The Case for Storage Crops

Jacob’s Cattle (Trout) Bush Dry Bean

You don’t need to be a “prepper” to grow storage crops. In fact, there are many reasons anyone with room should add a few storage crops to their garden. Storage crops can help you cut down on your grocery bill, eat a more local diet (which is better for the environment), and even eat a little healthier too. They’re also a great way to connect with history. Not long ago all of our ancestors relied on storage crops to help them make it through the year. Today we may not depend on them but growing some can be a worthwhile pursuit.

Dry Beans

They’re wonderfully easy to grow and a great source of protein. Beans are also a nitrogen-fixing legume perfect for growing after or in combination with heavy-feeders like corn. Dry bean varieties are either pole or bush type so consider your space before choosing a variety.

Dry beans should be allowed to fully mature and if possible dry before harvest. If frost or wet weather threatens you can pull the entire plant and hang them under cover to dry. An easy way to thresh dry beans is to take the beans still in pods and pour them into an old pillowcase. Then you can beat the pillowcase against a hard surface to break up the pods. You can then winnow the pods out.


While we often associate potatoes with the Irish they’re actually indigenous to the Andes in what’s now southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia. They’ve been cultivated for over 10,000 years!

Potatoes need to be cured before storage. Once harvested potatoes should be cured in a single layer somewhere dark and dry. Avoid washing them. You can gently brush off any dirt as they dry. After 7-10 days they can be placed in cardboard boxes and stored somewhere cool and dry. Around 55°F is ideal.

Sweet Potatoes

Don’t think sweet potatoes are only for Thanksgiving! This super versatile vegetable is nutritious and easy to grow at home. Unlike store bought sweet potatoes, varieties available for home cultivation range from starchy to sweet with a variety of colors including purple and white!

If cured and stored properly, sweet potatoes will keep for months with little effort. Check out the link above for everything you need to know about growing, harvesting, and storing sweet potatoes.

Winter Squash & Pumpkins

These awesome plants were developed by Native Americans and were an important dietary staple. Most have a sprawling nature so they require quite a bit of garden space but they can be grown beneath taller crops like in the “three sisters” method. Once established their vines will shade the soil reducing the need for watering and weeding.

Like sweet potatoes, winter squash must be harvested, cured, and stored properly to maximize their storage potential. However, this process is fairly straightforward and simple and squash can keep through the winter.

Floriani Red Flint Corn

Flour Corn

Also called maize, corn is still a staple crop in much of the world. Originally cultivated by Native Americans, flour corn is nothing like the sweet corn most of us are accustomed to eating at summer cookouts today.

Check out the link about to learn how to process your own flour corn for making food like grits, tortillas, and cornbread.

Root Vegetables

There are a variety of root vegetables that make excellent winter storage crops. Depending on your family’s preferences consider growing extra carrots, beets, turnips, or rutabagas.

If you live in a fairly mild climate one of the best ways to store root vegetables is right in the ground. Simply mound some mulch over them like hay or stray and harvest them as needed. Alternatively, you can harvest them, remove the tops and store them in layers in boxes of damp sand or shredded newspaper. Make sure they’re not touching and check them every week or so for spoilage.


When many people picture storing cabbage they often think of sauerkraut. While this is a fine and delicious way to preserve a cabbage harvest, you can also keep cabbage fresh. If you have a root cellar or cool damp space you can hang heads of cabbage upside down by their roots. Cabbage stored this way can keep for 3-4 months.


While garlic may not be a staple crop it does provide a lot of flavor for little effort. Many believe that garlic may also have health benefits and historically has been used to treat a variety of ailments.

Garlic is started in the fall from cloves. There are two types hardneck and softneck garlic. Hardneck produces scapes and handles cold temperatures well but softneck typically stores longer, though both will store for several months. Both types should be cured before storage.


At SESE we carry both bulb and perennial onions which are ideal for winter storage. Like most other storage vegetables, onions must be cured. Then they can be stored at room temperature and bring flavor to meals for months to come. They’re also a great crop for small gardens because they take up little space and are ideal for companion planting with many other vegetables.

Storage Tomatoes

While you can preserve any variety of tomatoes some varieties can be stored fresh! They’re harvested green in the fall and brought inside to ripen. All you need is a place to lay out your tomatoes with air space in between each one at room temperature. They can provide fresh tomatoes up to three months after harvest. Check out the link above to learn about three storage tomato varieties.

All of these wonderful vegetables can be stored for winter use without any electricity or complicated preservation techniques required. Having these on hand can help you make and eat healthier meals from home which is better for your budget and the planet.

