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Urban Farm Magazine

Comments On - Root Cellars


Hi Rachel,
That's an interesting problem. We weren't exactly sure what to tell you, so we opened up the question for discussion on our Facebook page. Check it out here: LINK
Hobby Farms Editor, Lexington, KY
Posted: 5/21/2014 12:14:13 PM
I work at a food bank in Hailey,ID and last year we constructed an above ground root cellar with spray foam to insulate, vents bottom and top, a thermbot to cool, and a humidifier to add moisture. Apples and pears are in bins directly under the top vent. We have shelves with lots of air flow and put soft fruits in single layers in boxes with holes. On the other side, we have bins for root veggies. We covered the root veggies in sand and kept a temperature/humidity log all season, but cannot figure out why our carrots and jerusalem artichokes and beets are floppy within a few days of being placed in the sand. We keep the temp between 32-40F, and the humidity was rarely below 85%. Would sawdust make a world of difference? I've read that if you have an insulated space, you could put roots in a plastic bag with holes, but I'm not sure if this source's definition of insulation was an insulated room or an insulated compartment.
Also, if we were to cover the vents in the heat of summer/cold of winter, wouldn't that prevent ethylene from leaving the area? Also, I know that it is generally 10 degrees warmer higher up, but is there a known difference in humidity higher or lower? I ask because although roots do best at 90plus% humidity, potatoes like 80-90%, winter squash likes 70%... It seems hard to manage. Thanks for any help you can give.
Rachel, Hailey, ID
Posted: 5/20/2014 10:24:36 PM
Firstly, let me say thanks for such an encompassing post. I’ve made many notes from your post to help lead me to my final solution. I have a raised bungalow that I designed and built, but the ground floor is only 5’ above the water table. I have many hills around the house, any of which could have a root cellar built into them, but my preference would be to remove a portion of my slab and just expose the soil there. The walls are already R60, so a few more interior walls of equal R-factor plus insulating the ground floor ceiling should achieve my goal. Doing it like I did the ground floor garage (built within the footprint of the house) should make it vapor-sealed and give me the ability to control the humidity. Sound like a plan?
Russ, International
Posted: 10/4/2013 2:42:33 PM
Hi Gene
You are better off to not cover the floor in a root cellar. Soil helps keep the humidity in a more benificial zone for produce storage.
Brenda, Hixon, BC
Posted: 9/25/2013 11:14:19 PM
Good article. I am building a 12 x 19, two room root cellar, storage shed on top of half, slab with wood floor on top of half. Shaded on three sides by house,fence and a tree. It is not a project for light hearted if digging by pick and shovel, I am! I am almost done with this stage. Floor will be 3 inch concrete, walls are block, ceiling will be two parts; 2 x 6 x 12 middle support beam, 5/8 inch plywood ceiling with concrete on top of that. Note that concrete is going to be blended with a light celloid material to cut down weight. Venting in both rooms. Entry door to cellar is enclosed in cabinet to shade and hide.
Gene, Phoenix, AZ
Posted: 8/21/2013 5:10:47 PM
I am encouraged by the article and comments to join the discussion. I am here because I own a 350 year old Dutch Cabin connected to an 340 year old English Cottage. The English Cottage was built above a cellar-house/hovel/root-cellar dug out of a hill of shale, with a perfectly inclined drain also cut into the same shale hill to let out water that comes in by the well at the highest corner of the house. (I hope I explained that right?). Anyways, I think at one point this cellar was used as what is called by some as a "wet-cellar" meaning the flow of water from the well in and out was regulated as needed.
The question I have is, would Holland Gin, the first form of gin, be best stored in a wet cellar, or does it matter if Holland Gin from the 1600's is best stored some other way.
I also have not figured out how they dug the trench, drainage trench for water, so perfectly? What were their tools for digging out in shale, as I have witnessed the municipal workers come with an air compressor on its own two truck sized wheels, and a jackhammer, and take two hours to dig out a hole for a stop sign, and no, they weren't taking breaks.
Thank you.
Ron, New Paltz, NY
Posted: 8/19/2013 6:30:49 PM
Just for the record, Australian Aboriginals were hunter gatherers, they never grew crops, or stored them in root cellars and most certainly did not produce alcohol.Pretty hard to do any of those things when their only tools were a spear made with wood and flint and a wooden boomerang. Alcohol which was introduced to them by the white settlers has produced devastating effects on their culture and health
Geraldine Kyte, International
Posted: 8/14/2013 10:34:42 PM
Good information , we already have two cellars in our belarus house . I wanted to know how them work and how to keep them dry
Gracias octavio
Octavio, International
Posted: 8/10/2013 3:11:26 AM
This is a useful and informative piece. However, it is obviously informed by a US-centric perspective as the pre-European use of root cellars by Maori in New Zealand is well-documented. It was not hungry Englishmen who 'invented' root cellars, in this part of the world, as they had been in use here for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the British. LINK
Natalie, International
Posted: 7/21/2013 3:18:06 AM
This is a useful and informative piece. However, it is obviously informed by a US-centric perspective as the pre-European use of root cellars by Maori in New Zealand is well-documented. It was not hungry Englishmen who 'invented' root cellars, in this part of the world, as they had been in use here for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the British. LINK
Natalie, International
Posted: 7/21/2013 3:13:56 AM
Great article! We are thinking about making one this spring/summer with our neighbors; maybe two.
