Root vegetables: storing

After the hard work of spring and summer, you will hopefully be able to harvest considerable yields. Many vegetables freeze well, but larger crops may need alternative storage. Storing these vegetables in the right way means you will be able to appreciate the fruits of your labours through the leaner winter months.

Root vegetables: storing

Root vegetables: storing

Quick facts

Suitable for Beetroot, carrots, parsnips, swedes, turnips
Timing From early summer to autumn, depending on crop
Difficulty Easy to moderate

Suitable for...

Beetroot, carrots, celeriac, parsnipssalsify, scorzonera, swedes, turnips and winter radishes. Storing potatoes is covered separately on our advice page on this topic.

When to store root vegetables

Root vegetables can be stored in situ or after harvesting – typically, most are stored from summer to autumn to last through the winter, depending on the vegetable.

How to store root vegetables

Storing roots in the ground

Unless the ground is needed for other crops, most root vegetables on well-drained soil can be left in the soil over winter. However, this does leave them vulnerable to cold damage and is not recommended on wet soils.

Beetroot is usually lifted as needed, but hard frost can damage the roots, so cover the bed in a 30cm (1ft) layer of straw, cardboard or bracken held down with netting or horticultural fleece. Protected in this way, crops can last until March. In cold regions, indoor storage is necessary.

Carrots can be left in the ground until needed. To make digging up easier, cover the ground with a 15cm (6in) layer of straw, cardboard or bracken held down with netting or horticultural fleece. These will keep until March if necessary. In cold regions, indoor storage is necessary.

Celeriac is best left in the ground and used fresh, but can be stored in moist sand in boxes. In cold regions, indoor storage is necessary.

Parsnips and Hamburg parsley can be left in the ground and lifted when needed and will improve in flavour as frosts initiate the process of turning starch into sugars. Protect the ground from freezing to make the crop easier to dig up. Parsnips can be stored until spring of the following year.

Salsify and scorzonera are best left in the ground and used as needed up until March as they are extremely hardy.

Swedes can be left in soil and lifted as needed. Lifting roots in frozen soil is difficult, so cover the ground with a 15cm (6in) layer of straw or bracken held down with netting or horticultural fleece. They can last until March of the following year. In cold regions, indoor storage is necessary.

Turnips are usually lifted as needed, but hard frost can damage the roots, so cover the bed in a 15cm (6in) layer of straw or bracken held down with netting or horticultural fleece. Turnips are best used before late winter. In cold regions, indoor storage is necessary.

Winter radishes are usually lifted as needed, but hard frost can damage the roots, so cover the bed in a 15cm (6in) layer of straw or bracken held down with netting or horticultural fleece. They can also be lifted in November and stored; they can keep until March. In cold regions, indoor storage is necessary.

Lifting roots for storage

If lifting root vegetables for storing remember to:

  • Check that all vegetables intended for storing are in good condition – discard or use up any damaged roots
  • Remove foliage and shake off loose soil

The roots can then be stored in one of two ways:

In boxes:

To prevent shrivelling in vegetables which lose moisture such as carrots, celeriac, swedes and beetroot, store the roots in layers of moist sand or peat-substitute in boxes, in a frost-free, dark place such as a shed or cellar.

In clamps:

If storage space under cover is limited and you have large quantities of roots to store, consider making a clamp. This is a traditional and effective method, but be aware that rodents can cause problems.

  • Choose a sheltered, well-drained site. Near a house wall would be suitable
  • Dig a trench around the area to aid drainage
  • Make a 20cm (8in) base layer of light, sandy soil or sand and cover with a layer of straw
  • Remove the top growth from roots to avoid crops rotting
  • Make a pyramid with the roots, using the largest at the bottom
  • Cover the whole pile with a 20cm (8in) layer of straw, followed by a 15cm (6in) layer of soil to keep out the frosts. Leave a tuft of straw emerging from the soil as a chimney for excess heat and moisture to escape
  • Aim to make the clamp around 1m (3¼ft) high and pat the soil smooth with the back of a spade to help water run off

Problems

Carrot fly can become worse in late summer to early autumn.

Storage rots can affect roots kept in inadequate conditions.

Control of rodents such as rats or mice and voles may also be necessary.


Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.