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Old 01-09-2017, 02:15 PM   #1
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Finally got to put my new Root cellar to the test

For years, I always wanted to build myself a root cellar, but the amount of land, and layout of my land doesn't really allow for it.

I've been gardening since I've moved in, and I'm always left with dozens and dozens of extra potatoes and onions that I either have to hope don't rot before I use them, or the ground doesn't freeze too deep.

The potatoes Ive been digging up as I needed them up until about 2 weeks ago. But with and Arctic front coming, along with a snow storm, and a few days off, I figured now was the time to do what I should have done years ago.

I had to be a little unconventional, as I mentioned above about the restrictions of my land, so I did some research. Came across one technique that basically buries a garbage can loaded with Hay. I figured I had nothing to lose, other than a day of digging a big hole.

I dug my hole ( somewhere between 4 -5 ft deep). I put the garbage can in. Put a layer of straw, then the potatoes , onions, topped off with more straw, on top of that , I had a styrofoam lid from another container, which i placed , then the lid of the garbage can. On top of that 2 bales of straw to cover the lid and provide more insulation, and also as a protective cover.

The cold and poor weather settled in. Sure enough, I ran out of onions and had to go retrieve some. As I reached my hands inside to get the onions, I could feel the significant difference of the air inside compared to the air outside. Its not the Ideal situation,as I'd prefer to have a larger, ' walk in' root cellar, or one built into a hill, but, I'll take what I got.

What I find the most rewarding, is that tonight, a good 2 months past my harvest season, I am making homemade vegetable soup with my own potatoes, onions ( in the cellar), along with the home grown tomatoes , okra and string beans I have in the stored in the freezer. ( Tomatoes I skin, run through a mill to deseed, and make a puree out of then freeze, string beans blanch and freeze, okra freeze straight up).

Just thought I'd share,

Larry

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Old 01-09-2017, 03:44 PM   #2
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When we used to visit colonial museums/settlements you would see a corner of a cellar walled off and full of sand where the family would bury their potatoes, squashes, onions for later use. Root vegetables in the root cellar.
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Old 01-09-2017, 04:23 PM   #3
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I have known some folks here in the Northeast who now use their out of date and useless coal bins for root cellars. They always have to board up the window to shut out the light.
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Old 01-09-2017, 07:01 PM   #4
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What a cool idea, Larry. I'm sure we can find a corner where I can get DH to dig a deep hole ...
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Old 01-09-2017, 07:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
What a cool idea, Larry. I'm sure we can find a corner where I can get DH to dig a deep hole ...
Pretty much what I resorted too. Right next to the chicken coop.
My kids asked me if I was digging my own grave, and at times, I thought I may have been lol. Im not in my 20's any more ( or 30's either).

But although not a very cold winter ( yet), things seem to be working out. Ill take pics when the snow melts enough for me to do so.
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Old 01-09-2017, 08:57 PM   #6
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You might have hit water if you went much deeper, Larry. Lawn Guyland is but a giant sand bar.

I wish I could dig deep again. We have rocks on top of rocks, on top of ledge rock. We tried to put in a pool, but the surveys and test digs said we'd have to blast.

Best of luck with your experiment. I'll be interested to hear your results as I may be able to pull off something like that, small scale wise.

Someday, I want to put in an underground cistern, root cellar, and maybe a shelter.
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Old 01-09-2017, 09:29 PM   #7
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Larry, I think it is great that you went about making an in ground root cellar. We have lots of snow and cold in wisconsin, so we have this pantry, an area under the kitchen nook, 8 x 10 feet, with insulation on the ceiling, 3 cement brick walls surrounded by dirt, one regular wall with a door into the basement. I've kept it closed up, put a thermometer and humidity meter in there. Right now it's at 57 degrees F and the humidity stays around 40-50 percent. It gets a little colder in there but usually not any warmer, not even in summer. I could cool it down further if I open the small window to the outside air (w/screen). It won't work for a cheese cave but the potatoes and onions are pretty happy.
About the outside weather. I received some really nice wool socks for Christmas, so I'm wearing them since Christmas. Each time I am done wearing them, I wash them out by hand and DH put a clothes line on the deck close to the patio door. They've been freezing solid in an hour lately. Sometimes they take 3 days to dry outside. And yes I am wringing them out and rolling them in a towel to take out extra water. That is my experience with freeze drying anything. Winter!!
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Old 01-09-2017, 10:16 PM   #8
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This sounds really interesting, Larry!
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Old 01-09-2017, 10:31 PM   #9
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Yeah, I'm hoping it works out. So far, so good. I could probably store some of my bulbs in there too, instead of jack assing them up and down into the basement each year . Im getting to old for that .
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:55 AM   #10
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Larry, my 86 year old mother said her parents used to use a buried barrel to store cabbage and carrots for the winter. You might want to drill some holes in the bottom of the trash can, just in case some water finds it way in.
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Old 01-11-2017, 02:12 PM   #11
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So the snow has melted some, and I was able to get some pics.

On top are 2 straw bales for some added insulation. They sit in the square portion of the hole, which is about 2 feet deep, primarily the top soil/ clay/ rocky layers.

Once the bales are lifted, you can see some styrofoam I laid down there, just cause I had it on hand. Not sure if its doing much, but I had it laying around, so why not. I also lined the perimeter with cinder blocks for a few reasons. One, to give me something sturdy to stand on when reaching into the can. Second, to prevent soil from collapsing into or onto the can, and finally, cause I had them laying around.

Beneath the bales and styrofoam is the garbage can, covered by its lid. The garbage can is completely submerged in the the soil/ sand. Only the lid is above this level, to allow it to be removed and placed without interfering with the surrounding soil

Once the lid is removed, I had placed another piece of styrofoam inside the can, again , not sure if its doing much, but i figured it couldn't hurt.

Below the styrofoam is a thick layer of straw.

And below that, are the potatoes and onions, which have survived a week of sub freezing weather. They sit on another thick layer of straw.

Not sure if I did it right or not, but I guess Ill find out over the next few months. So far, so good, and it got me out of the house for a morning.
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Old 01-11-2017, 02:29 PM   #12
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We had the space , we had a food cellar in the basement, but we used to Stuka, which sort a big heap made of leaf and hay to store roots and tubers. Worked in the Swedish minus 30 winter with no problem expect for the odd hedgehog.
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Old 01-11-2017, 02:41 PM   #13
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That looks GREAT Larry! Thanks for taking the time to share the pictures too. I enjoyed them. What a great way to store your vegetables.
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