May 18-19: Root Cellar Work Party

Remember those community root cellar grants were we talking about several months ago?  Curious about what’s going on?  Well, the Deanery Project in Ship Harbour, our first grant recipient, is hosting a root cellar work party on May 18-19 and you’re invited to attend.

Kick it Root Down: Work Party @ The Deanery Project Continue reading

Root Cellar Tour: Nov 26

You’re going to be hearing a lot about root cellars here at “Adventures in Local Food” over the next while. Root cellars are the next big adventure. I feel like I have a good handle on cooking and canning, but root cellars are still relatively new to me.

Fortunately, we have a wonderful community of root cellar enthusiasts to draw on. And some of those wonderful people are opening up their homes and cellars to us on Saturday, November 26.

Yes, it’s root cellar tour time again! If you missed last year’s tour, or even if you didn’t, now’s your chance to check out some root cellars in the Halifax area.

On November 26, starting at 3 pm sharp, we’ll be visiting 3 different root cellars – two in private homes, and the newly built root cellar at the Ecology Action Centre. At the end of the tour, we’ll gather at the Ecology Action Centre for a potluck. (Bring your favourite root vegetable dish!)

The event is free, but pre-registration is required as space is limited. To register, visit our website. We’ll be carpooling from site to site, so please indicate on your registration form if you have a car and are able to take some passengers.

Root Cellars: Building materials and using what you have

Our first bucket of kraut in our completed root cellar!

This spring we embarked on transforming part of our office basement into a root cellar and now that  September’s here, it’s time to start thinking about filling it up with produce.  It’s nice to see a project through to the very end and be able to start using it for its intended purpose, even though it was a very handy space this summer to store and organize our empty mason jars for our preserving workshops!  We thought it would be a good idea to do a follow-up post on our own root cellar construction project this spring with a bit of a breakdown of the costs of materials and labour.  There still is some time to build your own cellar, or at least convert a corner of your own unfinished basement into the perfect space for no-energy food storage this winter.  We hope this will give you some encouragement to see your own root cellar project through!

Fastening old ceiling tiles to the new wall frame

One of the lessons we took away from the root cellar construction workshop was how to use what you have and adapt plans to the space.  We happened to have a north-facing, uninsulated corner with a window in our basement that was relatively easy to close off with one wall.  This allowed us to take advantage of the naturally cool space and to easily add a simple ventilation system that should help us regulate the temperature in the room once the mercury dips below zero.

Covering the new wall with natural plaster

We were also lucky to have a lot of clay and a builder who had experience in natural building methods so we chose to make a natural clay plaster walls which should also help to insulate the room from the warmer space of the basement.  If you were looking to build a root cellar in your own home or organization, you could also build the walls out of cinder blocks or use drywall (get the kind used for bathrooms).

Here’s a list of materials we bought new for the workshop:

–  Lumber (14 pieces of 8 foot 2×6):  this was used to frame our wall

–  Wood screws

–  PVC 1 ½ inch pipe for our ventilation system

–  3 PVC connector elbows for the pipe

– Digital Thermometer and Hygrometer

– Supplies for a ceiling light and light switch

Here’s a list of things we bought used:

–   Old acoustical tiles & drywall: These formed the base for the natural plaster wall.  We picked up the acoustical tiles for $2 each from Maritime Demolition.  The drywall came from various people’s basements.

–   Door: Reused door purchased from Maritime Demolition for about $80

And here’s what we already had on hand:

–   Old shelving: While I had received advice to build shelves that could easily be removed, we happened to have an old shelf in that that will stay.  We’ll keep it until it’s no longer functional.

–    Clay from the floor:  We reconstituted this to make a natural plaster for the walls.

–    Rigid Styrofoam insulation: Leftover from insulating the building.

–    Wire mesh (for keeping the critters out): A volunteer had some in her basement.

Cost of Purchased Materials: about $400

Cost of labour for professional builder for two 8-hour work days, including design advice: $400

Cost of labour from wonderful and dedicated volunteers who helped us build and mud the clay walls: priceless!

To see the posts from our root cellar workparty weekend, click here: Day 1 & Day 2.

There are many other plans for root cellars out there – this is just our own example that worked in our particular space.  Again, we want to emphasize that you should take advantage of what you already have.  Cold storage can be as simple as an insulated garbage can buried in the ground or an unheated front porch.  It can also be as elaborate as a subterranean room dug out of a north facing hillside.  Start planning for your own cold storage according to your needs!

For more advice on root cellaring and construction, we’d recommend getting a copy of Nancy and Mike Bubel’s book Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruit and Vegetable by Storey Publishing.

Here are a few more links with interesting models for root cellaring”

Hopefully we'll have a bin of carrots like these in our own root cellar soon!

Root Cellar Workshop: Day One

This weekend, we built a root cellar! Building a root cellar at the Ecology Action Centre office has been an idea that we’ve been kicking around for years. It went from the idea stage to the reality stage when we received some funding from the Spirit NS Local Food Fund last fall. After the excitement of receiving the funding, the next big question was: So, how do we actually build this?

With the help of Zak Miller of Full Cycle Builders, and a team of amazing volunteers, we turned a dark corner of the basement into a food storage room.

Here’s the before picture:

We picked the northeast corner of the building because it had a small window, it already had three walls, and the north side of a building is generally colder than the south. Some of the best root cellar advice I received was to think like a root vegetable. Root vegetables grow underground where it is cool, dark and damp. You want your root cellar to mimic those conditions.

A couple years ago, we had put down a vapour barrier and clay floor in that area of the basement to reduce the humidity, so the first thing we had to do was to take up the floor in that area.  In the picture below you can see the tan clay next to the brick and gravel.  This is what had to go.

Next step: Build a wall.

Zak started us off with a demonstration how to safely use the circular saw.  A nice excuse to take a break from the dusty basement!

We framed in the wall and covered it in old acoustical tiles and leftover drywall.

Check back tomorrow to see the natural plasters we put on the wall, the ventilation system and more…

And here are some past posts on root cellaring:

Root Cellar Basics

Root Cellar Tour

Simple cold storage ideas

Root Cellar Workshop: Register Now

Learn to Build a Root Cellar
Hands-on Workshop
May 27-29

Join the Ecology Action Centre for a weekend root cellar building workshop.  Learn basics of root cellar design and participate in the building of a cold-room style root cellar in the basement of the Ecology Action Centre.

Cost: $100 per person (includes lunch on Saturday and Sunday)

Friday, May 27, 7-9pm:
Designing a root cellar
Saturday, May 28, 10 am – 4 pm:
Sunday, May 29, 10 am – 4 pm:
Construction, natural plasters and finishing touches

To register, please complete the information below and email to Marla at  If you have any questions, please call 442-1077 or email.

Registration Form
Daytime phone:
Do you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?

Method of Payment and Cancellation Policy
Participants must pay upon registering for the class.  We can accept cash, cheque or credit card.  We require a credit card number or payment to secure your spot. Please note that we can only refund your registration fee if you cancel a minimum of three business days prior to the class.  If you are unable to attend, please contact us as soon as possible.