Tutorial on Storage Containers for the Root Cellar and Life

Winter Pears layered with hay in a recycled feed bag.

Storage Containers For The Root Cellar I don’t like to buy containers to use in the root cellar. It just feels plain wrong….When did we lost the ability to make our own containers ? The whole idea behind the root cellar is conservation, recycling, using what I have around me and not importing…. There are endless creative possibilities for storing food in the root cellar. I use a variety of containers for root cellar storage but there are three types that hold a special place in my heart, for how useful they are on the farm. Two are recycled containers that I scavenge and one I make myself.

A Precious Five Gallon

Lid modified with cuts so you can reuse it.

Number one, by far, is the plastic five gallon and all its smaller sized brothers. While the five gallon is not my favorite for storing food in the root cellar because I find that it doesn’t breathe enough, the five gallon merits the number one spot due to its versatility. Useful in carrying water, moving small rocks, gathering the harvest and the storage of all manner of dry foods. These precious gallons can be found behind local restaurants, pizzerias, fast food joints, at the supermarkets and almost anywhere. Any establishment that “bakes” on premises using premixed ingredients, usually has a nice stash. I also ask the staff for them at super markets in the bakery department. When gathering at a business, it is always best if you can ask the staff if you can have their containers but often it is a matter of opening the dumpster and peering inside. Some of these precious gallons come with lids. Usually they are of the “one use” type of lid but you can extend their life by cutting slots around the lip in order to get it to fit back on.

Wooden flats waiting to be filled

Second on my list are the wooden garden flats that we make ourselves and that I use to transplant my seedlings into in the spring.  They are simple to make using scrap lumber.  I use 2″ x 6″ pieces between eight and twelve inches for the ends and 1″ x 6″s about eighteen inches long for the sides of the box.  The bottom is also 1″ x 6″ with a slot in between them..  I use these boxes for the root vegetables that I layer with sawdust or sand like a lasagna; one layer sawdust, one layer vegetables, one layer sawdust etc.  These flats are not so big that they get too heavy when filled.  They have good air circulation, unlike most plastic containers,  they last a really long time and they are dual purpose in that when they are empty in the spring it is time for them to carry on as seedling flats.  To extend their lifespan I treat them with linseed oil.

Wooden Flat filled with turnips layered in sawdust

Recycled feed bag

Last on my top three list is the plastic, woven, feed bag.  Usually, local farmers who raise animals are happy to pass these on.  It used to be possible to return the bags to the distributers and have them recycled back into the food processing system.  But now, under one of those radical food safety laws it is not longer possible to refill them…..So, they pile up in the barn or in the landfill.  Since these bags are woven with plastic they breathe better than hard plastic containers.  They are best for layering food like cabbages or apples with hay or leaves.  Another plus is that they don’t take up a lot of space when they are empty.  They are sturdy and can be reused many times for a long time.

Recycled, 50 gallon, drums used for rainwater catchment and dry storage

I do use other containers.  Many of which have cracks or holes in their bottoms which render them useless for their original purpose but still fine for use in the root cellar.  I would also like to make a special mention of the recycled 50 gallon drum.  It is important to make sure that the drums you acquire have been used to contain non-toxic products.  I use them for water catchment off the roof of our barn and for bulk storage of animal feed by cutting off the top with a jigsaw and then making  a square frame cover made of wood to make it rodent proof or screen (for catchment).

Lid for rainwater catchment

Lid for dry storage

Throughout history containers were held in high esteem.  Just try to make your own !  In

Cracked wash tub given a second life as a root cellar storage for carrots

the modern world, we have lost this respect for containers and the time, skill and energy that it takes to make them.  We take containers for granted in a way that would have shocked our ancestors.  Next time you pass by a bulging bag of containers waiting for pick up on the curb, stop and enjoy !


About thegreenlifefarm

The Green Life Farm welcomes people who are on a path toward sustainability, increased environmental consciousness and mindfulness. We are 80% food self sufficient, off the grid for lighting, have reduced our wastes by 90% and have become more and more producers instead of consumers. The Green Life Farm is a place to meet kindred spirits and experience how it could be to reconnect with people and nature. Our farm is always open to visitors interested in alternative energy, living, thinking, building, husbandry, forestry, cooking and farming. In summer, our place is open to campers. Our names are: Bonnie and Sylvain. Calling 902-665-2084 is best because we are not online, thegreenlifefarm@gmail.com, every day. You are welcome to bring your pet. Be ready to use an outhouse! All visits include harvesting (even in winter), preparing and sharing a meal…and good discussions
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