What is a Root Cellar
A root cellar is an underground room or storage area used for keeping foods at a constant, cool, and low humidity environment for extended periods of time.
This is much like what takes place in an underground cave. Whether the temperature at ground level is swelteringly hot or well below freezing this doesn’t alter the underground temperature. The ground-level temp has no bearing on the chilly, jacket weather you would experience in the cave all year around. Or think of a root cellar as nature’s refrigerator — something people have tapped into for thousands of years.
That constant, cool environment is exactly what you want when storing food for extended periods of time. Have you ever had extra potatoes or onions that went bad in your kitchen while sitting on the floor in a bag? Though some foods are resilient enough to last a few weeks at the warmth level of your house, they will eventually spoil.
So what are the benefits? If you’re like most people, you don’t have the room in your refrigerator to store everything that you’d like to. A root cellar helps solve that problem. Fruits, vegetables, jams, salted meats, and even alcohol can be stored in this setting. Here are a few benefits to get you thinking:
- A Huge Refrigerator: The space you have available can be much larger than your refrigerator. You’ll have plenty to work with for many months.
- Longevity: Fruits and vegetables will last much longer than if they were simply set on floor of your home.
- Save Money: A root cellar cuts down on your food costs. You can store fruits and vegetables in large bulk. Whether you found a great deal at a local store, were given large quantities of food, or have a large garden, you can store them instead of them going bad. Months after your garden is done for the season, you’ll still have plenty of fresh food at your disposal.
- Better Health: Root cellars encourage healthy eating. They store incredibly healthy foods. No foods with a hundred ingredients and a shelf life of ten years are found here. You’ll only find foods that will increase your vitality, contributing to a long and healthy life.
- A Chance for Generosity: You can share some of the extra food you have with someone who is in need of some. The great thing is that this can take place whether or not your garden is in season.
Certain fruits and vegetables are better choices for root cellar storage. Strawberries, for instance, would be a poor choice. Good choices would include produce such as beets, carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, and other root vegetables. Apples are a great fruit to store and typically are kept in a separate cellar.
Books on Building Root Cellars
Some of the root cellar plans that follow may be enough to get you the food storage you need, but in all likelihood, there is not enough information in them. To be thorough and complete, you are truly best served by buying a book dedicated to building and maintaining a root cellar. It will help with the learning curve and save you precious time, money, and vegetables.
Three books I’d recommend:
- Build Your Own Underground Root Cellar
- The Complete Guide to Your New Root Cellar
- Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables
Now, on to the plans…
15 Root Cellar Plans to Get You Started
1. Root Cellar Plans from Mother Earth News
Looking for a project that is almost 60% done? Mother Earth News has a great article on utilizing a NEW concrete septic tank. The septic tank is buried on a hillside complete with door, venting system and more. In this article they recommend purchasing a new tank with slight defects to keep costs down. Root Cellar Plans
2. Root Cellar Plans from Wilderness College
These guys over at wilderness college did an amazing job building this classical looking root cellar from earth bags. They chronicled their entire build as well as providing us with a complete list of materials used. Inexpensive and will last forever. I give them 5 stars! Earthbag Root Cellar
3. Robert’s Root Cellar Project
I really enjoy finding smaller, personal blogs where someone details their projects. It’s difficult to find them among all the larger websites out there. With that said, I’m gonna give homage to this guy Robert who did a fantastic job building a cinder block root cellar for his family. What I enjoy about his post is that he took some great photos during his build that shows great detail. Check out his blog here Cinder Block Root Cellar Project
4. Old Water Tank Cellar
How about building a root cellar from an old 1,500 gallon water tank? That’s what these guys did. Simply ingenious, another fine example of making do with what you have laying around. Simple Root Cellar
5. Another Earth Bag Cellar
Unleash your inner hobbit with this picture perfect root cellar. Once again Mother Earth News published this article a while back but it’s still one of my all time favorites. This cellar was also constructed of earthbags which seems to be the go-to material for easy and affordable cellar construction. Root Cellar
6. Small Cellar Made From Adobe
This is an older site from the UK but that doesn’t mean that the content isn’t amazing. Their site has several really great projects including straw bale construction and is worth taking a peek. Small Root Cellar Projects
7. Cordwood Root Cellar
Nothing says high r-value than a building made from cordwood. I have always been fascinated by the process and would like to use this method in the future. This eco-friendly root cellar is a great option for someone with materials already on hand. Interior is framed with 2×4’s and metal for the roof. Cordwood Root Cellar.
8. Build a Root Cellar From a Garbage Can
Now, most of us don’t have the room or need for some huge cellar. We just need something that will hold what we grow in our tiny gardens. Burying a trash can with lid is a great little solution. Make sure you drill several holes in the bottom for drainage! Garbage Can Root Cellar
9. Bury a Refrigerator
Wow, I wish that I hadn’t thrown out that old freezer in my garage. Here is a spacious root cellar without all the work. Old Refrigerator Root Cellar
10. Simple Hole in The Ground
Well, if it works, who am I to complain? Hole in The Ground Cellar
11. Barrel Root Cellar
Have an old barrel laying around? Convert it into a simple but effective root cellar using these instructions from Family Survival Planning. Barrel Root Cellar
12. Root Cellar Plans
Download this image that I found.
13. Root Cellar Plans
These plans are from the Minister of Agriculture in British Columbia. Download Root Cellar Plans Here
14. Stone Root Cellar Plans
These are wonderful, I just wish there was a pic of the finished product. Stone Root Cellar
15. Basement Root Cellar
I really hope these ideas help you out with your own project. For me, I’m keeping mine in the crawlspace. Milk crates with straw, nothing special or I would have posted a pic.
Do you have a great idea for a root cellar? Send them to me, I would love to see them.