Leaf-Bag Clamp Partial Failure

Dateline: 22 March 2016
click on pictures to see larger views

A hill of tri-grown carrots

I've been interested in the concept of storing root crops over the winter in clamps for some time, and I've written about it at this blog over the years. Then, back in 2014 I showed an idea I had for a leaf-bag clamp on YouTube (Click Here To Watch).

Last year I decided to try keeping some of my tri-grown carrot crop in a leaf-bag clamp outside the back door of my house. It would be more convenient to get to than a garden clamp.

Here's a picture of the clamp as I was making it last fall...

As you can see in that picture, I have a bundle of goldenrod stems in the center. That is something different from my previous clamp. I figured the bundle would act as a ventilation shaft for the carrots, which is a feature I've seen in old books, though they typically used twisted straw for the ventilation chimney. 

I went out to the clamp in January, took the cover bags off, and harvested some perfectly preserved carrots. Then, today, (March 22) I decided to harvest the rest of the clamp. Here's what the clamp looked like before opening it...

As you can see, there are no carrots in the uppermost section of the uncovered clamp. They were removed in January...

I expected to find perfectly preserved carrots, just like I've always gotten from my clamps, but that was not the case. The carrots were all mushy, as this picture shows...

The carrots froze and turned to mush. They are mushy just like if I left them in the garden over the winter and did not cover with any insulation. Very discouraging. 

But the clamp contents were not a total loss. As I picked the mushy carrots out, and got nearer the bottom of the clamp, there were several unfrozen carrots. They were firm and unaffected by the freeze. These carrots were at or below soil level (much of the clamp was above soil level).

So, I was able to get some good carrots, as you can see in this picture...

When I harvest carrots from a clamp, I bring them indoors and wash them. But I don't scrub them. I just rinse and hand-rub them to remove most of the soil.

After they are thus cleaned, I put them in ventilated plastic bags, and from there into the crisper drawer of the fridge. They will keep very well there for several weeks.

I had some carrot rust fly damage to my carrots last year. But it wasn't too bad, and it isn't a big deal. Perfectly nice looking vegetables are not a necessity when it's food for our own use. Even still, I'm going to have to do some research on how to prevent that.

As for the leaf-bag clamp idea, I still think it's a valid option. But I guess my goldenrod stem chimney is not a good idea. It lets the cold in.

I read recently that Eliot Coleman stores root crops in a small galvanized garbage can that is buried in the ground. He lines the cover with a piece of styrofoam. And he puts a bale of straw over the top. Sounds easier than making a leaf-bag clamp. That's what I'm going to try doing next year. But I'll pile some leaf bags on the top instead of straw. A bale of straw is expensive these days, unless you're a farmer.


kymber said...

Herrick - we don't harvest our carrots until the first dew overnight-freezes. until then, we just harvest what we need. after 2 or 3 real frosts, we harvest them all and then just put them in a box in our basement which is much like a cold store. we cover the box with a towel and we are still enjoying our carrots. we have been eating our own carrots straight out of the ground since july...and still have enough carrots to get us through to planting season. we have a ton of carrots that are sprouting and we plan on planting those in the ground in the next few weeks in order to let those carrots go to seed this harvest. no more buying carrot seed - woohoo!

we never store our harvest in plastic bags or containers....use brown lunch bags, or boxes to store your harvest. it's much better for the produce!

and if everett stops in - tell him we are glad to add him as a friend!

your friend,

Everett R Littlefield said...

Hey Herrick, I just went down and dug up my clamp by the barn and they were all good! I was lazy last fall and just dug a hole about 6inches deep and a foot across, put about 6-8" of straw in the bottom, piled on about a dozen carrots, added about two feet of straw and a bout a foot of dirt. Also put about 6-8 of the Golden rod stems in there. This was in late November. I also tried the buried 30 gal garbage can last year full of turnips and rutabagas. Wasn't paying attention and put the right in the path of the when the rain runs off the roof. Filled the cans right full of water! Was thinking I should just put the can, turnips/rutabagas/water and all on my turkey cooker and make a lot of soup and call all the neighbors!!LOL
Just cut all the black plastic for the walkways in the High Tunnel today. Now to get all the actual bed covers with holes in them in the correct beds. Then there they will stay unless I need to do some crop rotation!
Just made my copy of the pea planter stick, and figured I could also use it for beans by just skipping a hole or two or three. I also made it 36" long so I don't have to move it so many times. Conservation of energy and joint movement etc. don't you know.
Take care and Happy planting

Gorges Smythe said...

I've learned to wash my fruit in a 10% solution of vinegar to help preserve them. I suspect that it would do the same for vegetables.

Herrick Kimball said...

You must have a basement with high humidity. I'll try the paper bag idea. But it's getting harder to find paper bags these days.

I don't think Everett has a blog. He's a busy guy. But he did write a book about growing up on Block Island, back in the day. And I enjoyed reading it.

Glad to know your clamp worked okay. This recent failure of mine was the first for me.

If you get a chance, check out Kymber's blog. She and her husband, Jambaloney, have bugged out to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and she just had all her teeth pulled.

Another use for vinegar! Thanks for the tip.