Storing a variety of crops in a root cellar is a superb way to preserve your harvest, not to mention saving a great deal of money. However, if you don’t have one in place, don’t worry. It’s quite easy to create a space in order to store vegetables at the appropriate temperature and humidity levels. Regardless if you’re storing food to sell to customers in the fall, spring, and winter or simply for your family – storing various vegetables in a root cellar is a great idea to save money and maintain adequate food storage.
Overall, this list shows the most common vegetables that people generally store in a root cellar:
- Winter squashes
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Apples (Store them separately. They will spoil the other vegetables)
If you have enough space in your basement, you can easily create a working root cellar. Simply wall off a space in the corner and incorporate vents to let cold air flow in and warmer air escape. Close the vents before the temperature gets too cold (freezing), which works to trap the cold air in the cellar and thus protects the produce from freezing.
Select a location that has a window if possible to facilitate an easy installation. Masonry walls work best since they’ll offer adequate cool temperatures. An outside corner in the basement is ideal. High soil height and northern exposure will also work better. Replace the glass in the window with a solid panel in order to hold the pipes for venting. In order for the vent to pull cold air in, attach a pipe that runs to the floor and shifts horizontally away from your vent to the outside. Since cold air hangs low and warm air rises, it naturally produces a siphon effect where the lower vent pulls cold air in and the upper vent pulls warm air out. Use some two by fours to frame the root cellar’s walls and also add a door. It’s also necessary to properly insulate the inside walls of the root cellar from the rest of the basement. Fiberglass batts or rigid foam will both work in this case. Be sure to leave at least one-quarter inch of gap in between the top, and along the wall, in addition to the structure above, in order to create good airflow.
A super easy and inexpensive way to adequately store a small amount of vegetables is to simply use a clean trash can as a makeshift root cellar. Purchase a new galvanized trash can and drill a number of holes in the bottom, which will let enough moisture into the can from the surrounding soil. Next, place the can in the soil, with close to 3 – 4 inches left sticking out above the ground. Gently place the vegetables inside and secure the lid (consider using a bungee as well if you have pesky critters like raccoons).
Finally, top with a foot of leaves or straw and a heavy tarp to cover.
If you’re a small farmer or an authentic homesteading family, you’ll need a great deal of square footage in order to store your food properly. The general concept is to utilize the earth as shelter for the food from the weather elements including freezing rain and heavy snow. People tend to get really creative in this area – one family even used a bus as their root cellar!
Once you dig a hole big enough for your particular needs, you’ll need a way to keep the soil from falling back in. Choose from a variety of things like wood, logs, rock, or concrete. Also, your earthy cellar will need a roof and maybe a tarp. It’s best if the floor is made of concrete and footings that reach beyond the frost line.
These are the different types of root cellars to create. Pick one to build so you can start eating fresh carrots in February.