How to Construct a Root Cellar
Do you want to learn how to create a root cellar?
How to Construct a Root Cellar: Perhaps you have a homestead or a garden where you can raise an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies.
However, they will likely spoil before you consume them without a mechanism to preserve them.
This is when a root cellar comes in handy.
However, most newer homes do not have root cellars. As a result, you must learn how to construct one yourself.
This article will teach you about root cellars, the many types of root cellars, and how to create a root cellar.
We'll also go over how to keep fruits and vegetables in a root cellar and the benefits and drawbacks of using a root cellar.
What is a root cellar, and how does it differ from a cellar?
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts can all be stored in a root cellar.
The term “root cellar” refers to the fact that it was initially used to store root crops such as potatoes, carrots, and beets.
Before the invention of electricity and freezers, root cellars were essential for food storage.
In the past, root cellars were the only means for people to keep fresh vegetables throughout the winter.
Electricity is not used in root cellars. These constructions are typically buried underground. This keeps them cool in the summer and prevents frozen vegetables in the winter.
Vegetables stored in a root cellar can keep them fresh for weeks or months longer than those stored on the kitchen counter. The length of time depends on the crop.
What role do root cellars play in self-sufficiency?
Root cellars allow homeowners more independence.
Because practically every family now has a refrigerator, root cellars are mostly obsolete for the ordinary individual.
On the other hand, building an underground basement is a terrific way to be self-sufficient without relying on power.
With a root cellar, you'll have no worries about deteriorating food if the electricity goes out.
Large quantities of food can be safely stored in a root cellar. Several vegetable shelves can be accommodated in a basement.
A root cellar may store hundreds of pounds (or kilogrammes) of potatoes, squash, and other crops.
Storing the same amount would necessitate the use of multiple refrigerators or freezers.
Cans and other preserved foods can also be stored in your root cellar.
A root cellar is essential if you want to keep enough vegetables to last the entire winter.
What is the cost of constructing a root cellar?
A root cellar's cost can vary substantially based on its size, intricacy, and other considerations.
A tiny, low-cost root cellar could cost a few hundred dollars.
However, when you include the expense of concrete, equipment rental, and other things, most more extensive root cellars cost thousands of dollars.
How can I make a low-cost root cellar?
The materials are the most expensive aspect of developing a root cellar. So, if you can recycle or find old materials, you may construct a low-cost root cellar.
For modest root cellars, burying a barrel in the earth can suffice.
We've seen footage of people burying old freezers to create small root cellars.
Scrap tyres, for example, can often be discovered for free and repurposed for root cellar walls.
Follow the ideas employed in the construction of Earthships. You'll receive instructions on creating a cheap root cellar from recycled materials.
Root cellar types
Root cellars must be built to work at maximum efficiency by maintaining a specified temperature and humidity range.
Apart from that, a root cellar is essentially just a container buried in the earth.
This implies that there are numerous root cellar designs to choose from. They range from relatively simple to highly complicated.
Root cellars are also distinguished by the materials used in their construction. They can be constructed from wood, cement, stone, or other materials.
Barrel-made root cellars
Burying a barrel in the earth is perhaps the most basic method of storing fruits and vegetables. When we talk about a root cellar, we usually mean a structure large enough to walk through. A barrel or container, on the other hand, may suffice if you need to store a modest amount.
A classic root cellar.
This is a purpose-built structure sunk into the ground. It has an external door that is distinct from the home.
Root cellar on a hill.
How to Build a Hillside Root Cellar: Instead of digging directly into the ground, you may build a hillside root cellar for similar benefits. Another advantage of creating a root cellar on a hill is that excavation is simplified.
Cellar for Underground Roots
A basement is excavated into the ground. The basement is then covered with a house or shed. For example, the cellar could be accessed via a trap door in a shed or under a porch.
The root cellar is located above the earth.
Do you want to learn how to create a flat-ground root cellar? The root cellar can be built on flat ground rather than by digging. A berm or mound is formed by piling rocks or soil around the structure. These are ideal for those who reside in an area where digging for food is impossible.
Root cellars in various climates.
All of the options listed above should help keep your meal cool. However, depending on where you reside, some will work better than others.
To function successfully, root cellars must maintain 85 to 95 per cent humidity and 32 to 40 °F (0 to 5 °C).
They might not operate in extremely hot or dry southern climes.
If you reside in a place like Florida, where the average yearly temperature is 21 °C (70 °F), you'll have to find other ways to keep your food fresh.
In this situation, you may choose to preserve the vegetables by canning, drying, or fermenting them.
What is the best way to keep fruits and veggies in the basement?
