5 Keys to Food Security in Extreme Weather, for Home Gardeners

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Back in August 2015, I wrote a post about the findings of a joint task force of experts from the U.K. and U.S. The group had released recommendations for Extreme Weather and Resilience of the Global Food System. You can read the original post on food security here: 

Read More: “Extreme Weather and Food Resilience for Home Growers”

Quite frankly, that report was pretty scary. It detailed all sorts of reasons why our global food supply was in serious jeopardy. When that report was released in 2015, I had noted how relevant it was in light of a number of catastrophic weather events going on at the time, wreaking havoc on crops and raising food prices in some areas.

Now, just a couple of years later, the situation has become even worse. Hurricanes, mudslides, drought-related fires, disrupted weather patterns, wars, and more have caused crazy fluctuations in food supplies around the world.

In March 2017, the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) released a Global Report on Food Crises 2017.1)http://www.fao.org/3/a-br323e.pdf In that report, they indicated that the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity had increased by 35% since the release of the 2015 report.

Quite a bit of that lack of food security was related to conflict. However, catastrophic weather events like droughts had also driven up the costs of staple foods, making them unaffordable for large groups of people.

If you think this can only happen in poor, war-torn countries, then consider this. In the U.S. in 2017, there were at least 16 weather events that cost over a billion dollars each and resulted in losses of crops, livestock, and other resources, as well as of homes, businesses, personal property, and lives.2)https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017 In 2016, there were 15 of these weather catastrophes; in 2015, there were 9; in 2014, there were 8; and in 2013, there were 9.

It might be too early to say that 15-16 catastrophic, billion-dollar weather events is the new normal for the U.S. However, new data modeling shows that there are real risks that both the U.S. and China might simultaneously experience catastrophic crop losses that could drive up prices and send more countries into food famine in the coming decades.3)https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/15/climate-change-food-famine-study

In 2017, due to a weakened dollar, food prices in the U.S. increased by 8.2%.4)https://www.thebalance.com/why-are-food-prices-rising-causes-of-food-price-inflation-3306099 That trend hopefully won’t continue in 2018, but between weather and world volatility, isn’t it better to bank on building your own food security independent of global markets and events?

We think so, too! So, we want to give you some ideas to help you build your own food security at home.

Food Security Recommendation #1: Understand Your Risks

Building on the ideas from our earlier post on “Extreme Weather and Food Resilience for Home Growers,” it’s really important to know the risks for your area and plan your gardening practices to be resilient even when disaster hits.

Many  governments and global non-governmental organizations have made predictive models for the likely regional effects of climate change available. You can use these models to identify trends in your area. Here are a few example models available:

Even if you don’t live in one of these areas, a quick Internet search for “climate change impacts” for your area should give good results. This search may link to articles about impacts as well as to modeling tools. Focus on search hits from government or academic websites for more comprehensive, peer-reviewed climate change data.

Food Security Recommendation #2: Consider Using Permaculture-Based Landscape Design

There have been so many weather-related disasters recently that it is hard to know what to prepare for anymore. In California, extreme dry weather and winds made for a devastating fire season. Then, the loss of vegetation from the fire season led to severe mudslides during torrential rains. Parts of Australia have also been suffering similar catastrophic cycles of drought and flooding.

In Western North Carolina where I live—a locale that we chose specifically because it is expected to be less impacted by climate change (e.g., sea levels rising, coastal hurricanes, etc.)—we’ve had extended dry periods followed by heavy rains that led to lots of vegetation losses in our area.

Drought-flood cycles are extremely damaging to plant life. In dry periods, plant roots dehydrate and shrivel. Soil also shrinks from water loss. Then when heavy rains come, the soil and roots no longer have the water-holding capacity they once did. Rather than the rain being absorbed, it sits on top of dry, compacted soils in flat areas, causing flooding. Or it moves downhill, taking topsoil and vegetation with it as it goes, causing mudslides and flash flooding in other areas.

When you use permaculture design in planning your foodscapes, you take into account these kinds of cycles of drought and heavy rain that would otherwise be damaging to vegetation. In fact, you make them work for you. Simple solutions like catching and storing water high on your land can help you better weather the cycles of drought and flood.

By applying permaculture principles, you can help safeguard your food security by making your landscape more resilient to weather extremes and diversifying your food supply to ensure you get good yields regardless of weather.

