The 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. 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.
The temperature six to eight feet below the surface, which is the ideal depth for your walipini, fluctuates from 50 up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter making it among perfect conditions to grow not only cold bearing plants but even some warm loving ones.
Not only does an underground greenhouse keep your plants warmer in the winter the soil also remains cooler in the summer so no matter the temperature you can grow food year round!
Here are a few vegetables you can grow in your underground greenhouse each season.
Keep your greenhouse between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit to grow warm-season vegetables. Cucumbers are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in the warmer months because they love high temperatures and sun. Place them where they can receive the most light if you’re growing them in winter. Eggplants, okra, squash, tomatoes and muskmelon cantaloupes are other smart choices for the warm season. Be sure to be thorough with waterproofing, draining, and ventilating your underground greenhouse sanctuary. To grow your summer plants ventilation is crucial and over watering, or lack of draining can kill your otherwise fruitful harvest.
Cool weather it is perfect for planting baby carrots, lettuces, and potatoes for winter harvesting. Potatoes are perfect to be grown in a walipini because of the storage of warmth. Position the plants where they can take advantage of the waning fall sunlight. Using deeper containers provides more water and nutrients to your crops, which will improve them and make them easier to grow. Pumpkins are also ideal as well.
The cold season is perfect for broccoli and cauliflower and it is perfectly attainable to grow them in a walipini in even the coldest of climates. If you are in an especially cold climate you would want to lay the inside of your walipini with stone, earthbags 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.
In the months leading up to spring, onions, leeks, and harder lettuces, such as chard and kale, are good choices for gardening in a greenhouse. Radishes and spinach also work well because high temperatures can cause spoilage. Turnips are well suited to the early spring weather, but can also be planted in the fall. Once the days start to grow longer, meaning it’s officially spring, plant fast-growing vegetables such as squashes and sweet corn.
With these ideas in mind you can have food growing all year long. Pick your favorite fruits and vegetables and get started!