What makes a good root cellar?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Sylvia, Dec 23, 2004.

  1. Sylvia

    Sylvia Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2004
    Hi, I'm trying to be a good steward and use my city house to the best of its ability. I'm wondering if the cellar space (old coal cellar) under my front porch could be adapted as a root cellar. I live in zone 6 and in the winter,this room is as cold as the outside except for the wind. My house faces west. I know the previous owners used to keep some things there because there were dozens of empty mason jars on shelves when I moved in. I can walk straight in, the ceiling is solid oak, the flloor is cemented, the walls are whitewashed fieldstone and there are 2 removable windows (12"X18") with screens which are above sidewalk level. Rain seeps in after a heavy rainstorm.

    If not a root cellar does anyone have any ideas?
    Thanks, sylvia
  2. Ozarks_1

    Ozarks_1 Well-Known Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    Ark. Ozark Mtns. (Marion County)
    Sylvia, I think it would make a fine root cellar.

    If the room gets "as cold as the outside", you may have to be careful about storing things that you don't want to freeze. We encountered a freezing problem when we first used our root cellar (built in the 1930s) after buying the place. Our solution was to keep a 60-watt light bulb on when the weather gets cold - the relatively insignificant amount of heat given off by the light bulb isn't enough to affect the "cold storage" properties of the root cellar, but it's enough to keep things from freezing. Depending on the size of your root cellar, you may have to go with a larger light bulb, but the principle is the same.

  3. A proper root cellar should remain around 60 degrees year round. If your current cellar gets as cold as the outside air is now then it will be the as hot during the summer months also. I wouldn't think it would be a good place to store vegetables. It does sound like a good place to cure meat out during the winter months.
  4. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 13, 2004
    A root cellar should maintain temps near 40 to 50 degrees F as much of the year as possible so that you can store potatoes, carrots, cabbage, etc in it. Apples like to be stored around 28 to 30 degrees but we end up with them in the cool end of the root cellar (upper 30s right now.) Potatoes are a bit warmer, canned goods on shelves and always above freeziing. Squash, onions and garlic are about the only things that we keep at 50 degrees or so.
    Sounds like your cellar could be sealed up and insulated so that you could have more control over the temperature in it. Have some way of venting it so that you can let it cool down in fall, then close it up when it is cool enough so it doesn't freeze, allowing some ventilation in winter if it starts to get too warm.
    The cool part of our root cellar (in part of the basement) doesn't get into the 50s or warmer until mid to late summer. We have had potatoes that were still good from the year before when we started digging a new crop, and some apples last some years into May or June.
    I think that Nancy Bubel has written a book on root cellaring that would be worth checking out of the library.

  5. A couple of good articles in Mother earth magazine this month about root cellaring and types of veggies to store. Might check it out if you can still find the magazine.