To get an idea of how permaculture works, check out this tour of Zaytuna Farm given by Geoff Lawton.

Also, if you want a short but powerful introduction to what permaculture can do in extreme landscapes, check out these titles by Sepp Holzer:

Food Security Recommendation #3: Manage Your Microclimates

Every property has microclimates. For example, in North America, it will almost always be a bit warmer along the edges of a south-sloping blacktop driveway. This is because the path of the sun will cast more sun on southern-facing slopes. They are literally like sun scoops, catching its rays.

food security - blacktop asphalt

“Closeup of pavement with grass” by User:Angel caboodle is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Additionally, dark colors absorb more heat than light colors. If you painted that same driveway white, it would still be warmer due to its southern slope. However, the white paint would reflect light and heat away from the driveway and would keep that same area cooler than with a blacktop driveway.

The physical mass of blacktop asphalt material also acts as a heat sink. It draws in heat during the day and releases  it back into surrounding areas as air temperatures cool at night. The same driveway made with light-colored concrete might not absorb quite as much heat as an asphalt driveway due to its color. However, it would still act as a heat sink by virtue of its mass.

The shade of a large oak tree creates a cooler area than the dappled shade of a pruned fruit tree. Large bodies of water will help regulate extreme temperatures. A wide, stone knee wall around a raised bed will insulate the soil inside better than thin wood boards because of its mass. Boulders in your landscape are also heat sinks. Even things like black trash cans can impact temperatures directly around their vicinity.

Gaining a basic understanding of how colors attract light waves, learning how different kinds of mass (rocks, soil, trees, etc.) store heat and divert wind, and knowing the path of the sun at different times of the year in your area can help you use microclimates to moderate the effects of extreme cold and heat. Using your slopes, like north-facing slopes to keep things cooler and south-facing slopes to heat things up, can also help. Working with shade patterns to minimize or maximize sun exposure can help moderate hot and cold temperature extremes.

For example, I live in USDA planting Zone 7a. With the extreme cold weather we’ve had this year, our conditions were closer to Zone 5.  Some of my plants—like rosemary, which is hardy to zone 7—were killed by the cold. After our last risk of frost passes, I plan to replant rosemary bushes in front of our south-facing house and mulch them with dark stones. In that location, even if we have Zone 5 conditions again, my rosemary should make it just because the heat mass from our house and the stones, the southward orientation, and the wind protection give it the right microclimate.

Cold frames, greenhouses, and underground areas (e.g., walipinis) are also good ways to create microclimates on your property to ensure longer and more secure food production in extreme conditions. Check out this post from Marjory to learn about building your own underground greenhouse.

Read More: “Underground Walipini Pit Greenhouse Construction”

Food Security Recommendation #4: Go Big on Organic Matter in Your Soil

If I pour a bucket of water over some of the heavy clay soil in my landscape, water runs off on slopes. In flat or cratered areas, it sits on top, eventually making a big muddy mess that becomes algae-covered if we don’t have enough wind or sun to dry it out.

If I pour a bucket of water over the same approximate amount of area in one of my vegetable garden beds, loaded with compost, the bucket of water soaks in. Even on sloped beds, the water sinks and stays put rather than running off.

Soils that are high in organic matter are more porous and spacious than compacted soils.

If you try the same experiment with sand, the water will also soak in as it did in my garden bed. Unfortunately, it won’t stay there. Come back a few hours later and that water will be gone, which means it is not stored in the root zone for later use by plants.

Soils that are high in organic matter also preserve moisture better than sandy soils.

In order to hold water in your soil during droughts and catch it during heavy rains, you need a lot of organic matter in your soil. Here are a few easy ways you can up your organic matter quotient at home.

  1. Add compost.
  2. Mulch with things like wood chips, straw, old hay, grass clippings, and mulched leaves.
  3. Plant, then chop and drop cover crops like grain grasses, clover, mustard, or chicory.
  4. Use no-till or minimal till practices and leave decaying roots and plant matter in the soil.

Check out these TGN posts to learn more about these methods.

“No Till Gardening: Homesteading Basics (VIDEO)”

“Build Your Compost Pile Right On Your Garden Beds!”

“From Weeds to WOW: The Weed Island”

“No Bare Soil! Vegetable Garden Cover Crops”

Adding organic matter not only slows the flow of water in your landscape and sinks it deeper into plant roots, but it actually sinks carbon dioxide, too.

