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Root Cellar

 

Root Cellar Plans

These unique root cellar plans show you how to build a root cellar for food storage by adapting a new concrete septic tank.
 
By Steve Maxwell
April/May 2014
 
 

Make this root cellar by burying a new concrete septic tank into a hillside.
Illustration by Len Churchill
Slideshow

 

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The cool, moist and dark conditions of a root cellar make it the perfect place to keep many fruits and vegetables crisp and delicious for weeks — even months — of storage. And while there are myriad ways to store vegetables, our innovative root cellar plans show you how to build a root cellar by modifying a new, precast concrete septic tank. By following the plans, you'll cut an entrance, install a door, add a pair of vent pipes and cover the tank with soil to bring an old-fashioned, walk-in cellar into your modern life.

Choose a Concrete Septic Tank

You'll want to buy an unused septic tank for this root cellar design, but look for a deal to avoid paying full price. A percentage of all precast concrete septic tanks end up with small manufacturing defects that prohibit them from being used for sewage treatment. Suppliers sometimes offer discounts on these flawed tanks. As long as the tank is solid and sound, a chipped edge or a patchable hole won't prevent it from being a root cellar. You won’t need the plastic fittings or effluent filter found inside most septic tanks, so ask the supplier to remove these before delivery.

Tank size is another detail you'll need to consider when planning how to build a root cellar from a septic tank. The capacity of septic tanks is measured in gallons, with different models being taller or shorter. While you might be tempted to buy a 1,000- or 1,200-gallon tank because they’re common, you’ll get more food storage space and headroom with a tank that's 1,500 gallons or larger. Standard 1,500-gallon tanks typically measure about 5 1/2 feet wide by 5 1/2 feet tall by 10 feet long, while a 2,500-gallon tank provides more than 6 feet of interior headroom. Don’t choose a low-profile tank because it will be much too short to work in. Prices for new, undamaged 1,500-gallon tanks start at about $1,100, and 2,500-gallon models can be found for as low as $1,600. Discounts for damaged tanks may be as much as 50 percent.

Most septic tanks have an internal partition that must be opened or removed to build from these root cellar plans. Try to find a tank without a partition, or ask your supplier to remove it before delivery. You can also punch through the partition yourself as part of the doorway-cutting process.

Best Sites for Root Cellars

The perfect location for a root cellar is nestled into an existing soil bank in a well-drained location 10 to 20 yards from your house. Ideally, the door should face north to keep out the sun’s heat. You’d be fortunate indeed to have all of these conditions, and most people have to modify their sites. Expect to pay from $50 to $100 per hour for a backhoe and operator to excavate your site for three or four hours.

 

Fall Foliage

Not all leaves turn vivid colors in the fall. Only a few of our many species of deciduous trees—notably maple, aspen, oak, and gum—produce stellar performances for our annual autumn spectacular in North America.

Several factors contribute to fall color (temperature, precipitation, soil moisture), but the main agent is light, or actually the lack of it. The amount of daylight relates to the timing of the autumnal equinox. See when fall begins.

As the autumn days grow shorter, the reduced light triggers chemical changes in deciduous plants causing a corky wall to form between the twig and the leaf stalk. See how day length is changing in your area!

This “abscission layer” eventually causes the leaf to drop off in the breeze. As the corky cells multiply, they seal off the vessels that supply the leaf with nutrients and water and also block the exit vessels, trapping simple sugars in the leaves. The combination of reduced light, lack of nutrients, and no water add up to the death of the pigment chlorophyll, the “green” in leaves.

Once the green is gone, two other pigments show their bright faces. These pigments, carotene (yellow) and anthocyanin (red), exist in the leaf all summer but are masked by the chlorophyll. (The browns in autumn leaves are the result of tannin, a chemical that exists in many leaves, especially oaks.)

Sugar trapped in autumn leaves by the abscission layer is largely responsible for the vivid color. Some additional anthocyanins are also manufactured by sunlight acting on the trapped sugar. This is why the foliage is so sparkling after several bright fall days and more pastel during rainy spells. In general, a wet growing season followed by a dry autumn filled with sunny days and cool, frostless nights produces the most vibrant palette of fall colors.

Of course, if freezing temperatures and a hard frost hits, it can kill the process within the leaf and lead to poor fall color. Also, drought conditions during late summer and early fall can trigger an early “shutdown” of trees as they prepare for winter, causing leaves to fall early from trees without reaching their full color potential.

