Fall Harvest and Winter Storage of Cabbages & Other Crops

by Catherine Haug, September 23, 2011

This was definitely a strange year for my garden. Everything got a late start and are finishing late as well. Some things just never produced anything edible. Like my radishes. They grew great, but  the root was very woody, even before it had grown to any size. Very disappointing.

However, my late cabbage is doing better than in the 2 prior years of my garden, so I want to do the harvest right. In addition to researching on the web, I asked Don Bates, one of our experienced gardeners who grows a lot of cabbage.

Cabbage harvesting tip from Don Bates:

“Here’s my essentially correct [if obtuse] answer:  Wait until it bursts.  Then, harvest it the day before.

When cabbages first reach full size, they are still quite low density.  After a couple more weeks, they will “fill in” so that they are nearly solid.  But if you let them stay in the field too long, they will burst themselves, especially if they get a good dose of water.  Your cabbage is most probably ready to harvest now.  I don’t think they improve with time, or freezing, the way brussels sprouts do.  On the other hand, light frosts don’t hurt them a bit.

Bottom line: if it seems that it stopped growing a couple of weeks ago, I would harvest it.”

Harvesting tips from “Storage of Home Grown Vegetables”

In researching on the web, I found a good article from Colorado State University Extension to share: Storage of Home Grown Vegetables (or pdf version: Storage of Home Grown Vegetables (pdf)). I figure the high altitude Colorado climate must be somewhat similar to ours.

This article includes two great outdoor cold storage ideas for root crops and cabbage (outdoor pit and storage mound), as well as advice for harvesting these crops. It is a fairly new article and recently updated in August 2011.

Cabbage family:

For late cabbage, it advises harvesting after a frost has halted its growth.

Kale and collards can be left in the garden long after the frost.

Root crops:

For root crops like carrot and beet, it advises hilling soil over the shoulders of the root to protect them from freezing until harvest. Insulating them with straw and soil can prolong harvest even longer, although I think this doesn’t work as well in a raised bed. Dig those that will not be stored in the soil before the ground freezes, then prepare for cold storage.

Parsnips will withstand freezing. Leave part of the crop in the ground and dig in the spring when the flavor is greatly improved.

Winter squash & pumpkins:

Do not harvest winter squash and pumpkins until the vines are frost-killed and the skin is hard to the thumbnail. Leave stems on the fruit to protect against disease invasion.

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