Yes! Building soil that is higher in organic matter can actually help solve our CO2 problem. And solving our CO2 problem will moderate the disastrous effects of climate change and can mitigate future weather extremes. (No, this one answer won’t solve all our problems—but if lots of us do it, it will help!)

Food Security Recommendation #5: Remember ABC—Always Be Cover-cropping

Plant roots are like plumbing for your soil. They create little channels that help divert water down into the earth so it can be accessed by the plant and other biological soil inhabitants. By growing something in your soil at all times, you keep those pathways open for water to filter down into the soil.

For annual growing areas, planting cover crops in off seasons is critical. However, even for the rest of your landscape, having some sort of cover crop is necessary for extreme weather resilience.

Many of us grow lawns as our primary perennial cover crop. Traditional lawns, though, are shallow-rooted and do not contribute much to soil health. Growing grasses with deeper root systems like perennial rye and other prairie- or meadow-type grasses can be even more beautiful and give you deep roots to help sink water further into your soil.

Using vegetative perennials (i.e., that die back in the winter) with expansive root systems is also a great way to prevent soil erosion and build biomass in your landscape. Yarrow, Russian comfrey, curly dock, burdock, vetches, and even invasives like mints are useful for covering bare soil in a hurry. Since these plants lose their leaves each year and can be heavily pruned in the growing season, they make great green manure or mulch plants, too. Tap-rooted trees like black locust and paw paw also drill water and air down deep into your soil.

In addition, having a continuous cover of plants (or leaves from those plants) keeps your soil cooler on hot days and warmer on cool days. This protects all the biological life in your soil like bacteria, fungi, worms, and more so that they can work year-round. Their continued hard work means that your soil will get better year after year so that your plants will have more disease resistance and resilience during bad weather streaks.

Bare soil  = No biological life = More pests, more diseases, and greater weather sensitivity for your plants

Covered soil = Year-round biological workers = Healthier plants better adapted to your weather extremes

If you are willing to do the research and the work, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate your risks from a changing climate and more volatile weather patterns. These ideas are barely the tip of the iceberg (which is lucky for us since glaciers are now melting at an alarming rate)!

What about you? What other ways are you safeguarding your food security against extreme weather patterns?

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References   [ + ]

1. http://www.fao.org/3/a-br323e.pdf
2. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017
3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/15/climate-change-food-famine-study
4. https://www.thebalance.com/why-are-food-prices-rising-causes-of-food-price-inflation-3306099

The post 5 Keys to Food Security in Extreme Weather, for Home Gardeners appeared first on The Grow Network.

Underground Walipini Pit Greenhouse Construction

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Here is an excellently written PDF document on how to build an underground Walipini pit greenhouse. These greenhouses are an excellent technique to use in arid Southwestern climates.

Click here to download the 29-page PDF document on “Constructing A Walipini Pit Underground Greenhouse.”

Deep appreciation is extended to the Benson Institute, which created the document. The Benson Institute was founded in 1975 at Brigham Young University as part of the College of Biological and Agricultural Sciences. It was named in honor of Ezra Taft Benson’s service as Secretary of Agriculture during the administration of United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Benson Institute strives to teach families in developing countries how to become nutritionally self-sufficient and how to improve their economic circumstances. Participants learn techniques for food production, nutrition, diet, and home food storage. Families learn to grow vegetables and fruits or raise small animals appropriate to their circumstances in order to better provide for themselves.

Find out more about the Benson Institute here.

(This article was originally published on August 26, 2014.)

 

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Underground Greenhouse Produces Tomatoes Year-round (VIDEO)

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An underground greenhouse makes a lot of sense in the arid climate of New Mexico. I came across a super-effective and simple Walipini-inspired greenhouse that was homemade by Mark Irwin.

Check out this video where Mark shows you what he has been doing and how he is making a small side income by selling tomatoes to the Albuquerque market year-round.

I am a big proponent of lots of little side-income businesses. Diversity ensures there is always something coming in.

Note that I’ve put the reference Mark mentions down below the video.

Enjoy—and comment! We love to hear from you.

Here is the link to download the excellently written PDF on “Constructing A Walipini Pit Underground Greenhouse”

 

Access our growing selection of downloadable eBooks…

…. On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!

Sign up for your FREE pass!

 

(This post was originally published on August 4, 2017.)

