Burying a Freezer

  

We had a bumper crop of potatoes last year.  After freezing them (as fries, casseroles, etc), canning some, and giving over 200 lbs away, we needed a reliable way to store the rest.  The goal was to have enough potatoes stored to take us through to the next harvest…and possibly never to have to buy potatoes again.  We didn’t have a basement or root cellar (or time/funds to build a full-blown root cellar), so we had to get creative.  Clyde remembered his dad talking about burying old chest freezers for overwintering vegetables and we decided to give it a try.  His sister’s freezer had recently died and so was recruited for the job.

Clyde removed all of the working parts and cut two holes in each side.   (Note:  if your appliance still contains freon, certified individuals can be hired for freon removal or these services may be available at area junk yards or recycling centers.)  To the holes he attached PVC pipe for air circulation.  When in the ground, it looked like someone had buried a semi.  A tarp was partly buried as well in order to protect the freezer and allow easier access during icy conditions.  We later added a sheet of insulation under the tarp as well.  Clyde made crates for easier storage and better air circulation.With hopeful trepidation, we packed away our harvest.  We were careful to store only the best potatoes and packed the smaller ones in the upper boxes so we’d use them first.

I’m pleased to report that our deep-freeze root cellar had great results!  Mid-winter the potatoes looked just as we’d left them.  In early spring only a little bit of sprouting had occurred.  Later in the spring we sorted through some of the more deteriorated ones to use as seed potatoes for this year’s crop.  Now, in late June, they are not as attractive out of the box, but most still scrub up well, are quite firm and have a good taste and texture.  Although a true root cellar is still on the wish list, it’s nice to find an easy, inexpensive solution that works so well.

This post is part of Homestead Revival’s Homestead Barn Hop.  Check out the rest of the great homesteady ideas and information by following the link!

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41 Comments

Filed under Food Storage, Gardening, Homesteading

41 responses to “Burying a Freezer

  1. Bobbi

    What an absolutely great idea! I am in Florida and this would probably work here.

  2. Brice

    I’ve got a couple of questions, how cold does it get where you’re at? Does the tarp cover the vent tubes or do you leave them exposed?

  3. Trish

    I was wondering if it would work in florida,.the heat ,..mmmm,..I will find a smaller one,.and see if this works,.love the idea!

    • Rick

      In FL it’s really going to depend on how high the water table is where you are, many times it’s within feet of the surface. You can check with the county extension agent.

  4. Kat

    I wonder if this would work for cabbage and carrots to?

    • Mendy

      Good question. I know there are specific ways each crop needs to be stored and that some veggies shouldn’t be stored together, but basically it’s a mini-root cellar, so I don’t know why not…

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  6. I live in Central Ohio. So if you want to give some away this year, I will be happy to buy them from you.

    • Mendy

      Thanks! I’ll check back with you in the fall. We’re off to a dry start this summer, but so far our potatoes are looking good! :)

  7. Fay

    The first year we moved to Tennessee, we had the same problem and like you, someone told us about useing an old freezer, which we did. We stored it our unheated basement and used old newspapers between layers of potatoes, filling it about half of the way up. We had potatoes all winter and a good supply for spring seed potatoes. It worked great for us.

  8. jennifer

    Brilliant idea. Wouldnt work here as it can get to -40 and -50 here in the winter.

  9. Did you have to put screen on the tubes to keep out pests? (mice)

    • Mendy

      I don’t think mice could fit into the drilled holes, but bugs/spiders could, we just haven’t had any problems with them. I’m sure that screen could easily be added, and would probably be a good idea.

      • Bryan

        I have found that those cheap plastic pot scrubbers make a great insect screen for small pipes and still allow plenty of air circulation. I used one in my built in vac exhaust pipe.

  10. Bobbi

    “Working parts?” Does this include the freon?

    • Mendy

      The freon was already gone in the appliance we found. This is a good point, it’s my understanding that certified individuals can be hired for freon removal, or that these services may be available at area junk yards or recycling centers. Do not cut the lines and release the freon. We should have been clear on this point and will revise our directions accordingly. Good question.

  11. Juanita Morison here in Illinois I would love to plant enough potatoes to last I havent had fresh potatoes we growed since a kid could not believe the taste between one we growed and store bot dont know why but fresh tasted bette. We had thought
    we dug them all up only to find out we didnt and the few we left in the ground we found this spring as he dug the plot for replanting this yer and they were delishes

    • Mendy

      That’s a good point. I leave beets, carrots and parsnips in the ground during winter months until I’m ready to use them.

