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Building a Root Cellar

Do-it-yourself and How To. Tips, plans and construction of things such as Root Cellars, Green houses, Dog houses, and more...

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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby MooMama » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:58 am

Here's an article about a "no-dig" root cellar:

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/building-root-cellar
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby fedorthedog » Sun May 08, 2011 10:04 am

I have a friend who uses an old freezer above ground with a temperature activated switch that turns on a light bulb inside at 34 degrees. He had the light come on for the first time a year ago when we had 2 weeks of 10-15 degrees. Says everything stays in good shape thru winter and the sealed box keeps the bugs out. i dont think i will deal with too much heat.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby landrun89 » Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:54 pm

In the old days they would take long handled post hole diggers and dig eight feet down and basically make a rectangle and put the dirt they were pulling up in the middle of the rectangle. They would then fill in the square/mound with concrete, and then dig the dirt out from around the concrete on the inside. They would finish the opening end with stairs/doors at a later time. I have two or three on my place over 100 years old that have wagon axles over the door jam, names and dates inscribed on the inside.
I am in the process of building another underground I am using a track hoe to dig my hole and I am placing big square bales of hay inside the hole( two high x two wide x two long eight bales all together, 4ftx8ft each bale. I will then rebar around the hay bales and pour concrete over the bales using the dirt as my backstop and then let my animals eat the bales of hay out, what they don't eat I can grab with my skidsteer. I will block out the doorway when I am pouring and do the door and steps later. I believe I can build this for under $1000. I haven't decided to put a floor in it or not I have seen both ways, and tend to think the dirt floors retain less water and smell less like mold and such?
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby Joe11 » Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:06 pm

When I was a kid we had a old house from the 1800's and a root celler. My great grand mother would dig holes in the bottom of the celler every year and bury the potatoes and all.
We were making more money in the 1970's and built a new house and celler with concrete floors and walls.
We put the potatoes down in the celler in buckets and on the floor. They all rotted. We went back to burying them in the dirt under the old house. I think that the dirt has a lot to do with preserving them.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby pilgrimtr » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:50 pm

Hi Everyone I am new to prepping, and have been tinking about putting in a "root seller"
I've even thought about using a Conex box. I've read a lot of the post but every one is in the midwest is there any information about making a root celler in NW Florida?
if someone tell you they are an expert, be leary of them. if they tell you they are knowlagable of something.trust them. Remember an ex is a has been and a spert is a drip under pressure. :)
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby JakeTheBake » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:03 pm

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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby fedorthedog » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:40 pm

I am looking at getting a mil surplus conex or shipping container and burying it as a root cellar, They can be had fairly cheaply and should hand a foot of dirt on top without a problem Just a matter of the set back and retaining wall for the entrance. The other idea is setting a septic tank on its side and building in a door.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby TheLight » Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:31 am

I don't think an ISO shipping container can even handle a foot of dirt. There's just too much weight, even in a foot of dirt, and the thin metal roof is not reinforced at all. That's not even including the side load coming in after you back-fill. It would bow in the middle, which could cause a catastrophic failure in the posts if they go out of plumb. They are designed to handle a vertical load on the corner posts and that's it.
I would definitely go with the septic tank approach, or just with concrete and rebar reinforced cinder block walls on a poured foundation. You should be able to do most of that yourself to save money. Heck, people build them out of field stone and/or wood for generations.

More discussion on this can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=172&t=25206&p=218266&hilit=bury+shipping+container#p218266
With links to many more discussions in that thread.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby Islandlifer » Tue Jul 17, 2012 1:52 pm

My twenty year old green house had a fish pond in it until yesterday. I tore it out. Placed the remaining fish in an outside pool and started digging it out for root cellar use. The walls will be built up and a slanted cover made out of old wooden doors.

We just put in steps of concrete pavers. The outside perimeter will be surrounded with straw/hay bales. It will hold ten five gallon buckets of root vegetables or whatever I want to store. When finished it will have a five foot head clearance. Below soil will be 24 inches. The floor base is sandy loam with excellent drainage. We won't need it until fall when we finish with the garden. We will leave the pit open to cool down on cold nights until we fill it with the full buckets. Then shut it up for winter.
The greenhouse is still usable to start seeds and cuttings.

Gold fish pool.jpg
Below ground gold fish pond

002.JPG
Green house cleaned out and empty gold fish pond.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby PatrioticStabilist » Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:25 pm

I wanted one so bad, I grew up with one at our old house. It was concrete though and had a wooden bin for potatoes the length of the room. I never thought about that but wonder now how old that was. There was a big shelf too. It smelled earthy down there, dad also had the water pump down there.

He would dig the potatoes and fill that bin for the winter, there were a LOT. He would plant a 50 pound bag each spring of seed potatoes. Mom would can 100 quarts of tomatoes, 50 of green beans, and make all kinds of other canned goods. She would hang a sheet across the front of the shelving unit. We had a light bulb down there and a small window. I was terrified to go down there as there were spiders. But when we had tornado warnings which was often, guess where you would find me.