Save

 

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DIY Hoop House: The Easy Greenhouse Alternative

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By popular demand, we’re offering our step-by-step, DIY Hoop House Plans — originally available only as part of TGN’s 2017 Home Grown Food Summit — for just $4.95

Click Here to Buy Today!

This is a short-term experiment … and please pardon the fact that our sales page is so crude. 🙂 But we got so many requests that we thought we would make this available as inexpensively as possible.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is Marjory Wildcraft. On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I’m going to talk about the lessons I’ve learned from several years of operating a hoop house.

The Easy Greenhouse Alternative

This is a hoop house that’s about 12-feet wide by 48-feet long. If you need a big greenhouse quickly and economically, a hoop house is definitely the way to go. In fact, for me, it was super easy. I actually built this thing with one finger.

Yeah, I said to my husband, “Hon, I want a hoop house right there.” He built it. He’s really handy, and he loves it. Actually, I did help some. Anyway, it really is pretty quick to put up, and it’s very cost effective.

My DIY Hoop House Plan

There are a couple of things we’ve learned about it. We’re growing here in Central Texas, and we get extremes of heat and cold. In the summer, we get a lot of intense sun here. What we found works really well is using a 70 percent shade mesh in the summer months. It provides a good amount of shade, yet allows a breeze to go through. We are able to grow things really well inside the mesh-only greenhouse.

In the winter, just taking the mesh off and having plastic on is the best way to go. The plastic definitely keeps the greenhouse nice and warm. We are able to grow fabulous plants all winter long.

The main thing about this is it creates a pretty big maintenance issue twice a year.

In the spring, we’re taking the plastic off and putting the mesh on. Then, in the fall, we’re taking the mesh off and putting the plastic on. We did operate it for a while with both the plastic and mesh on in winter, and we found that it just doesn’t work that well.

That maintenance chore twice a year is going to take about four people for a greenhouse this size. That means we get the whole family involved with that chore.

But you can use a greenhouse for all seasons if you’re willing to do that kind of work.

Plans For A Summer vs. Winter Hoop House

My other concern is that the mesh seems to be holding up really well, but I’m not sure what the lifetime of the plastic is going to be. I think taking it off and putting it back on adds extra wear and tear to it, and it may not last as long as it would if we just kept it in place throughout the whole year. I’ve spoken with different operators of commercial greenhouses, and it seems the plastic lasts anywhere from one to three years according to the different farmers you talk to.

Personally, I feel that that’s a lot of waste. But it does seem to be effective, and that’s the way it is.

This is Marjory Wildcraft on operating a hoop house. Again, if you need a big greenhouse really quickly and fairly inexpensively, this is a good way to go. We’re going to be doing a lot more about greenhouses and growing in greenhouses on future episodes of Homesteading Basics.

Stay tuned. I’ll see you on another one.

(This article was originally published on January 30, 2017.)

The post DIY Hoop House: The Easy Greenhouse Alternative appeared first on The Grow Network.

Small Greenhouse Kit

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Small Greenhouse Kit The evolution from backyard gardener to greenhouse operator is a big one. It would seem that most of us are content with what we achieve in our raised beds from spring to fall. That being said, its impossible to deny that hole in your life when the fresh veggies, lettuces and fruits …

Continue reading »

The post Small Greenhouse Kit appeared first on SHTF Prepping & Homesteading Central.

(video) Underground Walipini Pit Greenhouses Produce Tomatoes Year Round

Click here to view the original post.

An underground greenhouse makes a lot of sense in arid climate of New Mexico. I came across a super effective and simple Walipini inspired greenhouse that was home made by Mark Irwin.

Check out this video where Mark shows you what he has been doing and how he is making a small side income by selling tomatoes to the Albuquerque market year round.

I am a big proponent of lots of little side income businesses. Diversity ensures there is always something coming in.

Note that I’ve put the references Mark mentions down below the video.

Enjoy – and comment! We love to hear from you.

Here is the link to download the excellently written pdf on “Constructing A Walipini Pit Underground Greenhouse”

 

Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

…. On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!

Sign up for your FREE pass!

Save

The post (video) Underground Walipini Pit Greenhouses Produce Tomatoes Year Round appeared first on The Grow Network.

How To Build an Underground Greenhouse (Multiple Designs!)

