Home Grow Your Own Grow Food Year Round in a $300 Underground Greenhouse

Grow Food Year Round in a $300 Underground Greenhouse

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walipiniThe word Walipini, derived from the Aymaran language and an indigenous Bolivian tribe, is translated as “a place of warmth” and is an earth sheltered cold frame or transparent-roofed enclosure.

roots of walipini

This underground greenhouse was created for the cold regions of South America to maintain food production year round, but is now being adopted by gardeners of all skill levels across the world.

Most say that Walipinis should be at least 8’ by 12’ in size, but many people build even larger. Searching online you can find all types of plans and blueprints on how to design your underground greenhouse.

earth shelter Walipini

The temperature six to eight feet below the surface fluctuates from 50 up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit! If you are in an especially cold climate you would want to lay the inside of your walipini with stone, earth bags of lava rocks, or any dense material able to store heat. A lot of heat energy is required to change the temperature of high density materials like concrete, bricks and tiles, they are therefore said to have high thermal mass causing the walls act as a battery and release heat to keep the crops warm at night or on days with little to no sun.

wal2Reasons to Build a Walipini:

Cost effective: The materials to build a greenhouse are estimated to cost between a couple thousand dollars up to $12,000 to $25,000 to complete, yet the walipini will cost merely $300 with some designs.

Pests: An underground greenhouse has a huge advantage because it is almost impossible for pests to get on your produce compared to your typical greenhouse.  A typical greenhouse will protect plants from the cold and strong winds but it doesn’t protect them from damaging insects.

Minimal up keep: Seeing as the walipini is sheltered by the earth the materials will not wear as quickly. On a typical greenhouse maintenance is done pretty regularly and at least once annually, on a walipini only an angled roof is exposed to the elements which makes it much less necessary for routine maintenance.

walAlthough walipinis require minimal effort to maintain, it is important to be thorough with waterproofing, draining and ventilating your underground greenhouse sanctuary. Be knowledgeable about the water table and be sure to build your greenhouse at least five feet above it otherwise it could lead to disaster. But if you keep all of this in mind, there should be nothing stopping you from growing luscious greens, fruits, and veggies year round no matter the temperature!

Check out this video to learn more:

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MARKANA SMITH
3 years ago

Awesome job 🙂 I am building one as we speak 🙂 Thanks for posting this

Paul Martins
Paul Martins
2 years ago
Reply to  MARKANA SMITH

How did it turn out Markana? Thinking of homesteading and walking of the grid, and the walipini method is interesting for fruits vegetables needed to have year round on hand.

MARKANA SMITH
3 years ago
Reply to  Hailey

ok Thanks

Dave
Dave
3 years ago

This is beautiful, with simplistic design and easy to replicate. The only bit of info that seems left out is the costs or “sweat equity” that goes into excavating. How much, on average would it cost to rent/hire the machine and/or operator to perform this part of the build up? An inclusion of this info would be helpful in painting the whole picture. Thanks,
Dave

Catherine Bleish
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave

It doesn’t cost much to rent a machine to dig your hole from home depot!

clint
clint
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Grow a pair and dig it by hand. I would have that hole dug in 2 days Free.

Dennis
Dennis
3 years ago
Reply to  clint

Not in my gumbo clay soil you wouldn’t.

Debby T
Debby T
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis

lol I’d like to meet Clint if he really could do that. He needs to join my survival group.

Jeremiah Shine
Jeremiah Shine
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis

I dug 2 3 foot deep, 3 foot wide, 10′ long trenches, separating the topsoil from the clay, filled the trenches with soft maple logs @28″ in diameter, then buried them in the clay, topped them with the topsoil and called it all “Hugelkultur” in about 2 hours. It got pretty rocky about 8″ down.

Gts
Gts
3 years ago
Reply to  clint

Not only that, is it really worth pulling your muscles and putting wear and tear on your body, especially in an off grid location, your body is the single best, yet delicate tool you have. Once you hit a certain point, the earth is more compact, the composition changes, there could be a layer of rocks. Two days my ass.

Sara
3 years ago
Reply to  Gts

Your talking more than 41.5 tons of dirt for even he smallest recommended size, assuming there’s no clay or ledge. Not worth it to do it by hand.

Jerry
Jerry
3 years ago
Reply to  clint

Come dig one for me (free).

Cindy
Cindy
2 years ago
Reply to  Jerry

Lol. After he’s done with yours he can come to my place!

Danna
Danna
2 years ago
Reply to  clint

Where I came from in Kentucky we didn’t use machines, we hand dug everything, ditches, septic tank holes for tanks, foundations and holes for under ground storage pantry’s for fresh garden veggies to keep and canning storage. Machine’s may make it easier and faster but it tkes all the fun out of making a homemade green house

Edie Reno
Edie Reno
1 year ago
Reply to  clint

Right

Sara
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Need to find someone with a machine. My FIL has one. Join a homesteaders group and I’m sure you’ll find someone to help you out. Digging down 5-6 feet over a 12 foot span is a lot of dirt. 1 cubic yard is 1.3 tons. An area 12 x 12 x 6 is 32 cubic yards for a grand total of 41.6 tons. If 1 person can move that in 2 days, that’s exceptional. And thats assuming that you don’t have clay or ledge.

Eskymama
Eskymama
3 years ago

Please contact a local engineer if you are building a retaining wall of more than 4′.

Buster
Buster
3 years ago
Reply to  Eskymama

Thank YOU !!!

