Storage pit for root crops, apples, pears : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Answer to a Q in the Oct 1979 Organic Gardening.

Constructing a mound storage pit is easy! Simply place a layer of straw on the ground upon which you will stack your root crops. You can also store apples and pears this way. Cover the pile of vegetables with more straw, and then pack three or four inches of soil over this second layer of straw.

Allow for some ventilation by leaving a little chimney hole at the top of the muond's soil layer. To keep water from entering the shaft, cover it with a flat rock or board.

Make sure the sides of the mound are packed firmly with the back of the shovel so that water can run off smoothly. Then dig a shallow drainage ditch all around the mound.

End of typing job.

Ths answer doesn't cover how you prevent varmints from digging through and eating your stash. Cover with chicken wire, pinned with earth staples?

-- Old Git (, April 16, 1999


Hey Old Git! You're putting out some very good info that can be used by many! Thanks a bunch and keep it up!

-- smitty (, April 16, 1999.

Hey Old Git, should not you have added an "OT" to your title for "On Topic"?

Just trying to be helpful. ;)

-- Ken Seger (, April 16, 1999.

Thanks, youse guys. Was just thinking about seeing long "ridges" of stored potatoes in English fields, built by this same method. My old dad tells me the farmers don't do it that way any more and the potatoes don't taste nearly as good--the texture is also different, not so fluffy. I guess such a structure would also give away where you stored your food but if you have no other place. . .

-- Old Git (, April 16, 1999.


Thanks. One question do they suggest making separate pits for fruits and veggies?


-- john hebert (, April 16, 1999.

Old Git -- I always look forward to your posts. You are practically a walking "Encylopedia of Country Living". By the way, this is a great book -- there's so much information, I couldn't read all of it if I had a year (maybe I will in Y2K). Look forward to hearing from you in the future.

-- dookie (, April 16, 1999.

John, the article didn't specify separate quarters for fruits and veggies. But I remember reading something somewhere about the gases emitted by fruits causing over-ripeness in veggies. Have I got that confused with something else? Anyway, seems to me they'd be okay if you built a sort of ridge-shaped storage and separated the fruits from the veggies by an interior wall of straw/soil/straw.

Thanks for the encouragement--I'll try to find more useful articles.

-- Old Git (, April 16, 1999.

Yes, I promised some days ago to get back with some underground storage pits we had used in the past,sorry for the mental lapse...

This is what we call the grandaddy of all pits:

Dig a large hole slightly larger than a pallet, approx. 3" x4". The depth would be slightly taller than the height of your chosen storage containers (5 gal. buckets, rubbermaid containers, etc).

Line the top rim of pit with, if available, pressure treated 2x4s. Lumber should be slightly higher than ground level. This will keep out surface water, varmits,insects and make a tight seal with your lid. Lid can then be made of lumber and plywood, insulated or not depending on climate. Additional insulation such as hay bales, straw or what have you can be added to top. In a more long term storage pit, I would add a layer of plastic bigger than your hole for additional surface water protection.

Ventilation need not be fancy. Pipe through ground into storage area. Angle the pipe, protect from rain and cover if you are in a very cold climate to prevent freezing.

Various root crops and cheese can be kept separate in "environments" within containers in the pit. Handy if you do have separate pits/storage areas for large bulks of separate products; large vegies like pumpkins, etc. store directly on pallet; you can use this pit for more immediate use after you have recovered from the individual pits of other produce stored separately. This would keep things nice without disturbing your long-term pits aside from inspection.

A smaller version of this was my "refridgerator" for years. Using whole hay bales kept things cool in all but the hottest of summer days.

And don't forget to check your product regularly and bad apple...throw away spoiled, and separate and use adjoining product first.

-- Lilly (, April 16, 1999.

Lilly, great information--except for the pressure-treated wood! The toxic materials in the wood (sometimes arsenic) have been reported to leach into the soil and subsequently into the produce.

-- Old Git (, April 16, 1999.

Old Git,

Like I say, always stick with what you know...we never used pressure treated because of cost. Thanks for the save. Almost all of my adult life w/o power. So what will I miss the most if the lights go out again? Carpets...the vacum cleaner. Been to the NC forum? E-mail me if you can.

-- Lilly (, April 16, 1999.

Grandpa had a storage hole in the ground for years. The varmin NEVER bothered it. It was the rot that bothered him. Some air and space between solves the problem. In the north you must get below the frost line. In the south you must stay above the water table and have shade.

-- SCOTTY (, April 16, 1999.

Regarding the question about gases from fruit:

According to one of Eric Sloane's books, I think it was "A Reverence for Wood", he stated that apples give off phosgene gas, which can be absorbed by carrots if in the same root cellar, and cause them to develop a bitter taste. I looked this up in "Encyclopedia of Country Living" some ago - I don't think that that book thought it was a problem. It probably depends on the amount of ventilation available - but I think you want it pretty much sealed up to keep from freezing.

-- Dan Hunt (, April 16, 1999.

Apples do give off a gas that harms potatoes, so they should not be stored together. Hmm. Maybe that gas also harms other root veggies as well?

-- Shivani Arjuna (, April 16, 1999.

There is a metal yard (buys old junk, anything of metal) not far from where I live. I see all kinds of weird stuff there. Ancient water heaters, ancient propane tanks, all kinds of stuff rotting out. I looked for a toolbox for my pickup. They offered me a pretty interesting one for $25 but it turned out the bottom had a big hole rusted out so I passed. As you see though, it's cheap.

Anyway so one odd thing there I've seen is lockers. Panels of the small square kind like kids in PhysEd have. I also have a bomb shelter in my backyard. (Not too good for a storm - a simple flap wood door - but good for a nearby drop of a 1930's bomb I suppose. :-)) I'm thinking, if I put the lockers in the bomb shelter, I could make locker-sized trays about 1-2" deep, fill those trays with sand, and put different types of food in each little locker. The few foods requiring "dry" environment for, I could put felt around the locker door (to insulate it around the edges where it closes), duct tape the locker vents, and toss a few dessicant packages in. Not sure if that would put my apples far enough from my potatoes/carrots or not. Seemed like a rather novel concept though. It could get the stuff off the ground, away from the floor, bugs, rodents, etc., allow the items some air and yet not totally expose them.

I bet there are metal scrapyards in lots of places. Funny thing about Y2K is it has made me look at everything with a much more creative eye to utilization. People who want to bury stuff might find some containers at a scrapyard that would be good for putting underground.

By the way. Today for $8.67 each or something like that I bought 33 gallon rectangular thick-rubber/plastic storage bins with lids. Oil lamps were about $9 each, half a gallon of lamp oil was $3ea, replacement wicks and burners available. In fact that shelf is usually somewhat untouched. Geez, maybe I really *am* the only person in my county with a clue. Darn....

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 17, 1999.

handy link on root cellers

-- marsh (, April 18, 1999.

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