Pat, Gretna, NE
Posted: 1/27/2013 10:23:25 AM
Thanks, all of thought provoking questions and good ideas. I'm in N.W. Montana and the temp. in the winter can range from lower 30'2 to -20, so additional thought and depth into earth needs to be part of my preparation.
Chris, Kalispell, MT
Posted: 11/20/2012 9:20:50 AM
Great article. I think he hit the nail on the head. For those of you who would like to have someone else build your root cellar, check out LINK
I think you'll find it interesting
Tony, Denver, CO
Posted: 2/16/2012 1:04:18 PM
Regarding root cellar design, I would like to see some further discussion, perhaps on the design of the venting system and the size of the root cellar
Arvin, Rooseelt, UT
Posted: 11/28/2011 8:50:52 PM
Great article which I will save for future reference.
Chuck, Plainfield, IN
Posted: 8/19/2011 4:51:45 PM
This was very helpful.
Crystal, Cushing, ME
Posted: 4/17/2011 6:27:52 PM
Why do you leave out what it takes to calculate s strong enough roof,supports etc for the loads created by the dirt on the roof
amazed, palmsprings, CA
Posted: 3/29/2011 11:11:03 PM
I have an old coal room in my basement that I want to turn into a root cellar. Thanks for the info.
Missy, Altoona, PA
Posted: 3/20/2011 5:11:56 PM
I have been reading a book about root cellaring that I found in the literature section of a seed catalogue. Very well written. You can get a free heirloom catalogue from www.seedsavers.org.
Bruce, Hunlock Creek, PA
Posted: 3/8/2011 12:30:29 PM
Very informative and simple to undestand for a person who is just reserching and in the beginning planning stages . Thank you for your effort.
janice, south lyon, MI
Posted: 2/16/2011 9:47:52 AM
Great info Been thinking of building one this give me the idea to explore it more. Thanks,
Dana, Three Oaks, MI
Posted: 1/24/2011 9:47:09 AM
Your article was so helpful. I live on 10 acres and have a large garden, but I give most of it away because I don't have any way of storing it. Now I just have to convince my husband to build it. My brother had an intriguing idea on constructing it-Put double plywood boards on each side and fill them with cement.
charlene, wilton, CA
Posted: 1/8/2011 8:56:58 PM
Wow!!! Extremely informative article. I'll put this on my dream list.
Chris, Petersburg, VA
Posted: 1/6/2011 7:41:54 AM
Just be careful of bacteria- dry thoroughly before storing
jg, phila, PA
Posted: 1/2/2011 5:56:51 AM
I happened upon your article on root cellars and was instantly excited. We live in a Civil War log house. Due to it's age and that it was several additions, it has two separate root cellars. We have made use of one of them to store wine, homemade beer, homemade jams and fruit and earthworms with great success. We couldn't be happier. As with older homes, storage is generally a problem. We use our root cellar to store many food products.
Loretta, Boonsboro, MD
Posted: 12/31/2010 1:39:46 PM
excellent article, I used to love the cellar on my grandparents farm & would love to have one myself!
wendy, round rock, TX
Posted: 12/13/2010 3:14:12 PM
I absolutely loved this article, thanks!
Angi, Dolores, CO
Posted: 8/18/2010 8:19:47 PM
why is my rootcellauler hot?
Sandy, bainbridge, OH
Posted: 7/31/2010 9:27:48 AM
Good to know about cross ventilation. I would like to know what kind of vents to use and the location of them. I have an "old" cellar constructed with rock steps leading down to the main chamber. The walls and ceiling are rock, forming an arch. I need to know what type mortar to use to repair the moisture seepage problem on both walls and ceiling.
Helen, Polo, MO
Posted: 7/8/2010 4:46:31 PM
great article, very informative
Mary, Leoti, KS
Posted: 8/30/2009 6:53:23 AM
This is very helpful. I recently became interested in having a root cellar. Now I feel more educated on the idea. Thank you so much for ALL the info and keep up the great work!!
Michelle, Pipe Creek, TX
Posted: 6/30/2009 5:16:08 PM
This is the most thorough explanation of root cellars that I've ever read. Thanks so much!
Terry, Jamestown, NY
Posted: 6/28/2009 5:41:07 PM
I think this is going to help us out a lot in fixing our root cellar. We were excited when we saw it was included in our 5 acre farm we bought 5 years ago but we just can't get it regulated. I think I highlighted 5-6 items in your article to work on with our root cellar when the weather breaks. Thanks!
Peg, Hebron, IN
Posted: 3/24/2009 6:56:34 PM
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