  12. If you bury it below the freeze line, you could probably make one even in -40/-50F as Earth’s temp is usually 50-70F. It might be worth a test run for just your starter potatoes.

  13. Holly

    How creative!! This is the only way these chest freezers will be used one day when the grid goes down! Haha! So you need air circulation badly? I never would have guessed that! It’s interesting that even insulated, being underground still keeps it cool? And the pipes don’t let moisture or warm air in?

    • Mendy

      I’m not sure what would happen without the air circulation. We don’t have trouble with moisture at all, but once the warm weather hits around April, the potatoes do start to sprout.

      • Mendy

        Clyde says it’s the moisture in the potatoes themselves that necessitate the circulation vents. Otherwise, they would be more likely to rot.

  14. Lynda

    very neat idea! would it work in places it gets to -40C?

    • Mendy

      I’m not sure what the temperature limits would be, but the idea is that it stores the vegetables at ground temperature, which is supposed to standardly be about 50 F (10 C) at about 4 feet year-round.

  15. nancy

    are the ends capped? I can’t really see in the picture but looks they are, I was wondering about rain / snow getting in. I also live in florida so don’t think this would work for me. We live just a few miles from the ocean. Maybe in the more central part of the state would work.

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  17. Hi Mendy,
    I’m not sure how I missed this post earlier, but all I can say is W.O.W.! This is awesome! I’ve heard about burying an old freezer, but I really appreciated your detailed instructions and I think the “vents” are a great idea. I’ve not heard that mentioned in such an application, but after reading the book Root Cellars, this makes total sense! I think I’m going to start looking for a new “old” freezer!

  18. Most root vegetables can be stored this way, It is amazing what can be done.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Lois

  19. Amy Boertien

    what about using this method in a place with high humidity? In MO we have some pretty nasty humid weather & it can go from spring to winter. We HAVE a basement but even when we run the dehumidifier all day..it’s still somewhat moist so we don’t use it for anything but canned foods.

    • Mendy

      According to the Idaho State Extension website (http://www.kimberly.uidaho.edu/potatoes/CIS1153.pdf), “The best place to store potatoes is in a ventilated, cool, dark and humid environment.” So it doesn’t sound like humidity should be a problem. We live in central Ohio, and I think our winters are a bit colder and less humid than Missouri’s. In my experience, temperature is the bigger issue for the freezer root cellar. We usually store our potatoes around the time of our first frost and can generally expect them to keep well until early spring. Once the days get warmer, they deteriorate pretty quickly (not inedible, but wrinkled and sprouty.)

  20. Ron

    I would like to know how long it is before the metal sides and top of the freezer begin to seriously rust to the point of the freezer needing to be replaced.

    • Mendy

      Good question… We’ve had ours 3 years with no issues yet. Clyde says that’s why he surrounded the freezer with gravel–to provide drainage. If or when we get to the point of rusting out and needing replacement, we’ll be sure to update. I’ve wondered about burying a plastic food-grade 50 gallon drum. It would be harder to empty, but I had the idea of saving up those mesh produce bags for the purpose. Then you could just grab a bag at a time. Someday we hope to have a basement with an awesome root cellar. Until then, we’ll get creative.

  21. Amanda

    In Florida we have alot of humidity and have to deal with Mold. The way I save my Potatoes,Onions,Garlic is to take a Pair of ladies Panty Hose new of corse and drop potatoe in tie a knot drop a pot. tie a knot till both legs are full. Use top part to sew over a Clothes Hanger and hang in a dark closet or room if have an extra. When you need Potatoes or what ever you did this way you just cut at knot to release. I have never had them go bad. I love the idea about the Freezer root cellar I’m just not sure will work in Florida. Have you had anyone try it and respond?

  22. U.Z. SMALL

    My father told me about a trench his father dug each year on the south side of the house. He would dig a hole large enough to hold several layers of apples, pears, or any other slick-skinned fruit.
    Dig a trench, say, two feet deep, put a layer of straw in the bottom. add a layer of apples, ect., cover with a layer of dirt, add another layer of straw, add
    more fruit, ect. until the trench is up to the freeze line. Dad said they had fresh fruit all winter long.
    Can’t recall him saying anything about potatoes, but would probably work.
    He said never wash potatoes, and they would last longer.

  23. Bill

    If you live in an area were the water table is close to the surface, and or having a very rainy season, you may need to add some extra weight when your freezer is empty; otherwise it may float out of the ground. During the winter Swimming pools need to have some water left in the pool to keep them from Floating like a boat.

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