Does your area experience fall foliage? Some level of autumn foliage changes in many regions on North America. However, it is the northern tier of states, especially New England, that hold the jackpot for leaf peepers. A combination of the right climate and light conditions and an abundance of the tree varieties that hoard colorful pigments come together there.

While tradition has it that Columbus Day weekend is when the color peaks in New England, the mythical maximum occurs in northern Maine in mid- to late September and “travels” south, reaching the Connecticut shore by late October.

How do you determine the best location in your area for vibrant fall foliage?  Check out this Foliage Leaf Peepr app which reports on the best and brightest colors in the United States.

 

Feed Your Family & Your Wallet

Owning land is having possession of a tangible asset that has a host of benefits, one being the ability to farm.

It may sounds like a lot of unnecessary work to many, but there's a growing movement of people growing their own food. This food-to-table trend is also allowing some to feed their families and sell the excess to others for extra cash.

Farmers markets allow small-yield cultivators the ability to help others, and themselves, by selling everything from fruits and vegetables to herbs, plants and flowers. Consider container gardening if your land isn't well suited to farming.

Even in varying climates, here are some of the most popular choices and easiest to grow.

Vegetables

Green (Bush) Beans - Sow seeds every few weeks to enjoy a continual harvest through the summer.

Beets - You can plant your beets as soon as your soil can be worked in the spring.

Carrots - Plant carrots as soon as the soil can be worked. They thrive in fertile sandy loam.

Cucumbers - Give your cucumber plants generous amounts of organic matter and good fertilization and they will respond with lots of crunchy cucumbers; harvest them regularly to increase production.

Lettuce - Lettuce thrives in cooler weather so plant it in the spring and fall, sowing every few weeks for a continuous harvest.

Snap Peas - Plant your peas so that they can mature as early as your planting schedule allows and sow more seeds when cooler fall days return.

Radishes - Spring radish varieties are often ready in just three weeks and are more mild in flavor—hotter summer soil produces spicier radishes.

Herbs

Basil - Plant basil in rich, moist soil where it can enjoy full sun. Sow your basil every few weeks for continual harvest.

Dill - Plant your dill seeds in warmer temperatures: it thrives in soil around 75 to 80°F.

Cilantro - Plant cilantro early in the season and sow seeds regularly for a continued harvest.

Parsley - Plant parsley in fertile soil with good amounts of organic matter and moisture.

Thyme - Grow thyme in an area that will receive full sunlight.

Featured Land For Sale By Owner

Copper Ridge Tract 11
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Copper Ridge Tract 11 Eidson, Tennessee

5.00 Acres - East Tennessee land with views and open pasture areas. The land has fairly gentle terrain and would be ideal for having some animals and gardens. Part of the property is already (...)

$28,900
Burrville Rd. - Tract 4
Burrville Rd. - Tract 4 Sunbright, Tennessee

This 1.87 acres is located on Burrville Rd just a few minutes from Sunbright TN. This property is lightly to moderately sloped, with some level places. This property is completely wooded. Mobile (...)

$19,900
Copper Ridge Tracts 18 + 19
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Copper Ridge Tracts 18 + 19 Eidson, Tennessee

10.22 Acres - Owner financed East TN land in Hawkins County, TN. This property has a small pond up front and an existing well on top of the ridge. A power pole is located near the well. The top part (...)

$53,400
Goose Creek Estates Tract 29
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Goose Creek Estates Tract 29 Sunbright, Tennessee

Goose Creek - Tract 29 - Owner Financed TN land with a driveway.

$24,900
Copper Ridge Tract 6
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tract 6 Eidson, Tennessee

5.05 Acres - East Tennessee land with views and open pasture areas. The land has fairly gentle terrain and would be ideal for having some animals and gardens. There is a small pond near the front of (...)

$29,600
Beech Knob 43 Acre Tract
Beech Knob 43 Acre Tract Gurley, Alabama

43.72 Acres - Large piece of owner financed land right outside of Huntsville Alabama with two small waterfalls and a natural pit.

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Copper Ridge Tract 9
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Copper Ridge Tract 9 Eidson, Tennessee

5.22 Acres - East Tennessee land with views and open pasture areas. The land has fairly gentle terrain and would be ideal for having some animals and gardens. Part of the property is already (...)

