A friend of mine, who knows how passionate I am about growing food, recently sent me some wonderful green news about a Walipini underground greenhouse. Walipini is an Aymara Indian word which means “place of warmth.” This greenhouse in the ground, a warm place, is constructed six to eight feet within the earth utilizing both the warmth of the soil and the passive heat of the sun to create a superb environment for growing food. It makes perfect sense for those seeking to grow food year round in colder climates while conserving far more energy and cost than an above ground greenhouse.
I so love this idea. Once again, we see how nature provides us with built-in green solutions for our basic needs. The Walipini breaks our conditioning to the limitations of above ground agriculture and warm growing seasons, and opens the door to endless growing seasons. The thermal mass of the earth along with simple sunshine provides the natural, free warmth needed for continuous gardening in colder regions. The Walipini is the brilliant blend of passive solar and geothermal power to create these earth sheltered greenhouses.
Food scarcity is becoming a real concern as unpredictable and changing weather patterns are becoming the new normal. Yesterday, deep southern states like Alabama and Georgia got three inches of snow. Underground greenhouses can offer food security in regions where harsh, extreme and unexpected winters threaten available food supplies. Even better, the do it yourself construction cost to build a Walipini is affordable. Find out more in the article and video below about these earth insulated and sun generated gardens of natural warmth.
Build A $300 Underground Greenhouse For Year Round Gardening
Kimberly Mok at Tree Hugger
Growers in colder climates often utilize various approaches to extend the growing season or to give their crops a boost, whether it’s cold frames, hoop houses or greenhouses.
Greenhouses are usually glazed structures, but are typically expensive to construct and heat throughout the winter. A much more affordable and effective alternative to glass greenhouses is the Walipini (an Aymara Indian word for a “place of warmth”), also known as an underground or pit greenhouse. First developed over 20 years ago for the cold mountainous regions of South America, this method allows growers to maintain a productive garden year-round, even in the coldest of climates.
How a Walipini works and how to build one
It’s a pretty intriguing set-up that combines the principles of passive solar heating with earth-sheltered building. But how to make one? From American sustainable agriculture non-profit Benson Institute comes this enlightening manual on how a walipini works, and how to build it.
The Walipini utilizes nature’s resources to provide a warm, stable, well-lit environment for year-round vegetable production. Locating the growing area 6’- 8’ underground and capturing and storing daytime solar radiation are the most important principles in building a successful Walipini.
The Walipini, in simplest terms, is a rectangular hole in the ground 6 ‛ to 8’ deep covered by plastic sheeting. The longest area of the rectangle faces the winter sun — to the north in the Southern Hemisphere and to the south in the Northern Hemisphere. A thick wall of rammed earth at the back of the building and a much lower wall at the front provide the needed angle for the plastic sheet roof. This roof seals the hole, provides an insulating airspace between the two layers of plastic (a sheet on the top and another on the bottom of the roof/poles) and allows the sun’s rays to penetrate creating a warm, stable environment for plant growth.
This earth-sheltered greenhouse taps into the thermal mass of the earth, so that much less energy is needed to heat up the Walipini’s interior than an above ground greenhouse. Of course, there are precautions to take in waterproofing, drainage and ventilating the Walipini, while aligning it properly to the sun — which the manual covers in detail.
Best of all, according to the Benson Institute, their 20-foot by 74-foot Walipni field model out in La Paz cost around $250 to $300 only, thanks to the use of free labor provided by owners and neighbors, and the use of cheaper materials like plastic ultraviolet (UV) protective sheeting and PVC piping.