Building a Multi-Functional Root Cellar
I have a root cellar in my basement that was built under the breezeway to my house. I installed high and low PVC pipes to control the temperature and the ventilation. Most fruits and vegetables like cold temperatures and high humidity, while there are some that like somewhat warmer and drier conditions. I found that the root cellar I built in my basement was good for the latter, but not what the majority of produce stores best at. I tried adding water to the floor, opening and closing the ventilation, but nothing seemed to work very well.
I started to think about the possibility of building a dirt floor root cellar in my backyard on the north side of my home. Then, as I was thinking about the high cost of building a structure with a roof, I had an idea. Why not partition my existing root cellar. It is plenty big, so maybe I could partition it with a wall and change the conditions on one side of the wall to be colder and more humid. The main reason I was not getting the humidity level I wanted was because the floor was concrete with a vapor barrier. So I decided remove the concrete and vapor barrier on the side furthest from the door to my basement. This would keep mold away from my house and that side would be colder because it would not be up against the heated house.
The wall was insulated and air sealed to keep the cold room cold, and the warm room warm. I had (4) high low vents, and we positioned the wall so each room now had (2) vents. We used concrete board and a fiberglass door so mold would not become a major issue. We had to cut the shelving to accommodate the wall. I am not a carpenter, so I hired a good one. It was well worth the money, and I was able to save quite a bit by being his laborer for a couple of days. I spent most of that time hauling buckets of concrete out of the basement up the stairs and in to the bucket of my tractor. I would then dump the concrete into a truck with my tractor. I can’t imagine trying to lift up a wheelbarrow in to the truck. That would have been a nightmare. I would carry two buckets at a time for balance. I would estimate that the buckets weighed 40-60 pounds each depending on how full I filled them up.
I was encouraged to find that the dirt/ gravel floor that was under the vapor barrier was in fact wet. This should raise the humidity enough for my produce. I do have to wait a bit for the moisture to saturate the air. Also, it is noticeably colder than the first room, so I will have colder temperatures as well.
Fruit and Vegetables that like to be stored cold and wet (32-40 degrees 85-90% humidity)
Fruit and Vegetables that like to be stored cool and drier (40-55 degrees 60-70% humidity)