I kept begging hubby to build me one but he said impossible in Houston. The water table is to high and its just plain to hot. Well, guess what? Our new house has a full basement, I'm so excited. I'm going to either use the room by the stairs where they have a freezer for my "root cellar" I will have hubby put a door on the room to keep it cooler then the rest. The canned goods may have to be on racks out in the room though. I haven't looked that closely to see where I'm putting what yet. But it has to be better then here. I was able to keep potatoes and onions for awhile on the tile floor in our laundry room. I have a couple of boxes of hard squash in there now but its just to warm for it. I"m very excited about gardening next spring as we have 4 acres, BUT there is a BIG deer problem so not sure how I will deal with that. In one corner of the yard I want a beehive, and down from it blackberry bushes and some fruit trees on the upper corner. Probably have to build out all around them. Also apple, grapes, and peach, we have them here and the squirrels eat them all. I hope my garden will do well, I'm looking forward to canning a lot. Going to have hubby fix me up a summer kitchen outside somewhere so I don't have to take the mess inside. There are also mature walnut and pecan trees. The yard was absolutely full of them. Hubby said the walnuts will have to be picked up as they will damage the mower or break windows. The bottom of the siding was beat up, we think because of them and the lady replaced it.

I hope things go well, but I'm really worried about fighting the deer.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby FarmGirl » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:36 pm

Horse fence or tall cattle fence will slow down the Deer, chicken wire at the bottom slows down the rabbits. Tin can lids on fishing line slows down the birds, tin cans hooked onto thin wire so they as noisy like wind chimes slows down the deer.

Fighting deer can be dangerous, they will paw you or poke you with a horn. I find it is better to shoot them first then fight them. F.G.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby PatrioticStabilist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:01 pm

My gal friend from high school has sent me pictures of them. They have herds of them in their fields, can't figure how they have any crops left.

They had to build wooden framing outside some trees they planted to keep the deer from eating them. Here I really don't have varmit problems other then keeping the dog out of the garden and he isn't bad. I also had chickens and they helped keep the bugs down.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby quieteaglefeather » Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:32 am

When I set to build a root cellar, I laid out all the costs and found that the cheepest per sq ft. was and is a 'shipping container'. I bought an 8' x 8-1/2' x 40' long container for $3,500. Had it delivered 250 miles away for $350.00 and had gravel put in the bottom of the excavated hole, cost: $650.00 I then shored it up 2' in from the sides going from front to back at 4' intervals. You must use true 4" x 4" posts, do not use two 2x4's nailed together(they do not hold the 2' of dirt and clay on the roof). Before you bury it, weld a 4" - 6" vent near the back end about the 30' mark and have the vent pipe come straight up out of the ground about 3' and then curve down to about 2-1/2' away from the ground with a very fine mesh over the end of the vent-the vent will be facing to the ground so the birds can not land on it and 'poop' in the hole and the mesh is too small for snakes and mice. The front doors and the only thing I did not bury, and have a dug-out for my truck to back down right up to the doors to unload. The doors are water and air tight so no rodents can get in. All total, it coast me ust under $5,600.00 and well worth it.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby TheLight » Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:03 pm

quieteaglefeather wrote:When I set to build a root cellar, I laid out all the costs and found that the cheepest per sq ft. was and is a 'shipping container'. I bought an 8' x 8-1/2' x 40' long container for $3,500. Had it delivered 250 miles away for $350.00 and had gravel put in the bottom of the excavated hole, cost: $650.00 I then shored it up 2' in from the sides going from front to back at 4' intervals. You must use true 4" x 4" posts, do not use two 2x4's nailed together(they do not hold the 2' of dirt and clay on the roof). Before you bury it, weld a 4" - 6" vent near the back end about the 30' mark and have the vent pipe come straight up out of the ground about 3' and then curve down to about 2-1/2' away from the ground with a very fine mesh over the end of the vent-the vent will be facing to the ground so the birds can not land on it and 'poop' in the hole and the mesh is too small for snakes and mice. The front doors and the only thing I did not bury, and have a dug-out for my truck to back down right up to the doors to unload. The doors are water and air tight so no rodents can get in. All total, it coast me ust under $5,600.00 and well worth it.
quieteaglefeather


Please post pics of your bracing! I've been looking in to doing this, and thought I would have to go with steel for the load. I'd love to see how this was done.
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Re: Building a Root Cellar

Postby Here2Learn » Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:19 pm

I seem to remember seeing on one of these prepper shows or on one of the websties where a guy dug out a whole and poured concrete walls on three sides and then backed an old school bus into it. Would something like that work for a root cellar? I mean brace the top and put a foot or so of dirt up there. Also, would it being open to a ramp on one side still keep the temp constant or would you have to have all four sides in the dirt and cut a drop entrance in the roof? Would love to have such a thing, but right now I could probably afford the paper and a pencil to draw up the plans ;)

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