Underground Greenhouse – Year Round Growing with a Walipini
If the idea of growing your own produce year round is appealing, there are various techniques that can be used to reach your goals. Many of these techniques are energy intensive, however, particularly in very cold northern climates, incurring costs for electricity or fuel for heating that often make the idea of a winter greenhouse, and winter growing, impractical. One technique however, used by various cultures over time, provides the opportunity to grow year round, even in the harshest and coldest of climates, using thermal heat from the ground and the sun, to provide the heat necessary to successfully grow a thriving winter garden!
Known by its native name, a Walipini, which derives from the Aymara Indian word for a “place of warmth”, is a semi-underground structure, also known as a pit greenhouse. The methods and techniques described use the heat of the sun to warm and store heat in the ground.
Solarpedia has an overview of designs and plans for a Walipini, which was produced by the Benson Agriculture and Food Institute at Brigham Young University in 2002. The document provides great details on the history and science of the Walipini, as well as detailed explanations of how to construct one yourself. Additionally, and perhaps more comprehensively, there are other great guides available commercially that provide great insights and instructions on how to develop a solar year-round greenhouse. One comprehensive guide written by Mike Oehler has great reviews, and provides details information on how to succeed in building such growing areas.
Depending on the size, materials and other factors involved, the technique can be done with relatively low costs. While the Benson Institute claims that their projects in South America can be made in the hundreds of dollars, the actual cost will vary depending on multiple factors. Particularly, material costs and the labour involved in preparing the site and building the structures. That said, for those who are good with their hands, and have the ingenuity and capacity to do work on their own, it is certain that costs can be kept very low.
This is one great method to consider for growing all year round, and all indications are that this is a tried and true technique that is sure to give results. There are numerous guides and detailed “how-tos” available that provide great resources to help you succeed.
Give it a try – and leave some comments about your thoughts and experiences.
Additional Links & Videos to Help You Get Started
LDS Charities – LDS Teaches Bolivian Families How to Build Underground Greenhouses
Archive Org – How to Build a Walipini