$29,800
Copper Ridge Tracts 12+13
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Copper Ridge Tracts 12+13 Eidson, Tennessee

10 Acres - Owner financed land in East Tennessee with great views and easy access. This tract has a deeded access road up onto the property as well as over 900 feet of frontage on a paved, state (...)

$52,700
Falcon Crest Tract 7
Falcon Crest Tract 7 Gurley, Alabama

1.90 Acres - Wooded Alabama land to build on off of Blowing Cave road in Madison County. This is a nice sized rural lot with owner financing not too far from Huntsville. Create a nice homestead for (...)

$58,900
Paint Rock Creek Tract 7
Paint Rock Creek Tract 7 Huntsville, Tennessee

5.32 acres with massive rock outcroppings, power and great views!

$27,700
Norris View Tract 2
Norris View Tract 2 Maynardville, Tennessee

5.56 acres with power in Maynardville, TN

$29,500
Tinch Ford Tract 5
Tinch Ford Tract 5 Allardt, Tennessee

8.24 Acres - The back of this land fronts the Clear Creek and has some flat rock shelfs/beaches at the water. There is a small, seasonal stream running through the tract that you can hear as you're (...)

$71,500
Falcon Crest Tract 4
Falcon Crest Tract 4 Gurley, Alabama

3.76 Acres - This is great owner financed land for building a dream home on! Look off your back porch and see forever! This land is available with our 100% owner financing and is just minutes from (...)

$121,700
Stockton Bluffs Tract 13
SOLD
Stockton Bluffs Tract 13 Allardt, Tennessee

5.33 Acres - Land with water, power, views and easy access for weekend camping.

$39,600
Copper Ridge Tract 10
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tract 10 Eidson, Tennessee

5.09 Acres - East Tennessee land with views and open pasture areas. The land has fairly gentle terrain and would be ideal for having some animals and gardens. Part of the property is already (...)

$29,800
Copper Ridge Tracts 14+15
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tracts 14+15 Eidson, Tennessee

11.2 Acres - This larger tract has an access easement with an existing gate. The property is hillside with around half of it cleared and the other half wooded with younger growth trees.

$55,200
Copper Ridge Tract 2
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tract 2 Eidson, Tennessee

5 Acres - If you've ever dreamed of having your own TN mini farm in a great setting, have a look at this tract. This property is open pasture land that slopes down from the road with a rolling to (...)

$29,000
Cave Springs Tract 3
PENDING
Cave Springs Tract 3 Sharp's Chapel, Tennessee

14.78 Acres - Owner financed land with a driveway, a small leveled homesite and access to a natural spring. Good views from the top and an awesome drive in with waterfalls on the side of the access (...)

$32,700
Powell River Estates Tract 135
PENDING
Powell River Estates Tract 135 Speedwell, Tennessee

242' of frontage on Norris Lake / Powell River. Great Fishing. Awesome location for a getaway cabin!

$42,700
Copper Ridge Tract 17
PENDING
Copper Ridge Tract 17 Eidson, Tennessee

5.57 Acres with an old hay shed - Owner financed East TN mini farm land with a large shed and power at the road. This is an ideal property for a mini farm with plenty of room on the top of the ridge (...)

$41,000
Falcon Crest 57 Acre Tract
Falcon Crest 57 Acre Tract Huntsville, Alabama

57 Acres - Only 20 minutes from Downtown Huntsville, very private, varied terrain and owner financing.

$165,500
Burrville Rd. Tract 6
Burrville Rd. Tract 6 Sunbright, Tennessee

This 1.95 acres is located on Burrville Rd just a few minutes from Sunbright TN. This property is hilly with some level places. This property is completely wooded. Mobile Homes and Modular Homes are (...)

$23,700
Falcon Crest Tract 6
Falcon Crest Tract 6 Huntsville, Alabama

Location Location Location and Views Views Views

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Copper Ridge Tract 16
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tract 16 Eidson, Tennessee

8.98 Acres - East Tennessee land with an old barn and a fairly large pond (~1/2 acre). The land is pretty flat around the old barn and slopes towards the pond. The barn will need some repairs to get (...)

$51,000
Clear Fork Acres Tract 30
PENDING
Clear Fork Acres Tract 30 Grimsley, Tennessee

5.03 Acres with owner financing - This tract is one of our best. It is over 5 acres with plenty of flat land to do as you wish. There are mild restrictions on this tract. They include minimum size (...)