Danna
Danna
2 years ago
Reply to  Eskymama

Many of those construction green house are not straight down they have slanted walls that does not have 4 foot dangers, if constructed properly the highest point of ground is at the bottom at your feet of maybe 16″ if a person wants it that high. There is many under ground designs tht have levels in building it like stairs . Ground tables do differ from what a person with wet grounds to people with always dry grounds in how much footage a person needs to build a under ground garden greenhouse. Many county or state requirements may differ to… Read more »

Dennis
Dennis
3 years ago

Not in my clay and gumbo soil.

Diana
Diana
3 years ago

we get a couple of feet of snow several times a winter. How will the Walipini work? Clear the roof seems a little difficult.

Catherine Bleish
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana

Many greenhouses melt the snow on their roof because of the heat trapped inside. But you are right, it would probably need to be close enough to clear off for sunlight after a few days of snow…..

Jd britten
Jd britten
3 years ago

Build a n A frame with steeper grade over it,cover with a tarp.

Jessica
Jessica
2 years ago
Reply to  Jd britten

What they didn’t tell you in this article is that the roof needs to be at a 90 degree angle to the winter solstice to get enough radiant heat. So changing the angle won’t work. You’re going to have to get out there and clear it off. If it’s heavy/wet snow, you’re going to need to do it several times a day.

Lynn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jessica

We use Glass here in Canada with a 90 angle so the snow loses off. But with 6-8 feet of accumulation you will need to spend time shoveling the base of the windows or experience a flood in the spring. If the building is down hill of an accumulation of snow, you will also experience flooding.

Catherine Bleish
1 year ago
Reply to  Lynn

Wow, I never thought about that!!!!! Great advice.

Chug
Chug
3 years ago

Do you think this would work as well for keeping plants cool in hot climes? Or would it just trap more heat?

Catherine Bleish
3 years ago
Reply to  Chug

I think it would keep them cool, this method is used in South America.

David
David
3 years ago
Reply to  Chug

You will need to design a way to let heat dissipate at the top of the greenhouse when temperatures get too high. It will turn into an oven and your plants will be cooked. Commercial greenhouses have big blowers and venting systems to circulate the air. Some will have shade cloths as well for plants sensitive to heat.

Frank
Frank
3 years ago

I’ll do whatever I want in your clay and gumbo soil, mister.

Gregory
Gregory
3 years ago

How would this work in an area like Houston Tx where we get lots of rain and potential flooding?

Catherine Bleish
3 years ago
Reply to  Gregory

Great question, you are pretty close to sea level. I would do it up on a hill!

David
David
3 years ago
Reply to  Gregory

Rather than digging down below the water table, you can still either bring in a berm of earth, rock or cement for the walls.

Di
Di
3 years ago
Reply to  David

I was wondering about that we are in a very flat swampy area so digging down would be disaster!

CTC
CTC
2 years ago
Reply to  Gregory

Houston? Just plant in the ground!! It’s greens growing season in the winter. 😊

Brian
Brian
3 years ago

How well will this concept work in mountainous high snow load zones?

Jeremiah Shine
Jeremiah Shine
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Better off with hugelkulture.

David B.
David B.
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Brian, did u ever get an answer to your question? I have property in the mountains of Idaho and am wondering what one does where we receive a lot of snow!

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[…] word Walipini, derived from the Aymaran language and an indigenous Bolivian tribe, is translated as “a […]

Christine Rosenfeld
Christine Rosenfeld
2 years ago

Just beginning to look into this. What is the method for removing/preventing water from getting in?
Is it a french drain system? I’m not talking about water table issues… I just mean heavy rain, run off, etc. We’re in MidAtlantic and get some serious summer downpours… what keeps it out? Thanks!

Candice Anne Casey
Candice Anne Casey
2 years ago

Can you help us out with the video mentioned in the article. No link to it.

Theresa Marchetti
Theresa Marchetti
2 years ago

I live in Chicago, IL and had a greenhouse for 10 years. I had to heat it all winter. My storage was in a bunker that stayed 50* F all year. So, I don’t see this working without some kind of heat in our -22* F winters with 20″ of snow in 6 hours.

me
me
2 years ago

and FUCK that popup

Meredith Nicole
Meredith Nicole
2 years ago

The video is not linked here. Can you provide it, please?

Daniel HAlsey
2 years ago

A few things: Any snow load would over burden this structure and the plastic. Non treated would would not last a season in my area and there does not seem to be any knee wall or elevation to keep the wood off the ground. For all that lumber you could use a pipe hoop house roof and get more thermal mass in the air with cooler summers, and less diffracted sunlight. Winter temps do seep into the hole is the walls are not insulated in winter. The frost line can be 4 feet down in some areas. I have seen… Read more »

Ruth Anne
Ruth Anne
2 years ago

Wondering if these would work in Canada. Live in southern Ontario where we can get a lot of snow.

Joseph
2 years ago

Our walipini is easier to clear than a our hoop house. It is easier to reach the top.

Robin Crockett
Robin Crockett
2 years ago

on the unground greenhousehow keep fire ants out in the South

Verónica
Verónica
2 years ago

Lovely. I am looking for a greenhouse for a year now, and I love this idea. Thank you.

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Kate Torres
Kate Torres
1 year ago

I am curious how pollinators would enter. It specifically mentions that pests are more easily excluded with this method. It seems that pollinators would be similarly excluded. Regular greenhouses, of course, are vented, and pollinators as well as pests can enter. Do people hand pollinate in a more closed system or simply grow only greens and things which do not require pollination to produce an edible crop?

Catherine Bleish
1 year ago
Reply to  Kate Torres

Wow this is an excellent question! I am sure you have to leave the doors open on nice days!

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