Pit Greenhouses

Depending on latitude, but despite above ground air temperatures (and wind chill), 6 to 8 feet down into the earth, temperatures remain fairly constant, between 50 and 60°F.  Meaning your pit greenhouse will be much warmer than an above ground greenhouse in winter and that cool earth will keep temps bearable in the summer.


underground greenhouse

Pit greenhouse in Spetchley Gardens, UK. Stairs down to entrance on right. Image by Mezzapod.



underground greenhouse

Underground greenhouse. The inside can be cased in stone, mud brick or any dense natural material able to absorb large amounts of heat. Cool weather crops like lettuce, kale and brocolli can be grown during winter in harsh climates. The glazing creates a “greenhouse effect.” If your water table is high, obviously that could spell disaster. It is recommended you build your greenhouse at least five feet above the water table. growtest.org



pit greenhouse

Mike Oehler’s pit greenhouse design. Mike digs a deep trench for access on the shaded south side which also allows cold air to sink and be warmed by the deeper, warmer soil. Many install tubes within the soil to transfer warmed air into the earth, yet Mike believes you need only the cold sink to allow the transfer in most climates. How to: motherearthnews.com. Mike Oehler’s book: www.undergroundhousing.com


walipini

Called a walipini in South America (from the Aymara Indian language, meaning "place of warmth"). As you dig, save your upper most topsoil (for the new bottom) and use the deeper soil as the new berm on the north side (or south side if you're south of the equator).  Angling your window 90 degrees to the sun on the winter solstice will allow the pit to store the most heat during those days when the sun shines the fewest hours. Benson Institute Building a Walipini: www.bensoninstitute.org



pit greenhouse

Earthbag pit greenhouse. During the day, the earth walls store heat, the walls are the battery that release their heat at night. A properly designed pit greenhouse is naturally warmed at night from five sides, in an above ground greenhouse, only one side, the floor is heated during the day. A waterproof barrier extending along the periphery and down the berms are necessary www.naturalbuildingblog.com



pit greenhouse

Sun pit greenhouse. Illustration from the Owner-Built Homestead by Barbara and Ken Kern. amazon.com





Here is a large walipini in LaPaz, Bolivia. At two minutes they go inside the walipini, at four minutes they walk around the outside. In Spanish. Obviously they do not get much rain there. Organic Farm in Upper de la Paz, Bolivia.



pit greenhouse

Pit greenhouse made of local stone in Nepal at almost 10,000 feet altitude, where the temperature falls below freezing 199 days per year. Inside lush vegetation: www.rids-nepal.org



pit greenhouse

This pit greenhouse in Mongolia is currently producing food during three seasons of the year. As the footprints show the entrance is on the opposite side. thegreenbackpack.blogspot.com



pit greenhouse

Inside of above pit greenhouse. In a cold climate, the north, east and west walls should be well insulated. The north ceiling should be well insulated as well. thegreenbackpack.blogspot.com



pit greenhouse

Greenhouse built into a hill in Tennesee. Lots more pictures here: www.wind-sun.com


pit greenhouse

This pit greenhouse is in Texas, it is essentially a hole dug into the ground. Here the soil was such hard sandstone, minimal wall support was necesary. How to here: taroandti.com



pit greenhouse

Earth sheltered greenhouse with earthbag walls in Patagonia. Note the use of plastic around the periphery: ourlittlething.ning.com


pit greenhouse

One might need to dig a shallow drainage ditch around the perimeter of the greenhouse which will lead the run off water away from the structure. darfieldearthship.com


pit greenhouse

Pit greenhouse. Oft times barrels of rainwater will be stored at the back of a greenhouse to soak up and store even more heat. Note the entrance way to right. Lots more photos: greenhouseglimpses.blogspot.com


pit greenhouse

Walipini is another name for a pit greenhouse, this one is topped with old windows. More photos: onepinkhippie.com


pit greenhouse

Pit greenhouse in New Mexico dug by hand! Step by step photos: coatinativesnursery.com



pit greenhouse

Mud brick walipini in Ladakh which produces food year round in a very harsh climate. More photos: ashdenawards.blogspot.com



pit greenhouse

Care must be taken waterproofing, draining and ventilating the greenhouse. The most efficient pit greenhouses face the windows south and use the north wall to store heat.



