Unfortunately for many of us, winter is coming. However, that doesn’t mean you have to harvest every single item out of your garden and worry about it spoiling before you can eat it all. For those of you that have grown root vegetables, you can easily store your bounty in a root cellar. What’s that, you don’t have a root cellar you say? Fear not. You can build your own outdoors, right in your garden if you like!
I have researched several different types of root storage spaces and actually, there are many of them. I tend to like one in particular as it seems a sure fire way to keep out rodents as well as water. You will need to first know the amount of vegetables you will be storing as this will determine the amount of storage space you will need. Find a location that is slightly uphill if you have one. This will help water to drain away from your storage area. You will need a clean garbage can with a lid, fresh, clean straw and a good shovel for digging. You will also need a couple of pieces of extruded polystyrene foam (for insulation) , cut several inches larger than the diameter of the can, along with an exterior grade piece of plywood that is about ¾” thick and about the same size as the foam.
Dig a hole a few inches larger than the diameter of the garbage can and deep enough so that the can’s lid will sit about 6 or 7 inches below the soil line. Set the can inside the hole and line it with straw, alternating layers of straw with your root vegetables. Cover the can with the lid and pack in the soil around the outside of the can, flaring the soil away from the top edge of the can. Cover the lid with the two layers of foam you’ve cut and then with the plywood. Set a large stone or weight of some kind on top to keep the board in place. The foam will insulate the storage space from frost and the plywood will help to keep it dry. Long keeping root vegetables will store quite well for you over the course of the winter this way. One word of caution, you can also store good quality storage apples like this, but allow them their own storage container, as the ethylene gas the apples give off will shorten the storage life of the vegetables.
A few tips: you can store potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, etc. in the same storage unit, but if you have the room, allowing them their own space makes it easier to retrieve them. Also, mark the storage spaces with stakes, so once the snow flies, you will be able to locate them more readily.