Share the Seed member gardeners, Sunni and Jason Fine, take the group on a tour of their walipini as it undergoes the final stages of construction. The walipini, also known as a pit or earth-sheltered greenhouse, is essentially a 6′-8′ deep, rectangular hole in the ground that is covered with greenhouse plastic sheeting. Sunni and Jason’s walipini is a whopping 32 x 42 ft! The roof is angled steeply towards the south to take advantage of the winter sun. The earthen walls help regulate the temperature inside of the walipini, both in summer and in winter – much like a geothermal heating and cooling system.
The word walipini, which means “a place of warmth”, originated with the Aymara people of the Andes and Altiplano regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. In these high-altitude deserts traditional greenhouses are ineffective and often damaged by howling winds and extreme cold temperatures. By digging a deep hole into the earth and covering the opening with an angled greenhouse roof to capture as much winter sun as possible, the Aymara found they could grow food year round – even in their extreme environment.
Jason Fine answers questions as members of the Share the Seed Project tour the Fine’s walipini as it nears completion. The earthen walls will be bolstered by recycled oak pallets filled with rich topsoil, which will then be used to grow plants in. The Fine’s also plan to build several raised beds on the floor of the walipini – one on each side at the base of the earthen walls and one down the center of the structure – to increase their growing space.
We hope to follow Sunni and Jason as they put their walipini to the test this winter! We hope you’ll stop in and check it out! In the meantime, consider becoming a member of the Share the Seed Project and, of course, we’d love to hear about your gardening and seed saving projects!
Read more about walipinis and how to build your own by checking out the following resources:
White Dog Walipini and Homestead (Facebook)
Pure Energy Systems – Walipini Underground Greenhouses (Lots of resources)
Inspiration Green: Pit Greenhouses (Great photos)
Tree Hugger: Build a $300 underground greenhouse for year-round gardening
The Benson Institute Walipini Construction Manual (PDF)
Ceres Greenhouse Solutions: The Walipini Low-Down