pit greenhouse

This amazing couple bought a house with an old gunite pool and turned it into a 'closed-loop food-producing urban greenhouse.' Supporting tilapia, chickens and hydroponic vegetables and fruits. Watch video here: gardenpool.org



pit greenhouse

Earthen walled pit greenhouse. Lots of natural clay to absorb heat. The two most important factors in a pit greenhouse are the large amount of thermal mass (stone, soil, water), and its positioning toward the sun. www.organica.net.pl


pit greenhouse

An easy way to warm up and bring light into your basement. Build a mini-pit greenhouse on the south side of your home. naturalbuildingblog.com



underground greenhouse

A pit greenhouse used as dining area. www.solarinnovations.com


pit greenhouse

A pit greenhouse for musicians. www.imrevolting.net



pit greenhouse

At the New AIchemy Institue bioshelter, fish tanks and compost heat the greenhouse and adjoining house. Water is dense and holds heat even better than rock, soil takes third place in heat storage. The solar aquaculture ponds are above-ground, translucent tanks. The fertile pond water was used for irrigating crops. community.theaquaponicsource.com


pit greenhouse

Driftless Farm Greenhouse by Roald Gundersen, Wisconsin. The larger you build your pit greenhouse the more efficient, as the temperatures inside of a small greenhouse can fluctuate quite quickly. Read more about the project: www.mwt.net


pit greenhouse

Driftless Farm Greenhouse, Wisconsin. A 2800 s.f. straw-bale insulated solar greenhouse. Whole tee supports made from site-harvested black locust, which is a fast growing and extremely strong and rot-resistant, and abundant throughout Wisconsin. wholetrees.com



earth sheltered greenhouse

Earth Sheltered greenhouse by Hiroshi Iguchi, Japan. A greenhouse that obviously does not completely close. www.fifthworld-inc.com



pit greenhouse

Greenhouse by Rob Stout, New Mexico. www.swsolardesign.com



pit greenhouse

Pit greenhouse attached to a home. www.solarinnovations.com


pit greenhouse

Semi-underground greenhouse surrounded on two sides with a stone wall and earth behind. www.solarinnovations.com


underground greenhouse

Greenhouse built into a hill. www.solarinnovations.com


pit greenhouse

Pit greenhouses attached to stone buildings are also extremely energy efficient! See inside here: www.solarinnovations.com



pit greenhouse

Straw bales are a great insulator (an R-value of 1.5 to 3 per inch). Manure below ground will also help to keep these plants warm. Photo by Terrie Schweitzer, www.flickr.com


pit greenhouse

Cold frame of old windows and straw bales. Placing manure or compost down below the layer of topsoil will help keep the area warm. indianapublicmedia.org



How To:

 

Great step by step Earth Sheltered Greenhouse with center work space/cold sink. Lots of pictures: geektrap.com

Benson Institute Building a Walipini: www.bensoninstitute.org

YMCA Solar Greenhouse in Virginia, partially submerged: www.solaripedia.com & www.roperld.com

Earth Sheltered Greenhouse by Mike Oehler: motherearthnews.com

Mud brick walipini: ashdenawards.blogspot.com

Mud Heat Storage Greenhouse by Joseph Orr: motherearthnews.com

Step by step, cinder block: greenhouseglimpses.blogspot.com

A bermed, solar heated greenhouse in Idaho: www.builditsolar.com

Small bermed earth sheltered greenhouse: thehomesteadingboards.com

A quonset hut type greenhouse from chain link fence top railings: frugal-living-freedom.com

Compost Heated Greenhouses: attra.ncat.org

Solviva Greenhouse: www.solviva.com



Books:

The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book by Mike Oehler: undergroundhousing.com

The Solar Greenhouse Book by James McCullagh and printed by Rodale press

Gardener's Solar Greenhouse from the book by Ray Wolf, published by Rodale Press

How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre by Anna Eddy. www.solviva.com

Solar Greenhouses: Underground Daniel Geery. 1982. TAB Books, Inc.


More:

Slope, orientation, glazing, etc: attra.ncat.org

Lots of info! L. David Roper: www.roperld.com

Compost heated greenhouses: attra.ncat.org

Wood greenhouse kits, they will make a kit for your foundation: cedarbuilt.homestead.com

Solar Greenhouse Links: www.builditsolar.com


Video:

Greenhouse with air heated subfloor: www.youtube.com



 

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john
Posts: 16
Comment
Re: Pit Greenhouses
Reply #16 on : Mon November 17, 2014, 08:25:22
NICE ARTICLE.

