This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
The plans submitted give a general idea of a satisfactory cellar, and can be modified to suit conditions. In planning the size of the structure it is safe to estimate one bushel at one and one fourth cubic feet.
In a small cellar built with a driveway this space need not be wasted but filled with potatoes or other vegetables after the bins at the side have been filled.
One important point in the storage of potatoes is to reduce the temperature to as low a point as possible directly after the product is stored. Put about one foot of potatoes on the cellar floor, and by the time the entire floor is covered to that depth the heat from those potatoes is pretty well carried off by the air currents. Then add another layer, thus properly regulating the temperature as the storage progresses. Ordinarily, when the cellar is filled, the potatoes are piled about five feet deep.
There are many types of potato cellars, each suited to individual conditions and factors which control size, material used, and construction. In Maine, steam-heated, double-wall stone masonry warehouses are used. In some sections of the West poles and timbers are used largely in construction and the storage space is largely under ground. Cellars built entirely under ground are used in some other localities.
Pits, covered with straw and earth, are used to store thousands of bushels of the world's crop. The principal objection to these is the absence of control over conditions during the coldest weather. In zero weather they cannot safely be opened to haul the crop to market, or for sorting if the tubers are rotting. Heavy rains may cause damage to pitted potatoes. A grower with one acre can afford to have a ventilated storehouse, even if this is only a well-covered underground cellar.
Sorting potatoes that have started to rot from freezing or disease requires a cellar that can be lighted when desired. Careful growing to prevent disease, and careful handling for the same purpose, may cost a little more than slipshod methods, but the probability of marketing a crop without the expense and loss of rehandling rotten potatoes warrants the expense.
Ventilation devices, such as open partitions, may be used to advantage when large quantities of potatoes are stored in bulk.
Sacked potatoes corded in piles keep well in a good cellar, and when sprouts start in the spring the growth of these may be checked by moving the sacks. A bruised sprout dies.
When the floor is of dirt, it is well to use some sort of material, preferably strips of wood, between the dirt and the potatoes, to prevent rot.
It is important that potatoes be free from dirt when taken from the field to the cellar. Dirty potatoes do not keep well, because of the dirt that adheres to the individual tubers, and that which falls off and fills up the air spaces between the potatoes, preventing free ventilation.
A very satisfactory place to build a cellar is on a knoll, thus insuring perfect water drainage and a good circulation of air.
There is no limit to the ingenuity of the builder in providing conveniences in the way of sorting rooms and divisions in a potato cellar.
It is hard to conceive a well-planned, diversified farm anywhere in the temperate zone that is complete without a storage cellar for potatoes and other vegetables. A "hoed" crop, requiring deep, thorough cultivation, is an important factor in a rotation of crops, and a business farmer is not living up to his possibilities when he grows a crop that for lack of storage facilities he must sell in a short time after its maturity, thereby placing himself at the mercy of the middleman and retailer.
In the well-regulated farm we have in mind a fairly definite proportion of the farm would be in potatoes and roots each year, one part of the potatoes to be sold at digging time, the balance held for later marketing; and a quantity of roots always stored for livestock feeding. This system makes a storage cellar as important a factor as the stock barns.
Following are specifications for the potato cellar illustrated:
To be built with eight-inch concrete walls with six-inch footing, one foot below floor line. Inside width thirty-six feet, making twenty-seven feet storage space and a nine-foot driveway. Length to accommodate the amount of potatoes to be stored. Height of side walls seven feet from floor line, three and one half feet underground level, centre ten feet from floor line. Heavy posts to be set every ten feet along each side of driveway. Round posts would answer for this purpose as well as the more expensive sawed lumber.
On top of these posts is run a ten-inch by teninch stringer or girder the length of the building. It rests on the concrete of each end. This is the support for the rafters; all rafters two inches by ten inches.
Two-inch by six-inch plate is bolted to the top of the concrete wall for the rafters to be nailed to.
A portion of the cellar can be fitted with shelves, or drawers for tray storage of different kinds of seed potatoes.
The yield of potatoes in this country can be very greatly increased by more careful selection and storage of seed. Growers in Europe find it profitable to store selected potatoes, to be used whole for seed, in trays. This is especially desirable for early potatoes. With this system, stubby strong sprouts are grown on the seed tubers before they are planted.
On top of rafters wire netting is placed. On this is placed fifteen inches to twenty-four inches of straw; then well covered with earth. Straw is a good insulator and absorbs moisture. Any kind of tight, rainproof outer covering may be used above the earth if conditions make this necessary.
Ventilators are placed every twenty feet, with tight fitting cover on top and hinged sash on bottom.
Doors to be made of three-fourths-inch flooring, to be of a double thickness, with heavy building paper between the boards.