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Root Cellar Suggestions

 
Posts: 16
Location: Parthenon, Arkansas
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Hi All... I would really like a root cellar on my property in the future. I have 30 acres in the Ozarks. I'm solo homesteading so I have to be very intentional and realistic about my projects. I've looked online for how to do a root cellar and ideas seem to range from extremely elaborate cellars practically good enough to live in on one end... to sticking a metal trash can in the ground on the other end. I'm looking for something in between. I don't want to waste time with something like a hole in the ground because items won't survive the summer heat. Does anyone have suggestions on how to construct a root cellar that takes some effort, but doesn't practically require an architect to design? LOL. Thanks in advance!
 
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Hi Sylvia, a garbage can or bucket in the ground is a great place to start.  In your climate many roots may overwinter in the ground just fine.  People around me can overwinter carrots with a good bed of straw over them.

Very few root cellars will keep produce from last fall through into this summer.  They are generally for storing root crops until spring.
 
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Does your home have a basement or a crawl space?  I have seen where people cut a hole in the floor to access the crawl space and put a box there to hole veggies.
 
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Here in Arkansas the best root cellars (ones that work all the way into our hot summer weather) are more cave like than most of the easy way to root cellar methods (which work great unless you have high humidity and high temperatures).

We are building a true root cellar (dug into the bed rock and covered with earth), but you can get away with a partially sunken one as long as you can cover it with about 2 feet of soil.
If you are going to have a storm cellar installed, those make pretty good root cellars too as long as you get one with enough space for some shelves and the people who will be using it during a tornado event.

Redhawk
 
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Check here for storage or cellar or vegetable
https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension-aben/buildingplans/miscellaneous

Some are involved but some not so much. Some are low quality old copies of drawings from the 1930, some are newer and easier to read. Might find something or get an idea from them.

EDIT

Bleh. Looked through it and didn't see much. Seems like I ran across more basic, smaller plans years ago.

The book; How to grow vegetable's and fruits by the organic method, by Rodale has some simple storage methods.

If you give me individual veggies, I'll look them up.

The book's worth buying though.
 
Sylvia Cox
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Location: Parthenon, Arkansas
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Here in Arkansas the best root cellars (ones that work all the way into our hot summer weather) are more cave like than most of the easy way to root cellar methods (which work great unless you have high humidity and high temperatures).

We are building a true root cellar (dug into the bed rock and covered with earth), but you can get away with a partially sunken one as long as you can cover it with about 2 feet of soil.
If you are going to have a storm cellar installed, those make pretty good root cellars too as long as you get one with enough space for some shelves and the people who will be using it during a tornado event.

Redhawk



Bryant... thanks for the info.  I do have areas on my property where I could go in the side of a slope.  I guess anything worth its salt will be a lot of work.  Those cans in the ground just seem somewhat pointless... esp. when summer comes around.  
 
Sylvia Cox
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Location: Parthenon, Arkansas
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John Paulding wrote:Check here for storage or cellar or vegetable
https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension-aben/buildingplans/miscellaneous

Some are involved but some not so much. Some are low quality old copies of drawings from the 1930, some are newer and easier to read. Might find something or get an idea from them.

EDIT

Bleh. Looked through it and didn't see much. Seems like I ran across more basic, smaller plans years ago.

The book; How to grow vegetable's and fruits by the organic method, by Rodale has some simple storage methods.

If you give me individual veggies, I'll look them up.

The book's worth buying though.



John, I looked at the link and didn't see anything either.  Thank you for the attempt!!
 
pollinator
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After asking the same question myself, I think this is the best idea. If your hillsides are soft enough you could dig it out yourself...I have a sandy one I'm planning on doing. Dig trenches around perimeter, plant rot-resistant/-proof beams and concrete in place, make roof of beams, cover with pondliner, perforate pondliner for air circulation and add piping for an air column out, cover the whole with soil, gravel the floor, you're good for 50-100 years!

Some loud bear ;) shows one here in a 1:10 video.

 
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There are a few good books on the topic: "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubel is a classic. Also "The Complete Root Cellar Book" as well as half a dozen or more on Amazon. I have and would recommend the first, but there are a lot more out now and many of those may be as good or better.

Lots of possibilities. From insulating and venting part of your unheated basement, to burying cans/barrels/etc, to digging and building a cellar from scratch. It is useful (IMO) to read a book or two and talk with some locals who have done it in your area and then decide. Solutions are similar everywhere, but what works in one climate won't necessarily do so everywhere.

I did "play around" with a buried chest freezer, prior to building a "real" root cellar" on our property. Dead chest freezers are easy to come by, and if you get one with a metal interior should be rodent and insect proof. It did need insulation up top otherwise things would start freezing in Jan, but at 8000+' in the Rockies it may be colder and windier here than your locale. Anyway a chest freezer type setup or the like might be a fairly easy way to test the waters and see what works and doesn't for you.

Be advised, managing food storage in a root cellar is a learned experience. There's a lot more to it than buying frozen food in the supermarket and throwing in the freezer when you get home. In addition to getting the cellar's building details right, one needs to know how to manage it, get it cool quickly in the fall, keep it from getting too cool or wet, and keeping it from getting warm in the spring. There also is some learning as to what varieties of things to grow for storage and how to grow and harvest them properly. None of these are that hard, it's just that we need to relearn a whole lot of knowledge that was just common place in our grandparents or great-granparents time.

Good luck with your project.
 
                              
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I'm new to this thread but wanted to clarify some challenges we face in Arkansas in particular.

1. High water tables - due to the red clay soil, water drainage is typically a problem for most properties. We have a lot of foothills and slopes here so that typically helps but along with that comes #2.

2. Shallow bedrock - most of Arkansas (except the delta region) is covered by the Ozarks. Limestone, shale, and bedrock aren't deep below the surface. In most places on my property, it's only 12" - 24" under the soil. Makes it very hard to get down deep enough where the heat & hunidity can't penetrate unless you have a natural cave or cavern on your property.

3. High humidity & high summer temperatures - July & August are typically miserable with triple digit heat index and high humidity. This makes simple root cellar solutions such as trash cans in a hole or using a portion of your crawlspace not viable here. Most people in Arkansas don't have basements because of the high water tables and shallow bedrock.

Based upon my research, the best options here are to build above ground and cover with earth. Build on a slope, if possible. Dig down as much as you can until you hit bedrock. Build on top of that... Then surround your root cellar with larger rocks to add a support system/erosion protection for top soil that you bring in to cover your root cellar.
 
Steve Sherman
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Sounds about right. Keep in mind many places root cellars were not used year round, they did not stay cold enough in the summer to keep things. Here in CO, ours ends it useful food keeping about May. Wish it would go longer but that is how it works; on the other hand gives a few months to air and dry it out each year.

One question I'd have is if you dig down to bedrock, will you have issues with water flowing on its surface (your cellar floor) after big rain events? Seems like it might be an issue.

If possible, some berms or swales above the cellar to divert water might be helpful.
 
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