5 Tips to Help Your Garden Survive Your Vacation

Gardening is a great summertime hobby. You get to spend time in nature, lower your grocery bill, and for those with children, it’s a great learning opportunity. Unfortunately, it’s not a hobby you can pursue whenever you feel like. Like any living thing, a garden requires attention on mother nature’s schedule. A big garden can compete with other summer activities for your attention, particularly with vacations. Here are a few tips to help you keep a garden alive and still take a summer getaway.

Plan and plant accordingly. 

If you know ahead of time you’ll be taking summer vacations you can plan your planting to better fit your needs. There are three key things to think about when planning your vacation tolerant garden.

Drought Tolerance

The first feature to look for is drought tolerance. Crops like flint and dent corn, sweet potatoes, and peppers will all probably tolerate missing a week of watering while you’re away. Many perennials like asparagus and rhubarb can also handle a bit of neglect once they’re established. 

Weed Tolerance

You can also select plants that will outcompete weeds. Most crops need to be kept weed-free in the spring when they’re young but certain crops will keep themselves fairly weed free once they’re established. Vining crops like cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash are ideal for this and can be used under taller crops like sunflowers, corn, or pole beans. Thick plantings of greens like kale can also keep out weeds once they’ve gotten started. 

The Three Sisters Garden Guide

Harvest Dates

Lastly, if you know exactly when your vacation will be you can try to time harvests around that date with certain crops. While there are no guarantees in gardening, many plants provide fairly reliable harvest dates allowing you to plan when you’ll be home to harvest. Try this with crops like sweet corn, dry beans, and onions. Root crops are also ideal because they can be left in the ground for long periods and harvest when you get home.

Use mulch.

Another great way to make any plant more drought and weed tolerant is to use mulch. A layer of cardboard or newspaper covered with grass clippings, straw, hay, wood chips, or old leaves will keep weeds down for a large portion of the gardening season. Also by covering and insulating the soil, it will help keep it cool and moist even when you’re not home to water. 

Install drip irrigation. 

If you’re able, installing drip irrigation can make life a lot easier. Drip irrigation delivers water right to the base of the plant decreasing loss to evaporation so you lose less water. It’s also easy to set your system up on a timer making it perfect for those times when you’re out of town.

Weed, harvest, water.

It won’t be the most fun way to start a vacation but if you have time put in the work to thoroughly weed, harvest, and water your garden before heading out on vacation. You may still have some work to do when you get back but not nearly as much catch-up as you would otherwise. 

Get a Garden Sitter

Many people hire pet sitters when they go away but few think about hiring a garden sitter. If you have a large garden hiring someone to harvest, water, and maybe even pull a few weeds while you’re away might be worth it. You may even be able to trade them some vegetables for their efforts. 

Recommended Varieties

There are many varieties that will tolerate a vacation or two but here are a few we recommend.

Summer is a busy time for everyone. Use these tips to maintain a productive garden while still enjoying a few summer getaways. 

Gardening in Shade

Having a shady yard can be wonderful on hot sunny days but it’s tough for those who love to garden. Thankfully there are a number of flowers, vegetables, and herbs you can grow that tolerate at least some shade.

Listed below are a few of the plants that tolerate partial to full shade (less than 3 hours direct sunlight per day) that you can order through us.


Many flowers, particularly annuals, love full sun but there are a few that do well in more shady areas. Some flowers like nasturtiums, tolerate shade but may not bloom as much as they would in sunnier spots.

  • Balsam
  • Violas
  • Bee Balm
  • Nasturtiums
  • Soapwort
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Sweet William
  • Sweet Wormwood (Sweet Annie)


While you can’t necessarily start a vegetable garden in the middle of the woods there are quite a few plants that will tolerate some shade. In fact, having a bit of shade can help you grow cool season crops later in the south. However, it’s important to remember that many plants will grow slower in the shade than they would in full sun.

  • Collards
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Green onions

Woodland Medicinals

If you have a wooded area on your property consider growing ginseng or goldenseal. Both plants are highly medicinal and native to North American forests. They do well in the forest understory or other shaded areas. Wild ginseng and goldenseal are frequently overharvested so adding them to your property can help these plants survive. You can pre-order seeds or roots will both ship in the fall.


Though not actually a plant, mushrooms can help you make the most of your property because they love humid, shady spots. The mushroom spawn, available as plugs, comes from Sharondale Farms and makes cultivating mushrooms easy. The plugs are placed in holes drilled into logs and inoculate the log with mushroom mycelium. These logs will bear mushrooms for several years to come, giving you an edible product from your shaded areas. Great varieties for beginners to try include:

  • Oyster
  • Shitakes
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Reishi

If you have a wooded or very shady area on your property you can also check with local nurseries to see if they carry any plants local to your native woodland. Shrubs like holly and plants like Dutchman’s breeches and bleeding hearts are accustomed to growing in the shady understory and make wonderful landscaping plants as well!

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Saving the Past for the Future