Preserving in the Garden

What is preserving in the garden?  It is a method of leaving as much produce in the garden so that you don’t spend time and energy canning, drying or freezing.  Some vegetables such as parsley, lettuce, spinach, endive, chicory, mustard, Swiss chard and Chinese cabbage can stand a light frost without damage.  Dry hay or leaves may be put around the plants if the temperature is expected to go below 28 or 30 degrees F., a cover should be provided.  Old sheets, plastic, blankets or other types of tarps may be used.  The use of coverings will trap in some warmth before the soil gets too cold as the temperature drops.  Placing a cold frame on top of the vegetables at the sign of a first frost will also help extend the growing season.

Many root vegetables are left in the ground and dug as needed during winter months.  Winter radishes, carrots, beets, turnips and rutabaga can be mulched heavily to prevent freezing.  Do not apply the mulch until the ground is lightly frozen.  Mulching too soon mice or small animals may mistake your mulch for their new home with a supply of food for the winter.  Radishes should never be allowed to freeze.  Vegetables such as parsnips, leeks, bunching onions, Jerusalem artichokes and salsify are not harmed by freezing.

Tomatoes can be picked green right before the first frost and stored in shallow boxes one layer deep.  The boxes should be lined with a pad of newspaper and with a newspaper over the top.

Vegetable Preserving Tips

Parsley, Lettuce, Spinach, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Swiss Chard, Mustard:

Can stand light frost. Protect from hard frost and freezing by mulching sides of plants, then covering over at night.  May be covered with plastic attached double-thickness to a wooden frame.  These also grow well in a cold frame.


Will often produce until December without protection.

Cabbage, Kohlrabi:

Stands frost.  Protect from hard freeze by storing in cold frost-free location, December to March.

Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Collards:

Stands frost and freezing.  To prevent sunburn, cover leaves with burlap so that frozen leaves are not exposed to sun.  Mulch sides of plant.

Witloof Chicory:

Store roots in damp sand in basement.

Winter Radishes:

Mulch to prevent freezing.

Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Rutabaga:

When ground is frozen 1/4 to 1/2 inch, mulch to prevent further freezing.  Mulch must be one foot or more thick if temperature is very low.  Push back mulch and dig when desired.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Leeks, Bunching Onions, Parsnips, Salsify:

Mulch as for carrots if you wish to dig when the ground is frozen.  Otherwise, no mulch is necessary.

Edible-Pod Peas:

Planted in July or early August, will produce until hard frost in November.


Pick before frost; store in cool storage until they ripen in January.

Onions, Garlic:

Store in cool, dry location with good ventilation.


Prefer cool, moist storage area such as root cellar.

Winder Squash, Pumpkins:

Prefer warm, dry storage area.