Being as I was lucky enough (in some ways) to design and build my home, I felt it only appropriate to build in a root cellar down in the basement. Honestly, it is far from being utilized at the moment – I didn’t get to grow much this past year, and was more focused on finishing up details on the house proper, landscaping issues, getting chickens, and recovering agility and walking ability from after knee surgery.
So, keep in mind, you don’t need to do everything at once! Do what you can handle, but plan for what you want to handle in the future!
My house is on a south-facing slope, I get to enjoy the sun views from my kitchen, dining room, and master suite (both the bedroom and bath). The walk out bits go out to the south, and I’ve planned for them.
THE ROOT CELLAR
My construction gave me a walk-out basement and a perfect location for a root cellar in the back, northeast corner of my home, where the basement is dug into the earth. (If you are in the southern hemisphere, go for the northeast…) Good year round temperature and all. Today’s temperature is 52 F, on a rather flimsy thermometer. Temperatures will vary by your deep down earth temp (dependent on latitude and height above sea level) and by the root cellar construction. I plan to get a quality electronic temperature and humidity gauge for the room to hang on a wall.
If you are in the northern hemisphere, and you want a root cellar to be built in the house proper, try your best to put it in the northeast. (Southern hemisphere, go for southeast!) Simple sun logistics and all.
Following code around here, it means anything other than external walls abutting this room will need insulation and sheetrock. The two external walls could remain concrete, but my south wall (abutting my basement workshop) and my west wall (abutting the “mudstation bath”), as well as the ceiling (under my livingroom/entryway) had to be insulated and sheetrocked. I decided I didn’t need to paint. It’s a root cellar, function over form down here!
I did have to keep mentioning that I did NOT want the exterior two walls of the room insulated from the outside!!! That this would defeat the purpose! At least I was able to be up here enough during construction…
DO have at least one or two electrical outlets in the room, plus some additional source of light. When not in use, lights of course should be off. Electric is good if you need to run any sort of vacuum, shop vac, dehumidifier, or electric temperature / humidity gauge in there. Plus, it never hurts to have too many outlets! You do want to have a passive ventilation system.
Currently, I’m storing only a few things, but it helps to read up on the best storage practices for whatever you are storing, and have the supplies to hand.
Cannas bulbs work best for me laid out on cardboard, after being dug up, with most of the dirt knocked off, but you don’t have to be anal about it. They’re rather hardy (in the South they can stay in ground year round, but will freeze up here.) Since it had been raining a lot this fall, I learned that the room had gotten way too humid just from the remaining soil evaporating into the space, that I brought in a dehumidifier, setting it on low. Next year I will set them on cardboard on TOP of pallets.
Callas lily corms like it cool, put their bulbs in wood chips/peat moss. I store them in a bag with a mesh front.
What remains of my ten pound bag of farm stand onions is hanging from a hook in a mesh bag, hanging off my 6 foot tall rack. Keep your potatoes AWAY from the onions! I’ve ordered a second rack to assemble, and the potatoes will be on one, the onions on the other. I put the small baby potatoes on shelving material; I will be replacing this with mesh screening for improved aeration.
Winter squash can survive well through winter in a root cellar, depending on type. Thicker skinned ones survive the longest. My delicata there will have to be eaten soon no matter what. (YES I will seed-save… even though I already have plenty…)
I don’t have any, but pack parsnips and carrots in buckets with sand surrounding them. (Can I remark that carrots are about the only veggie I don’t care much for??) The pallets (there’s a second I have to manhandle with someone into the room, cuz it’s huge) are good to elevate any crates you may have above the cement floor. Plus if there’s any flooding (that bathroom is indeed next door), you are elevated.
Well, this is the situation to date; next year I’ll have my raised beds, and I’ll be storing my own stuff (not just my own flower bulbs, tubers and corms).
Highly recommended books for designing and using and storing everything in your root cellar (indoors or outdoors) Pick up both of them. Enough useful diagrams that if your contractor doesn’t do well with words in a row, he can do these:
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables, by Nancy Bubel.
The Complete Root Cellar Book: Building Plans, Uses and 100 Recipes, by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie.
This post is linked over to the Homestead Blog Hop, where I am reminding myself to update planned massive growth in a wonderful space, by 10/2019.