A root cellar works like a refrigerator, maintaining a constant cool temperature that is very beneficial to crops so these do not rot or dry out. Although modern cellars are not designed as a root cellar, it is still possible to add one in your basement since this room is normally cooler than the rest of the house. Below are the steps on how to make a basement root cellar.
- Choose a corner of your basement that is located in the north side of your house. This spot will not get too much sun and will have even temperature throughout the year. Building a root cellar in one corner will minimize the amount of construction that you will do. The root cellar that you will build should also be near a window to regular the flow of air into the cellar.
- Remove the glass from the window and replace it with thick plywood and seal the edges. You will be creating the vents to regular the flow of cold and hot air to the root cellar. Drill a three-inch hole on the highest point of the window. Cut a length of 3-inch PVC that will be enough to push through the plywood that you have installed on the window. Attach a closed gate valve at the end of the pipe inside the basement and secure this to the end of the pipe with screws.
- Add another vent away from the one that you have installed. Cut a length of pipe like before. Add an elbow to the end of the pipe inside the basement. Measure the distance from the end of the elbow to about a foot from the floor and cut a length of pipe based on that measurement. Attach one end of the pipe to the elbow. Install another closed blast gate valve at the other end. When the air inside the cellar is warmer than the air outside the upper pipe will release the warm air while the lower vent will allow the cool air to come in and vice versa.
- Lay out the dimensions of the root cellar. Decide where you will place the door and the shelves. Shelves hanging from the ceiling will be very ideal for the top shelves. You have to ensure that the air will freely circulate around the shelves so that the crops stored on the shelves will not rot.
- Ensure that you seal the root cellar against moisture. The cellar should have high humidity to keep the crops fresh for a long time. But parts of the basement can be moist. You can prevent this by installing insulation on the ceiling and walls of the root cellar. Foam is the most ideal material to use for insulation as it is easier to work with and resistant to mildew unlike fiberglass.
- Install a raised floor for the root cellar. Basement floors tend to be damp at times. Install composite deck material for the flooring. These are solid pieces of lumber that have been weathered to resist moisture. These are also resistant to rotting and will not give the root cellar a musty smell even if the floor gets wet.
Place the vegetables on the shelves based on the amount of cool air they will need. Hardy vegetables can be placed on the top shelves while those with softer skin can get more benefit from cooler air by being placed in the lower shelves. Wire shelves are preferable to wooden shelves since the air can circulate more freely around the crops.