Question of the Week
Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information on constructing a Walipini-style greenhouse.
The Walipini is an underground or pit greenhouse that utilizes nature’s resources to provide a warm, stable, well-lit environment for year-round vegetable production. (1) The word "Walipini" comes from the Aymara Indian language in South America and means "place of warmth". A Walipini is located 6'- 8' underground in order to capture and store daytime solar radiation.
Typically pit greenhouses are used in areas with very cold winters. The insulative properties of the ground allow enough heat for seed germination and plant production and, depending on your location, may not require any supplemental heat. These insulative properties hold true in the hot summer months helping to keep the greenhouse cool. Potential problems with an underground greenhouse are wet conditions from the water table seeping through the soil on the floor and the entry of surface water through gaps in the walls at the ground level. To minimize the risk of water rising through the floor, you can build the underground greenhouse in an area where the bottom is at least five feet above the water table. To prevent water from entering the greenhouse from the outside, digging drainage ditches around the greenhouse can direct water away from the walls. Also, the walls can be sealed with waterproof materials such as plastic or fine clay and insulation panels can be added for extra insulation.
Referenced below are construction plans for building a Walipini. Although the design plans are specific to the La Paz area of Bolivia, the information contained in the plans are applicable for other geographic and climatic conditions. In addition, I am including a list of resources that discuss pit-style greenhouses. These resources are not specific to the Walipini, but may be of assistance to you.
1. Benson Agriculture and Food Institute. 2002. Walipini Construction. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University.
Bellows, Barbara. 2008. Solar Greenhouse Resources. ATTRA Publication. Butte, MT: NCAT.
Geery, Daniel. 1982. Solar Greenhouses, Underground. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books.
McCullagh, James. 1978. The Solar Greenhouse Book. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.
Oehler, Mike. 2007. Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse. Bonners Ferry, ID: Mole Publishing Company.
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