Fruits and vegetables can be stored in a basement in a variety of ways, including:
1. choose late-ripening crops
The later you harvest your crops in the season, the more probable they will remain fresh throughout the winter.
You don't want to bring your produce so late that frost threatens.
However, suppose you consider storage when planting and harvesting. In that case, you can avoid having your vegetables languish in the basement for longer than necessary.
2. Select storage crops
Some vegetable cultivars have been cultivated expressly for storage.
When purchasing seeds or seedlings, seek for kinds that specify they can be stored.
3. Avoid washing fruits and vegetables.
Instead of washing your fruits and veggies before storing them in the basement, wipe them with a dry cloth.
When you wash your vegetables, they absorb more water, making them more prone to rot.
If your vegetables are extremely mushy and you must wash them, pat them dry with a dry cloth before storing them.
This will help to get rid of some of the excess moisture.
4. Before storing vegetables, pickle them (if necessary).
Some vegetables must be cured before being stored.
Curing hardens the skin of your vegetables, allowing them to last longer in storage.
Before keeping potatoes, squash, garlic, and onions, they should be cured.
The curing procedure will differ depending on the type of vegetable.
Onions and squash can be “sun-dried” by simply plucking them out of the ground and leaving them in the sun for a few days. You can also hang them on a wire rack for a week or two.
Potatoes can be stored in a dark room with high humidity, a moderate temperature, and sufficient ventilation for about a week.
5. Before keeping fruits and vegetables, inspect them.
Fruits and vegetables that have been damaged should be consumed first.
Damaged vegetables not only deteriorate quicker. Mould and other contaminants might potentially be transferred to your healthy plants.
“One lousy apple may spoil the whole lot,” as the adage goes.
So, after you've spent a lot of time and work growing your vegetables, thoroughly inspect them before storing them.
6. Keep the food in your root cellar from freezing.
The purpose of your root cellar is to keep your fruits and veggies cold while preventing them from freezing.
Freezing changes the texture of your vegetables and causes them to get soggy. Fruits and vegetables that have been frozen and thawed are more likely to rot.
7. Become acquainted with your root cellar.
There are sections in a tiny root cellar that are warmer or cooler than others.
Root crops, such as beets and carrots, do best when stored in the cellar, where it is the coolest.
Crops like squash and tomatoes enjoy warmer temperatures and should be stored higher on the shelves.
8. Monitor conditions with tools.
External thermometers and humidity sensors are suitable for a root cellar. You won't have to go into the basement to inspect them this way.
Unnecessary cellar opening causes temperature and humidity variations, reducing the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
9. Separate ethylene-producing plants from others.
Ethylene is a gas some plants produce that causes them to ripen earlier.
Apples, bananas, melons, peaches, and pears are all high in ethylene. Tomatoes produce a moderate quantity as well.
Separate these fruits from other veggies. You may wish to wrap them to keep the gas contained.
Many vegetables, including green beans, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots, are ethylene sensitive and should be stored separately. Otherwise, they would get overripe and start to spoil too soon.
Keep strong-smelling plants away from other people.
Some foods have a strong odour, such as cabbage and beets. Other fruits and vegetables can absorb the odour if stored close to them.
11. The root cellar should be damp but not soggy.
If your vegetables begin to wilt, the humidity in your cellar is too low.
Cover the vegetables with damp (not wet) leaves, straw, or other things to retain the humidity in the cellar.
To boost humidity, place a pail of water in the basement. Keep in mind, however, that this can also raise the chance of mould or bacterium growth.
Where should a root cellar be built?
The term cellar is derived from the Latin word “cella,” which means “chamber.” As a result, the optimal location for your basement is, of course, underground.
Unless you have no choice, building your cellar underground is recommended if the ground is too rocky to excavate, for example.
The soil that covers and surrounds an underground root cellar helps keep the temperature cold and consistent.
How deep should a root cellar be dug?
Dig deeper in warm locations near the equator to preserve lower temperatures.
You must be concerned about the polar opposite if you reside near the Arctic. You risk hitting permafrost if you excavate your basement too deep.
It's dirt that's permanently frozen, permafrost.
Your basement, however, must be located below the frost line, the depth below the earth's surface where nothing in the ground may freeze.
The frost line is usually 36 to 48 inches in most regions (91 cm to 1.2 m).
In some cases, building a basement that is deep enough but not too deep might be a balancing act.
The root cellar should be roughly 10 feet (3 meters) deep.
When deciding on a location, ensure your basement is not built in a low-lying area prone to flooding.
Consider the distance from your home as well. You will primarily use your root cellar throughout the year's colder months. Despite the seeming intricacy of the situation, you should strive to keep things as straightforward as possible.
One alternative is to use one of your house's foundation walls as one side of your root cellar.