New Shelves in our Root and Canning Cellar

Well, our annual revamp of the root cellar is complete! I love it a bit more with each improvement, and I make plans for the next improvement before the current improvement is done. You can see our first renovation and second renovation at each link. See below the picture for more details, and the bottom of this page has more pics of the cellar from move-in through today.

**Note regarding earthquake proofing — We live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and, at the most, we may feel a slight tremor from a minor quake, so this is NOT California-style Earthquake Proofing.**

root cellar before and after

root cellar before and after

Step One – Clear the Shelves.

Our very first step is to remove every jar. No matter how much we try to seal the room, we find that mice make their way in. We were able to find the main hole this year, and after stuffing it with steal wool (thanks, Dad, for that tip), we seal it with weatherproofing foam. Since dust always filters down through the floorboards, and the occasional small spider builds a little web in a corner, every jar is removed, and the room and shelves are dusted.

Step Two – Remove the Wine Rack and Clean the Floor.

This step is new this year. Since the wine rack is where my shelves will go, the rack comes out. After wiping down the shelves, we sweep and mop the room. The concrete floor isn’t sealed, so the mop is just damp enough to pull up the dust.

Step Three – Build New Shelves and Return the Wine Rack.

My OCD comes in handy with this step. I plan out the shelving and premeasure every board. When the shelving is put together, it fit almost perfectly. Considering (a) I have no experience with designing or building and (b) I am trying to use wood we already have to save money, it turns out pretty well! Check out the Root Cellar Shelving instructions (coming soon) if you want to know how I built my shelves, but I’m sure you either have more skill or can find a unit that will fit your use. We move the two “ladder” shelf supports into the root cellar and put in the four-foot shelves and a few back-bracer boards. We screw the whole thing into the studs already in the room. We then move the wine rack back in but to the right.

Step Four – Improve Earthquake (Tremor) Proofing

Once the shelves are assembled we add 1″x2″ lips on each shelf. The lips help keep jars from shifting off of the shelves. Again, we live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and at the most, we may feel a slight tremor, so this is NOT California-style Earthquake Proofing. Our canned goods are more in danger of my famous clumsiness than an earthquake. Since hubby and I have each dropped a jar (both prized tomatoes), this year I also put down foam flooring to help with those occasional drops. (You may be able to find this flooring used, in different colors, and at cheaper prices. I had an Amazon gift card to use, so I went that route.)

Step Five – Organize the Canned Goods!

This is the fun part — organizing the canned goods. I have WAY too much jam and jelly, so I have a few of the new shelves devoted to that. The rest of the rear shelves are other canned fruit, sauces, and pie fillings. The left shelves are “main meal” ingredients, with soups,  meats, pasta sauces, beans, and veggies. The new shelving gives me enough space to know what I need to can.

  1. I do not need to make a single jar of jelly or jam next season. I may make a few ice-cream sauces but even with giving jam and jelly to visitors, I have way too much.
  2. I do not need as much apple pie filling. I make pie on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter – that’s about it – and hubby really only likes apple. Pie is delicious, but I have no willpower around it, so I avoid making other varieties; however, I did find that my mother’s easy cobbler is perfect with a drained filling (recipe to come), and blueberry pie filling is delicious stirred into yogurt. So I’ll see where I am with apple, but I don’t think I need to can much next season.
  3. I need green beans. I grew up eating canned green beans weekly (it seems), and I never can enough. I’ve already planned a LOT of garden space for green beans this year, and most of those beans will get canned. I plan to fill every empty square once the garlic is pulled and hope for one last late harvest!
  4. The Smith-Morgan family loves my bread-and-butter pickles. I’ve made dill with mixed results from my dill-loving husband, but everyone loves the bread-and-butter. I may post the recipe some day…  We didn’t plant cucumbers last year (Dad’s cancer kept me away a lot), and I regret it. This year we have plenty planned.
  5. We love canned meat and potatoes. I canned sirloin on a whim just to do it, and now we can all of the roasts we can get our hands on. We’ll do another bulk beef buy from our local “beyond organic” farm this year, and a lot of the roasts will come right home and go into jars. The meat tastes like it’s been slow roasted. Pour it over some canned potatoes? Delicious. Why can rather than make it when you want it? I fill my canner with about 18 meals and only have to cook once. Reheating takes minutes.

Step Six – Enjoy

So after a full day of work (remember, I’m not a designer OR builder…) I’m left with a room I love. I know what I need to can this year, what I don’t, and how much room I have for each. I still have room to hang garlic and other root veggies.

Is there room for improvement? Oh, yes, definitely, and I’m already working on next year’s plan!

2009 Pre-Move-In Root Cellar

2009 Pre-Move-In Root Cellar

2010 Root Cellar

2010 Root Cellar

2011 Root Cellar

2011 Root Cellar

2012 Root Cellar

2012 Root Cellar












(We actually revamped in November…but I’m just coming out of winter hibernation. Sorry it took so long to share with you!)

*** This site is comprised solely of the opinions of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She works to promote gardening and tourism in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.***

10 comments to New Shelves in our Root and Canning Cellar

  • Athanasia

    Wow, nice. Now is that shelf double sided? Is the wine rack behind it? Nice organization. Are you storing your root vegetables in there too?

    • Athanasia, thank you! I moved the wine rack to the right. You can just see the tips of the bottles poking out. There’s just enough room! We have space for storing roots on the lower left, but all we have now is garlic. I was out of town a lot last year with an ill relative, so unfortunately the garden was tiny. This year will make up for it, though! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Pat Lewis

    Tell me about your labeling on the shelves! I need to do that with my pantry shelving to make it easier for other people to put away as well as retrieve jars from them!!!

    • Hi, Pat. I used 1″x2″ boards. After sanding, I applied two coats of chalkboard paint, sanded, and applied one more coat. I use a liquid chalk pen. It erases well enough with a wet rag, and if I need to, I touch up with more paint. I only relabel once a year, though. Regular chalk is even easier. It makes it very easy to grab something at a glance. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Samantha

    Looks awesome! I was looking for inspiration for our “fruit celler” (that’s what they are called in Canada. Ours is probably 3′ deep and about 12′ + in length. How big is yours to incorporate all that you have?!? Do you think foam flooring is the best or is there anything else that could be used?!? Could we paint our concrete?!? I wanna start canning stuff…. Do you have any websites/ recipes or sites you recommend?!? Can’t wait till mine is as organized as yours is!!

    • Hi, Samantha, ours is about 6′ x 12′. I’m sure you could do a lot to gussy up your fruit cellar. I figure each year I’ll make improvements, and knowing me, I’ll never be done :-) I like the canning group on Facebook — you can learn a lot there! Just search for “canning.” I’ll put together some websites soon to share. Thank you for stopping by. Have fun canning!!

  • evan stoner

    I read all of your comments about what you have canned and since i amjust starting out have a better idea of directions to go. and i love your chalk paint idea simple but very functional


  • Will you be adding the shelving instructions for building them? I’m looking to add shelving JUST like this to my old basement with cinder block walls. Would love to see your building plans to get even more ideas. Right now I’m just using a few pieces parts from plastic shelving units as the ceilings in the basement are low so just use the parts that don’t fit on the others, but there are so spread out from one shelf to the next that its wasted space in my opinion – and can be a bit deep. So looking to create for quarts & pints about 1′ deep. Love the chalkboard paint idea too even tho I do label all my canning jars – just seems that it would be easier to quickly identify categories of food, especially for those in the house that didn’t put the food away and don’t know my organizing scheme. =)

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