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Can I store my root vegetables in an uninsulated garage?

Stacey Collins
October 19, 2009

I have a big dilemma!! I need to store a moderate amount of root vegs, onions, leeks this winter. I had intended to build a proper insulated root cellar room in the basement, but our brick walls are making ventilation impossible, and the basement itself is pretty warm from the furnace. Without being able to let in cold outside air, I dont think it'll be cold enough!

So I am desperately looking for alternatives. we have a brick garage, unheated and uninsulated. How cold do you think it would have to get outside before it's too cold in there for storage? I have a smallish harvest this year so am probably looking for only 2-3 months storage....

Any other ideas appreciated. I considered the garbage can-in-the-ground method but our soil is clay and ridiculously difficult to dig. But this might be the best option. Anyone know if it works in Maine winters (down to about zero degrees most winters, mostly like 15-30 degrees night temps though.)

Comments (9)

  • digdirt2

    Temperatures would just be a guess - you'd know better than we would what your average winter temperatures are. But in Maine I'd "guess" that it gets down to freezing inside your garage at times. If it's freezing in the garage for any length of time then the stored vegetables would freeze. Once they freeze, they rot.

    If you could store them in insulated containers like say ice chests or enclosed plastic tubs wrapped with bubble wrap it would give them more protection plus help keep mice and such out of them too.


  • annie1992

    I agree, I'm in Michigan and my uninsulated, unheated garage is fine right now, but in another month, it's going to freeze. It gets cold enough to freeze a pan of water solid, so the vegetables won't survive that.

    I noticed it was getting too cold when I cooked a batch of potatoes and they were sweet, and tasted odd. Sure enough, freezing will change the starches to sugars and the flavor of the potatoes changes. It was just not right...


  • jane_in_il5

    Is this an attached or un-attached garage? I keep my winter squash in our attached garage, shelved in a corner that has two walls that are interior walls, not exterior. Enough heat seeps through the interior walls to keep them from freezing. I also have a small fan on a timer, which comes on briefly a few times a day, the circulating air provides ventilation to prevent spoiling, and I also think the circulating air doesn't freeze as quickly when it gets cold.

    If it's an un-attached garage, I'm not sure what you can do short of putting in a small heater with a thermostat timer, which you could set to keep the temp at 38-40 degrees. I'd also run a fan periodically.

    Good Luck, I'd hate to see you lose all that good healthy food!

  • vikingkirken

    I read a nifty idea for keeping root vegetables in basement window wells, insulated with straw... just enough heat seeps out to keep them from freezing without getting too hot. I don't have the vegetables to try it myself this year, but it sounds like it would work.

  • mabeldingeldine_gw

    As a Mainer who struggles with the same issue, I can tell you last year I tried the freezer chests in my insulated but unheated barn, and my veggies froze. Sorry for the bad news...

  • karin_mt

    We just made a root cellar in our window well, as viking suggests. We put a plywood lid over the top of the window well and added 4 inches of styrofoam insulation to the bottom of the plywood. We put it in place last weekend and the temp seems stable in there so far, so I moved the veggies in. Time will tell if this works through the winter.

  • annie1992

    karin, if you think of it, come back and let us know how that window well worked, that's an interesting method if it works...


  • walkerwi

    I store my onions, leeks, buttercup squash,and apples in my old "model T" type garage & hang a thermometer on a wire about 3 ft. off the floor. When temps get down to mid 30's at night I keep a close watch. As temps drop to the 20's & teens outside I bring the produce into my 'new' garage which is insulated & by the time the central Wisconsin winter sets in all produce has been moved into my house basement in the 'cool room'.


  • karin_mt


    Our weather just turned the corner to winter, so we were interested to see how the window well root cellar would work. The outdoor temps now are in the teens to 30s and the root cellar is 46. A couple of weeks ago the outdoor temps were in the 30s to 50s and the root cellar was 52. The root cellar temp is amazingly stable.

    It will get a good bit colder here so we will watch and see. But based on this trend I don't think it will go below freezing in there.

    I may try putting some pots of forced bulbs in there, as I don't have any other place to do that.

    I'll report back once the really cold weather arrives. So far we're pleased though and for sure we are enjoying our beautiful potatoes and onions (and soon, carrots which remain in the garden under 2 feet of new snow, but need to come out now!).

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