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Clear Fork Acres Tract 2
Clear Fork Acres Tract 2 Grimsley, Tennessee

5.03 Acres - Contact us for more info.

$30,400
Copper Ridge Tract 4
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tract 4 Eidson, Tennessee

5.17 Acres - Owner financed land ideal for a mini farm in Tennessee. This tract is mostly open, pasture land with scattered trees in the middle and along the back property line. Long range views can (...)

$28,500
Paint Rock Creek Tract 2
SOLD
Paint Rock Creek Tract 2 Huntsville, Tennessee

5.04 acres with power, driveway and a small pond.

$33,700
Grimsley Hills Tract 6
Grimsley Hills Tract 6 Grimsley, Tennessee

1.569 Acres - Nice, owner financed land on a county maintained gravel road in Grimsley, TN

$19,300
Paint Rock Creek Tract 6
Paint Rock Creek Tract 6 Huntsville, Tennessee

5.28 acres with large rock outcroppings, power and views! This tract drops down from the road frontage and is mountainous. There is a rough cut driveway onto the tract making it easier to get started (...)

$29,700
Collinwood Tract 6
Collinwood Tract 6 Collinwood, Tennessee

1.91 Acres - Contact us for more info.

$20,700
Copper Ridge Tract 7
PENDING
Copper Ridge Tract 7 Eidson, Tennessee

5.06 Acres - East Tennessee land with views, open pasture areas and a wooded area. The land has fairly gentle terrain and would be ideal for having some animals and gardens. There are nice views from (...)

$34,700
Blowing Cave Rd Tract M
SOLD
Blowing Cave Rd Tract M Gurley, Alabama

2 Acres with financing- Contact us for more info.

$9,800
Tinch Ford Tract 3
SOLD
Tinch Ford Tract 3 Allardt, Tennessee

9.72 Acres with power - Near the back of this property is a massive bluff wall. There is a trail that can be made from the top of the bluff to the bottom but it has a ~10' tall portion that will need (...)

$76,500
Collinwood Tract 2
Collinwood Tract 2 Collinwood, Tennessee

2 Acres - Contact us for more info.

$17,900
Copper Ridge Tract 1
PENDING
Copper Ridge Tract 1 Eidson, Tennessee

5.01 Acres - Great owner financed TN land for a mini farm. This tract is mostly open with a rolling to hilly terrain. There are no deed restrictions on this property, we just place our standard (...)

$27,200
Copper Ridge Tract 5
SOLD
Copper Ridge Tract 5 Eidson, Tennessee

6.54 Acres - East Tennessee land with views and open pasture areas. The land has fairly gentle terrain and would be ideal for having some animals and gardens. Some light clearing would be needed to (...)

$34,700
11.3 secluded acres, walk to lake
11.3 secluded acres, walk to lake Speedwell, Tennessee

Level and hilly. Walk to the lake.

$37,300
Falcon Crest Tract 3
Falcon Crest Tract 3 Gurley, Alabama

3.95 Acres - Nice mountain land off of Blowing Cave Rd with awesome bluff views. Build your dream house on this Alabama owner financed land and have views that will make your friends jealous! Just (...)

$119,100
Collinwood Tract 3
Collinwood Tract 3 Collinwood, Tennessee

2.4 Acres - Contact us for more info.

$19,900
Sugar Island Tract C
Sugar Island Tract C Sugar Island, Michigan

9.91 Acres on Sugar Island, Michigan - Land in a very secluded location with road frontage.

$29,700
Commercial 4.98A
PENDING
Commercial 4.98A Sunbright, Tennessee

4.98 acres with highway frontage on highway 27. The land also goes down to an active railway system.

$135,000
Copper Ridge Tract 3
PENDING
Copper Ridge Tract 3 Eidson, Tennessee

5.02 Acres - This owner financed East Tennessee land already has an old farm gate in place and a driveway leading onto the property. The property is open pasture with long distance views from (...)

$30,100
Clear Fork Acres Tract 4
Clear Fork Acres Tract 4 Grimsley, Tennessee

5.03 Acres - Contact us for more info.

$31,700
Pawpaw Road 2 - Tract 1
PENDING
Pawpaw Road 2 - Tract 1 Thorn Hill, Tennessee

11.29 acres on Pawpaw Road in Hancock County near Thorn Hill, Tennessee.

$45,300

Let Us Know What You're Looking For!

Many times, the best new properties go to customers who have already made contact with us. Often, even before we get pictures to put on the website. So, be sure to get in touch and let us know what you're looking for so you don't miss out on your dream property.

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