on the left, so we're using them up first.
So if you'd like to grow potatoes this year and don't have access to root cellars or 4-foot deep holes, start looking for old coolers to store your harvest. It's turned out to be a great option!
Oh, and if you do have potatoes that sprout, here's a few things you can do with them.