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Cooperative Extension in Somerset County

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Somerset County Master Gardener August 2012 Newsletter

Well, hopefully your garden is producing well and you have lots of room in the root cellar, or wherever you store your bountiful harvest. It’s time to stock up on canning jars and freezer bags to fill up with good things to eat for the next few months and more. If you would like information on preserving your harvest, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension has lots of information to help you. It’s also time for the Agricultural Fairs in the area to begin. The Fairs are one of Maine’s great traditions that also just happen to mark the beginning of the end to an all too short summer! Be sure and visit as many of our state’s great agricultural fairs this season that you can. They all have something entertaining and interesting to offer to adults and kids of all ages! While you’re at the fair, don’t forget to stop by and support your local 4-H clubs’ displays and exhibits!

Gardening Items to Do in August

Disease & Pest Alert!

Items of interest

Upcoming Events

Volunteer Opportunities

 Root Cellars

By Wallace Seavey

The root cellar is a way to preserve your harvest of fresh, raw, whole vegetables and fruits for several months. The root cellar would need to be a cold, rather moist environment that does not allow the food to freeze. Traditionally, root cellars were underground in a cool, damp cellar with dirt floors and brick or stone walls. However, today’s homes usually have finished basements. But with a little research and understanding almost any space can be adapted for storage.

The two essential requirements are temperature and humidity. The optimum storage temperature for many vegetables is between 32 and 40 degrees F. The temperature can be maintained by using insulation on walls and ceilings. A 100 watt bulb placed near the floor may be an adequate heat source. Thermometers can be placed around the cellar to monitor temperatures.

High humidity keeps vegetables from drying out. The exception is pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and winter squash, which store best at about 50 degrees F and 70 t0 75 % humidity. The easiest way to keep moisture high is to have a dirt floor which most of us today do not have. If your floor is concrete or wood, place several pans of water on the floor to help maintain moisture. Vegetables are 90% water. The more you put in the root-cellar, the higher the humidity. A small, full root cellar will work better than a larger one.

Ventilation is used to help control temperature and humidity. Excess moisture that encourages mold can be exhausted and the room can be aired out when not in use. Be sure the ventilation system (window) is screened to keep rodents out.

A root cellar should be cold, dark, humid, and in a convenient location. The most convenient location may be a walled off part of a basement or garage with a window for ventilation. Water drainage is important for keeping out surface water in spring and summer.

Keep only fresh and sound produce in your root cellar. Produce should be free of cuts, cracks, bruises, insects, and any other damage. The old adage, “one rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel” is true. Visit and check your root cellar frequently.

Resources to help you construct a root-cellar are Stocking Up from Rodale Press; Vegetable Storage in Root Cellars from University of Alaska at Fairbanks Cooperative Extension; Root Cellars: Safe and Secure from the Corporate Food Train from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; and Storing Vegetables at Home by the University of Wisconsin.


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University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Contact Information

Cooperative Extension in Somerset County
7 County Drive
Skowhegan, Maine 04976-4209
Phone: 207.474.9622 or 1.800.287.1495 (in Maine)E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System