Grow Your Food All Year-Round With a $300 Underground Greenhouse


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Categories: Food

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 aboveground 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.

Growing food is an every day necessity, if we are trying to become independent and self sufficient, you realize very soon that one of the biggest concerns is that of our food supply. To be able to eat healthy and provide nourishment for our family and loved ones.

Technologies and methods have been developed to grow these foods: from vertical farms to solar-powered “farms from a box,” we’ve seen how farming technology has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. But for those who prefer something a little more rustic, growing food from a hole in the ground is as low-tech as you can get.

A walipini, meaning “place of warmth” from the Amaraya Indian language, is an underground greenhouse with a transparent (usually plastic) covering that stays warm by passively soaking up the sun’s heat and absorbing the earth’s thermal energy.

Fruits and vegetables can be grown year-round, making it ideal for communities in colder locations that can’t usually grow their own fresh and local produce during certain parts of the year.

The farming method isn’t exactly new. Walipinis have been used in South and Central America for decades, including one that can grow bananas at 14,000 feet in the Andes.

The technique was notably adopted by The Benson Institute, a worldwide food security program of the Mormon church. According to The Plaid Zebra, the Benson Institute and its team of volunteers built a community-sized 74-feet-by-20-feet walipini in La Paz, Bolivia for around a mere $300.

The institute published a DIY manual on how to build such a structure. It explains:

The Walipini, in simplest terms, is a rectangular hole in the ground 6 to 8 feet 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 suns rays to penetrate creating a warm, stable environment for plant growth.

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