Root Cellaring, Mulching Materials, and Other Wisdom From Helen and Scott Nearing

In this installment of their regular column, Helen and Scott Nearing answer reader questions about effective root cellaring, mulching materials, other topics relevant to homesteading.

| May/June 1981

  • Scott Nearing
    Scott Nearing, sharing a meal with a friend and considering reader questions about root cellaring and mulching materials.

  • Scott Nearing

The following are questions readers submitted to Helen and Scott Nearing in their regular column on homesteading.  

Q: I have a root cellar and use it to store apples, turnips, potatoes, and onions. However, although my food room seems to stay dry, I feel that an unacceptable percentage of the put-up produce rots before I can use it. Have you had any experience with root cellaring that might help me figure out what my problem could be?  

A: Our root cellar is directly underneath the kitchen. It's lined with cement, and has drains built into its floor. We store apples, rutabagas, potatoes, carrots, onions, and turnips in wooden crates, in boxes, or in baskets and put dry autumn leaves between the layers of produce. Using this technique, we've been able to keep spoilage down. However, when food is stored in such a manner, it's best to go through the boxes every month or two to eliminate any fruits or vegetables that show signs of spoiling, before they can "contaminate" their neighbors.

Q: Can you tell me what mulching materials you've had the most success with?  

A: Most of our mulching is done with autumn leaves, spoiled hay, and seaweed. Good mulch, as you may know, must be both loose and light.  

We don't mulch open areas in our fall garden until a good frost has crusted the ground. This practice, we feel, prevents slugs and mice from using our plant protection as a comfortable winter hiding place!  

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