Storing Potatoes Without a Root Cellar
The average home-owner doesn’t have a root cellar or other large-capacity cool storage area for things like potatoes. Since I grow over a hundred pounds of potatoes every year to feed my family, I needed to find an affordable way to keep them from sprouting, shriveling, and rotting.
Using 2-inch thick foam board insulation (we call it “blueboard”) available at many big box home improvement stores, plus some layers of fiberglass batting I had lying around, I created what we lovingly call “The Coffin.” Down in our crawlspace, I removed the vapor barrier directly below the coffin in order to increase humidity levels within the storage space.
I cut one sheet of blueboard in half. Standing two short and one long board into a rectangle using the exterior cement-block wall as the third long side, I taped them together and placed more blueboard on top as a lid. More insulation around and over the box keeps the cool soil temperatures in, and the warmer air of the crawlspace out. Last year the coffin stayed at around 54˚F with the vapor barrier still in place. This year should be cooler with the plastic gone. (We have water pipes running through our crawlspace, and in order to prevent them from freezing during our long Alaskan winters, the crawlspace is heated, often around 62˚.)
This autumn I got fancy and scored a long line on the lid so I can accordion it open for access. Last year I stored potatoes from September until June (they did grow eyes, but the tubers made mashed potatoes just fine.) The fiberglass batting can be a pain, but I make sure to bring up enough potatoes at a time to minimize my trips down “the hole.”
11/16/2014 update: The min/max thermometer inside The Coffin so far this year is holding steady at 49˚F. Outdoor temps have been well above average, with no snow and many days above freezing, which is completely strange for this area.
If you enjoy articles like this, sign up for my monthly newsletter!