The storing of vegetables often requires a large amount of extra labor in handling the crops; many necessary facilities must be provided; there is always more or less shrinkage of vegetables in storage; risks must be taken, and there may be little or no advancement in price. For these reasons many gardeners prefer selling the bulk of the fall crops direct from the field. Storage, nevertheless, is often an advantage and sometimes a necessity. Prices at harvest are frequently so low that growers are forced to store their vegetables in order to realize a profit. Again, storage may be important in order to satisfy the trade, especially when the grower has established a retail route. From the standpoint of the consumer, storage is of prime importance, because it materially lengthens the seasons when various classes of vegetables are available.
Three main factors must be taken into account when providing storage facilities; viz., (1) moisture, (2) temperature and (3) fresh air. No general rule will apply to all classes of vegetables. Some vegetables, as the root crops, must be kept quite moist in order to preserve their plumpness and succulence. On the other hand, excessive moisture should be avoided because it engenders decay. Certain vegetables, as onions and sweet potatoes, must be kept dry to prevent decay. A degree or two above freezing is the most favorable temperature for the safe storage of most vegetables, although there are exceptions. Fresh air is also essential in most instances. (See Chapter XXI).
Many vegetables possess better keeping qualities when placed in storage before they have fully matured. This is particularly true of cabbage and the salad crops. Losses in storage are often due to diseases which have developed in the field. When such infections are known to exist and to be a common source of trouble in storage, the safer course is to dispose of the crop without attempting to preserve it for later marketing. Too much care cannot be taken in handling the crops to be stored, for every bruise invites decay and mars the appearance of the product when placed on the market.
With the rapid expansion of commercial vegetable gardening, storage houses of large capacity have become a necessity. The character of construction of storage houses depends mainly upon the kinds of crops to be stored, and hence there are many types of storage houses. In New Jersey and southward there are many sweet potato houses, large and small, and varying considerably in form of construction; in cabbage districts, houses are built especially for this crop, while the celery and onion growers build houses which they regard most satisfactory for their own specialties. (See Chapter XXI).
Pits And Outdoor Cellars are used extensively for the storage of vegetables. They are inexpensive to construct and may be built by growers whose operations are not large enough to justify the erection of commodious houses. (See Chapter XXI).
The cellar of the residence is often used to preserve vegetables. As a rule it provides unsatisfactory conditions, especially if it contains a furnace, because the air is then too warm and dry. These difficulties may be overcome to some extent by separating the furnace room from the storage rooms by brick, stone or concrete walls; the pipes may be covered with asbestos; ample ventilation may also be provided, and vegetables like the root crops may be covered with a few inches of moist soil or sand to prevent withering.
Burying is a very common method of keeping vegetables during the winter. It involves more labor than other methods, but when properly managed preserves cabbage and the root crops in the very best condition.
Cold Frames may be used to advantage in storing vegetables. The drainage around them must be thorough, and mats, shutters or boards must be provided to cover them. An excellent plan is to cover the sash with boards after the frames have been filled, and then to bank the outside of the frames with soil or manure. As the weather becomes severe, straw may be placed over the frames and covered with shutters or boards. This plan is particularly desirable for celery. See notes on celery storage, page 321.