How to Grow Vegetables for the Winter Root Cellar


Growing vegetables is an efficient way to save food dollars and improve your health. It's not difficult to preserve your harvest through the winter in order to use it during cold months. Some vegetables are best preserved in a winter root cellar. This months-long project can yield year-long results.


Step 1

Choose vegetables that can be canned, dried or incorporated into soups or stews. Examples of these include root vegetables, tomatoes, beans and peas.

Step 2

Break up the soil of the vegetable garden to a depth of 6 inches with a rototiller. Mix a good amount of organic compost into the planting soil.

Step 3

Plant the seeds and plants according to the package instructions. Saturate the plants with water so the soil is damp, but not pooling. Water daily when the plants are young to keep the soil moist.

Step 4

Place organic mulch, pine straw or leaves over seedlings once they become a few inches high. This helps keep moisture in while keeping pests out.

Harvest and Store

Step 1

Harvest the vegetables when they are at their peak. Look for bright green cucumbers, bright red tomatoes, yellow onions and potatoes. When the plants begin to yellow and die back, the vegetables are ready. Set a box next to the vegetables. Dig up the root vegetables with a shovel. Cut the vegetables clean from the stems with scissors; leave 2 or 3 inches of green on top of the vegetables. Pick bush and vine vegetables by cutting the stems the same way. Gently set the vegetables in the box. Discard any bruised, discolored or damaged vegetables as these will not store well and can spoil even if preserved. Take the box into the house.

Step 2

Wash the dirt and debris off of the vegetables carefully. Wash all sides, including the tops of the vegetables. Leftover soil can breed pathogens and damage the vegetables. Hygiene is vital for storing vegetables in a winter root cellar. Examine the vegetables for any damage after washing. Discard or immediately use any damaged produce.

Step 3

Place 6 inches of newspaper or straw hay over and around unharvested beets and rutabagas, or under winter squash and pumpkins. This will keep the vegetables fresh and safe in the ground through the winter. Harvest as needed.

Step 4

Place any root vegetables except onions or garlic on a screen for a few hours to dry out (in a dry location). Set onions, garlic, winter squash, pumpkins and pulp vegetables on a screen for two weeks.

Step 5

Store whole radishes, carrots, onions and potatoes in paper sacks in a cool, dry location of the root cellar.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid letting vegetables over ripen or get brown before your harvest them.

Things You'll Need

  • Rototiller
  • Shovel
  • Mulch
  • Pine straw
  • Scissors
  • Box
  • Glass jars
  • Canner
  • Canning material
  • Newspaper
  • Hay


  • University of Maryland Cooperative Extension: Root Cellars
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Home and Community Food Gardening
  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Growing Vegetables at Home
Keywords: winter root cellar, storing vegetables, growing winter vegetables

About this Author

Jack S. Waverly is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles relating to business, finance, travel, history and health. His current focus is on pets, gardens, personal finance and business management. Waverly has been writing online content professionally since 2007 for various providers and websites.