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What I Wish I Knew Before Building A Root Cellar In My Backyard

Before times of refrigeration and the year-long availability of fresh vegetables, people had to find a way to store these vegetables throughout the year.

For many people, the solution to this issue was to build a root cellar. A root cellar is constructed usually partly or entirely underground and is used to store root crops, fruits, and nuts until you are ready to eat them.

Today, a root cellar can serve the same purpose and will eventually decline your dependence on the food distribution system.

Types Of Root Cellars

A root cellar can be a cheap weekend project, or it can be a weeks-long homesteading investment, depending on your own preference.

Traditional root cellars are built underground and away from the house. They will have their own door for access.

Under-structure root cellars are dug into the ground under a shed or a house. Access is granted to this type of root cellar by a trap door on the floor of the structure.

Some people decide to build their root cellars on the side of a hill. Simply start digging into the side of the hill and insert a door, and you have your own root cellar. You may want to consider covering the hill with grass after completing your root cellar.

If you are looking for the cheapest and easiest way to create a root cellar, here’s a guide on how to build a mini root cellar in your backyard.

How To Keep Your Root Cellar Cool

One of the most important aspects of building a root cellar is guaranteeing that it will be at the correct temperature.

If your root cellar is at an incorrect temperature, your stored foods will not stay fresh for long, and you may find that they are going bad before their time.

A hot root cellar can quickly result in spoiled foods. Luckily, there are a few tips to help you avoid this potential issue.

First, make sure that your root cellar is around 10 feet deep. This is the temperature that allows for temperature stability and will help prolong the life of your food.

Since your root cellar will be in your backyard, simply use the packed earth that it is dug in for flooring and walls, and make sure that your shelving is wooden.

Related: Root Cellar Mistakes You Need To Avoid At All Costs

Lastly, make sure that you have a working thermometer in your root cellar, along with a hygrometer to measure the humidity.

How To Keep Your Root Cellar Well-Ventilated

Another issue that many people run into with their root cellars is improper ventilation. An airtight root cellar will cause food to quickly spoil, and it might also cause mold and mildew issues.

What I Wish I Knew Before Building A Root Cellar In My Backyard

Avoid this issue by installing two separate vents in the building phase of your root cellar.

One vent should go at the top of the cellar; this will allow for stale air and humidity to escape. Place the other vent at the bottom of the root cellar to bring in the fresh air.

Remember to install these vents at an angle so that it doesn’t rain in your root cellar.

What Kind Of Lighting Does A Root Cellar Need?

Stored foods love darkness; that is a fact. Not only do you risk losing nutritional value on foods that are exposed to too much light, but you may also notice your vegetables sprouting.

Related: 5 Food Storage Myths That Are Ruining Your Stockpile

The goal is to keep your root cellar as dark as possible. If there is a window in your cellar, cover it with curtains or burlap.

Always remember to turn out the light when you leave the cellar. If you find you need a light to help warm the cellar, simply cover the vegetables before leaving.

Tips For Using Your Root Cellar Efficiently

Now that we have covered some important things to remember while building your root cellar, let’s look at some tips that can help you get the most out of your root cellar.

It is important to cure potatoes, pumpkins, and onions before they go into the cellar. Curing these vegetables will help thicken the skin, reducing the chances that they will mold or mildew quickly.

What I Wish I Knew Before Building A Root Cellar In My Backyard

It is also a good idea to store your root vegetables with some dirt still attached.

When you wash the vegetables before storing them, you risk storing them wet, which will encourage them to rot more quickly. Simply shake off any loose dirt and store them in boxes of sand or peat moss.

But be careful not to crowd the vegetables too much. This can cause heat to generate, which will speed along the spoiling process.

You will also want to stock your top shelves first. This is because the driest and warmest air will be near the ceiling and close to the door.

The further down your shelves, and the further they are away from the door, the more humid the air gets. This will, again, speed up the spoiling process of your vegetables.

You will also want to make sure that you are checking your vegetables often for signs of rot. Rot can spread quickly, and you can end up losing a lot of food if you don’t check them often.

If your goal is to become as self-sustaining as possible, a root cellar can be an excellent way to get you closer to your dreams. Whenever there are issues with the food distribution system, you will be minimally affected.

You will have plenty of fresh vegetables to choose from at any time of the year. Though it can be hard work to build and maintain, your independence will grow, and you will not struggle if the grid goes down.

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