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DIY Underground Greenhouse

Harvesting Your Own Safe, Fresh, Vegetables – Year Round

image009The Benson Institute in Provo, Utah is a nonprofit organization established in 1975 as a division of the College of Biology and Agriculture at Brigham Young University (BYU). Named in honor of Ezra Taft Benson, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration. Throughout his life, Ezra Taft Benson worked to help others help themselves.

Their Mission: To improve the quality of life of the people of the Earth through improved practices in agriculture and nutrition.

Over the past three decades the Benson Institute has developed unique programs teaching village farm families and others in the developing world how to become nutritionally self-sufficient and to greatly improve their economic circumstances. Accordingly, the Benson Institute cooperates with universities, their students and professors and other agencies to discover and apply methodologies to maximize use of existing family resources of rural and urban poor in order to enhance nutrition and economic self-reliance. The students use their findings in teaching community members how to increase production and improve their health. University students thereby enrich their educational experience while simultaneously bringing poor families to self-sufficiency.

The ripple effect of these programs benefit all citizens of Earth. Not just the philanthropic reason in helping one’s neighbors, but knowledge everyone can utilize to better enhance our lives.

Walipini_cutaway_BensonInstitute_400For instance the Walipini underground greenhouse, first developed more than 20 years ago and deployed in South and Central America. The word ‘Walipini’ means “place of warmth” in the native tongue of the Aymara people of the Andes. It has been so successful, they’ve been able to grow bananas at an elevation of 14,000 feet. The Walipini utilizes nature’s resources to provide a warm, stable, well-lit environment for year-round vegetable production. Capitalizing on the fact that the temperature on most of the planet at 4’ deep stays between 50 and 60º F.

Basically, the Walipini is a rectangular hole in the ground 6′ to 8’ deep covered by plastic sheeting or other forms of glazing, (called ‘glazing’ because it allows light and heat to pass through). The longest area of the rectangle faces 90-degrees to the winter sun — to the north in the Southern Hemisphere and to the south in the Northern Hemisphere. Since water is a much better thermal mass storage mechanism than soil, water barrels can be used to store the thermal heat and carry it through the night. The minimum recommended size is 8’ x 12’ (2.4m x 3.6m).

The Walipini also has the advantage of keeping your crops safe in the event of turbulent weather like high winds, hail, tornadoes, and the build-up of ice and snow.

Want to learn how to build your own? Well, the Walpini greenhouse has a step by step ready for your viewing.

And with the never ending recalls of tainted food products, this kind of knowledge is just what we need. Just remember to share with your friends in places like Houston, New Orleans, and Venice, with surface or near surface water tables.

as the green future unfolds.

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3 Responses to “DIY Underground Greenhouse”

  1. permaculture a designers manual Says:

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  2. Coleen Goree Says:

    I’m making a walapini and already my walls are caving in. I have very rocky soil. Do I need to put up plywood and back fill? It’s not deep enough yet so I know i still need to dig it deeper. only 4 ft so far. I’m in the ucon area.

  3. Linda Says:

    Hi Coleen…. I would. Especially with the climate and soil you have. Also, for safety.

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