May 4, 2014

What's a Walipini?

I want to build one of these for a four season garden.

A walipini is a partially underground greenhouse. They were pioneered about 20 years ago in South America, and were designed to enable families to increase their food security. They are also known as pit greenhouses, and pankar-huyu, depending on where they are being built.

Even in harsh mountainous climates in Bolvia, food can be grown year round in the "place of warmth".

Walipinis gain and hold their heat for free via solar radiation, high thermal mass, and the heat of the earth. When it is up and running, even the micro-organisms in the soil generate much-needed heat.

When there is snow above, under the frost line things are nice and toasty. Six to eight feet underground is a constant balmy 13 degrees Celsius (55 F) from the heat of the earth alone.

A small walipini can be dug by two people over two days, with the roof and covering taking another 2 or more, depending on how elaborate a structure is built. Underground greenhouses can vary from low tech and low cost, to fairly high-tech and pricier.

Either way you go, this is a method that can extend the growing season and therefore our food security and self-reliance. Even in the far north. Or far south.

One forward thinking group planning a self-sustaining community is going over the top in walipinis. Their designs maximize the efficiency and simplicity of these structures, and make them large enough for community-scale production.

The group is also developing aquapinis which are walipinis incorporating aquaponics. This form of food production combines the raising of fish (aquaculture) and plants (hydroponics), as practiced by the Aztecs and others throughout history.

See the designs and overall plans for community food self-sufficiency using walipinis here. For a more basic design, see here.

Now that you know what a walipini is, the only question remaining would be, "When do you want to build one?"

Walipini cross section.


  1. Anonymous5/04/2014

    This is amazing! I've never heard of this. Thanks so much for consistently sharing such valuable information. I want a walipini now. Such possibilities!

    1. Kendra,

      I was also immediately impressed by this simple technology.

      I dug a big hole in the back yard with my brothers when we were small. And we just filled it back in.

      Give me a shovel and let's do this walipini thing.


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