Whether it’s a juicy red tomato, a golden ear of corn, or anything in between, the chances are that you will not be able to consume everything you grow as it ripens.
However, you do not want your hard work or good food to go to waste either. It would be best to have a long-term storage solution that will give you adequate time to consume, give away, or sell the excess produce.
This is your guide to everything you need to know about storing homegrown produce.
How to Harvest Vegetables to Optimize Storage Life
The first step to maximizing your product’s life is in the way you harvest it. Avoid bruising, cutting, nicking, or breaking fruits and vegetables. Any damage to the crop will cause it to rot faster, shortening its shelf life.
If you decide to harvest damaged fruit and vegetables, they should be consumed immediately and not stored with high-quality produce. The reason is that rotting produce will cause healthy produce around it to rot faster.
Let’s take potatoes, for example. Have you ever noticed that if one potato in a bag is rotten, it seems as if it spreads through the whole bag very quickly, almost as if it’s contagious?
Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. One rotten potato will spoil the batch. As soon as you notice a rotting vegetable or fruit, immediately remove it.
Long-Term Storage Combinations
Each type of produce has different properties, so the ideal long-term storage combination will depend on what fruits and vegetables you are growing. The University of Minnesota Extension offers a guide for the correct storage temperatures for the most common homegrown produce.
There are three environments for long-term storage that most fruits and vegetables fall into. These are:
- Cool and dry: 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit and 60% relative humidity
- Cold and dry: 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% relative humidity
- Cold and moist: 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit and 95% relative humidity
What is the Best Storage Solution?
The biggest challenge to storing excess produce is finding a suitable location. Many think refrigerators are a good choice, but at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity, they make a poor choice for most products, except for garlic.
Likewise, your home will not work either. Apart from the fact that you likely do not have enough spare room for an abundance of fruits and vegetables, the temperature in homes is too high and will accelerate the rotting process.
You need a space that is designed specifically for produce storage. The most optimal storage solution for storing fruits and vegetables is a 10×12 storage building.
Why build a 10×12 Outdoor Storage Shed
First of you will need DIY 10×12 shed plans. Building an outdoor storage shed for excess produce provides several benefits, including:
- You have a designated space specifically for food storage.
- You can ensure the temperature of the storage shed is optimized for the crop you plan to store.
- It is easier to install a storage building than other methods of storage, such as root cellar.
- This is a cost-effective solution to your food storage needs.
- A 10×12 shed offers plenty of room to hang produce from the ceiling, as well as the opportunity to utilize wall and floor space.
Tips for Building Your 10×12 Storage Shed to Optimize Food Storage
When choosing your 10×12 storage shed, follow these steps to make sure that it is ready for the next harvest season.
Keep it Dark
Produce should be kept in the dark place. Although UV rays do not damage vegetables, sunlight triggers vegetables to sprout. Keeping them away from light keeps the harvest dormant for longer.
Even though we enjoy natural light, you should refrain from installing windows into your food storage shed. You should also be sure to choose an opaque door that doesn’t let in any light.
One of the biggest challenges with storing produce in an outside shed is temperature control. On freezing days, the temperature can drop below freezing, and on warm days the temperature will increase significantly. Neither situation is ideal for your fruits and vegetables.
First, you should install adequate insulation in your shed to help keep the temperature more stable. Suppose you live in a part of the country where insulation alone isn’t enough to keep the shed’s internal temperature from falling below freezing.
In that case, you can invest in an inexpensive thermostat heater that will automatically kick on when it gets too cold and kick off again when the desired temperature is achieved.
On warmer days, one or more circulating fans should do the trick to cool down the shed. If you’re running electricity to your shed, then you can install a heating/cooling unit to precisely control the temperature.
Regulate Humidity Levels
Most fruits and vegetables prefer higher levels of humidity. The easiest way to control the storage shed’s humidity is to invest in an inexpensive humidifier/dehumidifier to ensure that levels stay where they need to be for the fruits and vegetables you plan to store.
Nothing will destroy your fruits and vegetables quicker than condensation build-up. Installing ventilation will prevent unwanted condensation. Either forced ventilation such as wind-turbine or passive ventilation such as gable vents are a viable option.
Plan for Separation
You cannot store different types of fruits and vegetables together. The reason is that species ripen at different rates. Plan to separately keep all the different varieties of fruits and vegetables that you plan to grow.
Here we explore some of the methods we use to preserve the harvest from the garden:
Are You Ready for Harvest Season?
Getting in touch with nature, feeding your family, saving money, taking up a new hobby, and giving back to your community are all excellent reasons for growing your fruits and vegetables.
The proper storage solution will ensure that you can maximize your harvest’s shelf life, minimize waste, and make the most of your adventure!