Before the refrigerator was invented, a root cellar was used to serve the same purpose.
Serving as the natural refrigerator and could be found in almost every house. It was one of the greatest ways to store food and preserve them without using any energy and hardly any maintenance.
You can create your root cellar either underneath the basement or outside the house. They aren’t expensive to create and it keeps your fruits and vegetables fresh for a while. This was what people used to keep food fresh before electricity was invented.
For a root cellar to properly do its job, it should have a temperature between 32 to 40 degrees and the humidity level should be between 85-95 percent. This makes the root cellar cool enough with moisture in the air and this is how your product is preserved.
To learn how to build a root cellar, you need to consider certain things and also ensure that they are factored in when building.
This should be at the front of DIY root cellar plans. People tend to build their cellars airtight, thinking that it will keep their food items cool and well preserved, but what really happens is that the food goes bad really fast as there are some food items that produce ethylene gas which increases the ripening of food, which in turn makes it spoil faster.
Create two air vents, place one at the top of the cellar, this will take out the stale air and place one at the bottom of the cellar to bring in fresh, cool air.
Lights are the enemies of root cellars as they tend to create sprouting in some of the food items. A root cellar should have as little light as possible.
Just one single light is enough for your cellar and you should always remember to turn it off when you aren’t using it.
The fruits and vegetables stored in the root cellar thrive in humid conditions, so this should be at the top of your list of things to consider when building.
If you notice that your food items are getting dry, then you can get a spray bottle and mist them with some water. But don’t get it too wet so mold does not begin to grow on them.
If you are facing challenges with getting your root cellar humid, place a bucket of water in the room to help boost the humidity level or sprinkle some water on the floors.
Your root cellar can be created in different locations, some even go as creative as using a septic tank and building the cellar outside the house.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money building a root cellar, you can turn your trash can, an old metal bucket or your old refrigerator into one.
The first step is to create a hole which the trash can is able to fit into. Then get your galvanized steel can and create holes at the bottom, this hole is to let the moisture found in the soil get into the trash can.
Then place the can in the hole leaving about four inches above the ground surface. Finally, place some straw into the can along with your veggies into the can and cover with the lid, you can place some leaves or straw on top and then cover again with a tarp.
So you have now your very own, simple and cost-effective root cellar.
Hole in the Ground
Dig a hole in the ground and as you do so make the sides flare so that the soil does not cave into the hole.
Then use dried leaves and straw to line the dug up hole. Use a wooden lid which is thick to cover the hole and then use some of the dug up soil to cover the lid and your cellar is ready to be used.
Building a root cellar in the basement seems to be the preference of most people. It saves them the extra cost of having a different building for the cellar.
To begin, pick a section of the basement, preferably the spot that is the dampest, then build the walls. It is best to add insulation to the walls when building to prevent the warmth from getting into it.
You can use either fiberglass batts or rigid foam.
If you would rather build your cellar outside, then the first step is to dig a hole the size of what you need.
Then you need a way to stop the soil from falling into the hole so you can use either wood, concrete or rocks in holding the walls up. Then build the roof and you can insulate the cellar by covering the roof with a tarp, which is covered with dug up soil.
You will also need to create a drainage on the floors so the soil does not hold too much moisture which is bad for your food.
You can also choose to make your root cellar using a septic tank. You will need to buy a new septic tank, then fill the dugout site for your cellar with some gravel.
But before you place the tank in the opening, make sure you cut open the opening for the door. The door should be at least four inches above the ground which will keep water from going in.
Add vent pipes into the tank, this will bring in the needed air circulation.
When you are done building the root cellar, you need to add shelves for storing the food items. The shelves should be made of wood and not metal as wood will better help with the temperature of the cellar.
But the wood may degrade over time so constant maintenance is necessary. There is a method to food storage as different food items need different temperatures for preservation.
Storing them together is a recipe for disaster as some spoil faster than others. Vegetables benefit from a really humid environment while food items like garlic and onions require less humidity so they can be stored on the top shelves.
Potatoes need more moisture and should be stored close to the floor where the temperature will be cooler, they also need to be covered from the light and that can be done using a burlap sack which will prevent the skin from turning green.
Fruits and vegetables are to be stored in different spots as some fruits release ethylene gas which will lead to the spoiling of the veggies. Separate fruits like pears, apples, blueberries, pineapples and more from vegetables like lettuce, eggplant, carrots, cabbages and more for them to have a longer shelf life.
Before storing your food items in the newly built cellar, pick the best that have no bruises on them as those will go bad quite fast and handle them gently. Also, don’t wash the food before storing them.
Storing the food in the root cellar is not the end of it, you need to check the food items continuously as they spoil eventually, so you can take out the rotting ones before they make the rest go bad.
The temperature outside whether it gets really hot or icy cold will not affect your root cellar if you have built it properly. It is made to withstand the outside temperatures.
A root cellar will help you cut down on the cost of food, instead of throwing away your vegetables and fruits when they go bad and going to buy new ones, you can store them and keep using them over months. Leaving you with some extra cash to funnel to other uses.
The perfect root cellar is made not out of wood, but of stone and concrete as they do not face any kind of degradation over time that wood does. But you can use wood but it will need constant maintenance.
With these tips, you already learn how to make a root cellar and food storage becomes much easier for you.
This will also come in handy for most survivalists as root cellar will keep most of your fruits and vegetables fresh long enough to give you all the nutrients you need in case a natural disaster happens to come along.
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