THANKS!
Johegorynny Gr
Posts: 16
Comment
great array of pictures
Reply #15 on : Sat September 06, 2014, 10:27:13
Thanks for the beautiful array of pictures of underground and pit greenhouses which do inspire!
James
Posts: 16
Comment
Semi-pit tunnel greenhouse in Kansas
Reply #14 on : Tue August 12, 2014, 00:01:25
I built a semi-pit tunnel greenhouse here in Kansas that I use to grow food year-round. If anybody's interested, just google my GreenFin Gardens website and click on the "Semi-Pit Tunnel Greenhouse" link on the left side of the page.
Maggie
Posts: 16
Comment
Walipini
Reply #13 on : Mon July 21, 2014, 20:58:52
Hi,
I live in NZ, I have got very interested in building an economical Walipini on our land, we do have the space with 3 acres.. I have tried the Benson Institute but every time I am taken there I cannot find any information or the plans they talk about having.. I am also struggling to find any sort of detailed PLANS for building a Walipini using the clay rammed as the walls. Is or do you have any such plans? Any help would be very much appreciated :-) Best regards, Maggie
Mark
Posts: 16
Comment
Pit Greenhouses
Reply #12 on : Thu July 10, 2014, 22:15:04
Thoroughly impressed to see the work being done in these environments. Anyone using the concept in northern New England? And stories to be shared?
Paulo Mendonça
Posts: 16
Comment
Pit Greenhouse for hot Weather
Reply #11 on : Wed July 09, 2014, 08:02:11
Hi all, great site and informations, keep on the good work. However i can't find solutions for hot weather conditions, we are in Portugal at Alentejo, the temperatures during the summer reach 38/40Celsius
We intend to grow mushrooms that suport temperatures untill 30celsius :(
can any one tell me if a pit green house hepls me on these ??????
Ron Coler
Posts: 16
Comment
Quick Question
Reply #10 on : Thu July 03, 2014, 15:23:32
Hi there I love your site - the 5th picture from the bottom shows a pit greenhouse built into a stone wall. I contacted Solar Innovations and they tell me that this is not one of their projects and that your reference is incorrect. Can you please give me the correct reference to the designer/builder/owner. I would love to duplicate the project but need the contact info. Thanks.....
Nicki
Posts: 16
Comment
Re: Pit Greenhouses
Reply #9 on : Mon June 16, 2014, 23:13:39
Just linked to this in my article about sun pit greenhouses on my garden website - Through Nana's Garden Gate - great photos!
ward riggins
Posts: 16
Comment
green house
Reply #8 on : Wed January 01, 2014, 16:34:09
We are building a community garden program as a part of Wayne County (GA) Parks and Recreation Department. please post us with your gardening information. This is a hands on learning project. We are working with the local Boys and Girls Club and several community groups. We are also building a data base and library of basic gardening knowledge. The purpose of the Wayne County Community Garden Program is to teach our students how to go out and teach groups how to build community gardens. We prefer not to use poisons and chemicals and will not use any Monsanto products.
Lisa
Posts: 16
Comment
Re: Pit Greenhouses
Reply #7 on : Thu December 26, 2013, 17:16:59
I use greenhouse-quality 50% shade cloth over a hoop house to garden in the summer in the high desert. In the winter, I change the shade cloth out with greenhouse plastic.
Eden Ranch
Posts: 16
Comment
Very informative!
Reply #6 on : Thu October 31, 2013, 16:44:48
Thank you for sharing this information.
The team here at Eden Ranch will begin building one of these as a project for demonstration and growing organic foods at our farm in the Caribbean.
Internships available year round, if anyone would like to participate.
Inquire at [email protected] or visit our website at: www.edenranch.org
Happy growing and we look forward to post our progress!
Shahid
Posts: 16
Comment
Green house for hot summers
Reply #5 on : Tue July 09, 2013, 08:31:41
Very informative site. I hope there could be solutions for hot climates.
Mike Murphy
Posts: 16
Comment
pit greenhouses
Reply #4 on : Wed June 19, 2013, 14:51:56
Love your site! Hope to have something to share in a year or two. mike
Roxanne Swentzell Tower Gallery
Posts: 16
Comment
Re: Pit Greenhouses
Reply #3 on : Thu June 06, 2013, 15:00:13
thank you for sharing all this great information!!
Jo
Posts: 16
Comment
Inspiring!
Reply #2 on : Wed June 05, 2013, 04:37:12
Wow this is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing, I never even imagined all the ways you could build a greenhouse!



www.thedesertecho.com/blog
Kvr28
Posts: 16
Comment
Thank-you
Reply #1 on : Thu March 21, 2013, 07:32:28
Thank-you for sharing our project, it helps get the word out. Great site, love all the pictures.

thehomesteadingboards.com
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