As a child growing up on a farm, I remember the root cellar so well. Although it was damp and dark, the sight of row upon row of canned fruits and vegetables were a sight to behold. As an adult, I always wanted to have my own root cellar and see it full of garden produce to be savored in both sight and taste. When I first purchased the land in the early 1970's, I built a root cellar out of slabs of lumber that I found on the land from an old sawmill. I built it double-walled, filled the walls with sawdust, and put a shake roof on it with about a foot of sawdust for insulation in the ceiling. That first year, it was filled to the brim with potatos, carrots, and canned goods. Unfortunately, it only lasted about 5 years before the dampness caused severe rotting of the wood and soon it became un-usable.
When KaDe and I moved to the land in the early '90's, one of my first priorities was a new root cellar to store the gardenr's surplus in. Because of my earlier experience with wooden root cellars, I decided to build this of concrete. It was simple in design, 12' long by 8' wide x 7' high, dug into the hillside near our back door for easy access in the winter. The entrance was constructed such that there would be 2 doors creating an air lock between them. In the upper left picture KaDe is laying up blocks for the walls. Every other center hole in the blocks received a 3/8" piece of rebar and then filled with concrete and every other row of blocks received re-inforcing wire mesh horizontally. The roof consists of about 6" of concrete containing 3/8" rebar on 6" centers in both directions. We had a 'work party' with many friends helping us pour the roof.
Center picture shows the finished interior. the cellar was not originally designed with 2 sections but we found after the first winter there was a need to provide a means of maintaining a high humidity for the root crops and a lower level for the canned goods. So we divided the cellar such that there is now a back section about 3' wide for the root crops and the remaining for canned goods, onions, and other foods which need lower humidity levels.
The right-hand picture is the finished exterior of the cellar. The retaining wall on the left is self-standing but the one on the right is laid up with some concrete. After laying it up without concrete twice and having it collapse, I decided the angle was just too steep at the corner and laid it up a third time with concrete.
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