10 Tips for Building Your Own Root Cellar

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Looking for a more self-sufficient way to preserve food to feed your family through the winter? Consider building a root cellar.

Root cellars used to be the norm for most families to store food through the winter. A root cellar provided a cool place with the proper humidity to store many types of garden produce for several months, which was a must before the modern grocery store became ubiquitous.

These days, most homes do not come with a root cellar, so it is up to you if you want to add one, but many homesteaders and off-gridders are choosing to do just that. Root cellars can be quite affordable to build, require no electricity, and can help your family become more self-sufficient.

Here are 10 considerations to keep in mind when building your own root cellar:

Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Building a root cellar gives you a great excuse to poke around in your garage, basement or storage shed to see what materials you already have on hand. Trash cans, cinder blocks, buckets, tires, earthbags, even unused coolers can each make for a great start to your new root cellar.

No A/C, No Heat — No Problem

…You don’t need to provide your root cellar with temperature control so long as it is well ventilated and located in the right place.

Speaking of Ventilation

…Without ventilation, you risk spoilage due to mold, mildew, and simple rotting. You can ventilate through the walls or ceiling using simple plastic pipes available at any local home repair store.

Location, Location, Location

The location of your root cellar will depend on a number of factors, including your local climate, your available space, how much produce you want to store and what materials you have to build with.

The best location will remain relatively cool and moist year-round…

Maximizing Storage Space

…To offer each stored produce category its best chance of longevity, you may want to adopt a shelving system, storing produce that responds well to cool, wet conditions lower down and produce that prefers warm, dry conditions higher up.

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Size Really Doesn’t Matter

…The simplest early root cellars were nothing more than a hole dug right into the fresh earth with a few wood planks nailed together and placed on top of it to keep out foraging wildlife. This is still a great way to start out if you want to take some time to get the hang of growing and storing produce.

Yes, You Can Build a Root Cellar Above Ground

If the only space you have available is above ground-level, you can still build a root cellar as long as your local weather favors the cool and dry. For an above-ground root cellar, an existing workshop space, garage or storage building can work well.

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Close Your ‘Food Pantry’

If you think fresh produce is tasty, chances are good the local wildlife population does too. To this end, it is wise to think through how to secure your stored produce in advance…

…For outdoor or indoor spaces, including in your own home, you will likely need to take extra precautions against uninvited diners. Bird or deer mesh, hardware or garden cloth are all good options, as is chicken wire.

Freshness Checks are Not Optional

One moldy apple or potato will quickly spread its spores to its neighbors. For this reason, it is important to schedule frequent checks of your stored produce so you can remove any spoiling items quickly.

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Know What Produce Will Store Well

A root cellar by definition is best for storing root crops. These include carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets, turnips, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, leeks, yams, rutabagas and more. However, you can also store apples, tomatoes, bananas, broccoli, oranges, beans and other produce successfully.

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For more information, visit MotherEarthNews.com

 

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