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How To Build an Underground Greenhouse (Multiple Designs!) Growing your own food isn’t difficult in the summer, but winter gardening is a lot more complicated. It is made infinitely easier when you have a space that is insulated from the elements. The below article shows many examples of people who have built underground Greenhouses, sometimes …

Continue reading »

The post How To Build an Underground Greenhouse (Multiple Designs!) appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

How Much Food Can You Grow on 1/4 Acre?

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An Organic Mini-Farm on a Small Suburban Lot

How much food can you grow on a 1/4 acre lot? Not much, right… Maybe a small garden in the back yard… Think again!

A group of roommates in Austin decided to stretch their small suburban lot as far as they could. And you won’t believe how much food they’re producing…

In addition to replacing the lawn with garden beds, they worked in a couple of greenhouses with aquaponic systems, and a huge composting operation. They didn’t neglect the visual appeal of the yard, either. They worked in some evergreens and perennial landscaping to keep the yard looking nice for the neighbors. As you’ll see, they actually won their neighborhood association’s Yard of the Month award in 2014.

My favorite part of the video is when Michael says, “Our way of dealing with the squash vine borer… is to just replant.” That’s great! We hear so much about this particular pest and I’ve seen some pretty intricate attempts to control it. Some people insist on bringing in fresh soil. Others build physical barriers to keep the moths out. Still others inject Bt insecticide into their squash stems using hypodermic needles. Or, you could “just replant.” I love it when there’s a simple, natural solution for a complicated problem.

Micro-Farming as a Side Income

It looks like these folks are eating very well, and they’re generating a big surplus. They’re selling some of the produce they grow in a mini-CSA arrangement. And they sell their aquaponic herbs and greens directly to local restaurants.

This group had to be pretty resourceful to come up with the funds to bring this whole plan together. Between crowd-funding, grants, and partnerships with other local organizations, they were able to find all of the money they needed.

No doubt, some neighborhoods would not be as supportive as this one has been. In some places, you might attract some unwanted attention by building a farm in your front yard. But even if you have to keep your garden in the back yard, these guys might lend you a little inspiration about just how much food you can grow on a small plot of land.

You can learn more about Ten Acre Organics and co-founders Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan here: Ten Acre Organics.

 

How To Grow Food During Winter in a Greenhouse

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This video demonstrates how you can grow during the winter in a 4 season greenhouse in Colorado.

Here are five more examples of cold climate greenhouses. Greenhouses are great for extending your growing season to 2, 3 or even 4 seasons.

For many colder climates a simple cold frame or high tunnel (or any of these 6 DIY greenhouse designs) can extend your season by weeks or even months in both the spring and the fall. Using warm beds and other techniques you can potentially grow food year round, depending on where you live.

The post How To Grow Food During Winter in a Greenhouse appeared first on Walden Labs.

10 Easy DIY Greenhouse Plans (They’re Free!)

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Building a greenhouse does not have to break your budget. There are cheap and easy to build greenhouse plans out there, and below you’ll find ten of them.

Also check out these 6 DIY greenhouse designs inspired by traditional shelters and these five northern greenhouse examples.

1. Build an Easy 5 x 5 Home Greenhouse for under $25

Cold frame greenhouse

free plan

2. How to build your own Recycled Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

Recycled bottle greenhouse

free plan

3. How To Build a Fold-Down Greenhouse

Fold down greenhouse

free plan

4. How to build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse

$50 greenhouse

free plan

5. Free step by step plans to build a barn style greenhouse!

Barn style greenhouse

free plan

6. My Homemade Greenhouse

Homemade greenhouse

free plan

7. CD Case Greenhouse Tutorial

CD case greenhouse

free plan

8. On the Farm: Building a DIY Greenhouse (For less than you think)

DIY greenhouse

free plan

9. How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse

Geodome greenhouse

free plan

10. FREE plans for PVC pipe projects / Arched Greenhouse

PVC greenhouse

free plan

The post 10 Easy DIY Greenhouse Plans (They’re Free!) appeared first on Walden Labs.

This Innovative New Greenhouse Makes It Possible To Grow Crops Even In The Desert

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In regions that regularly experience high temperatures, frequent droughts, and severe dryness, farming is virtually impossible. Roots Up is a non-profit organization in Northern Ethiopia that strives to help Ethiopian farmers produce healthy crops in even the most undesirable weather conditions that the region is subjected to.

Roots Up greenhouse

 

The team has come up with an innovative, multifunctional greenhouse, the Root Up Greenhouse, that is capable of both growing food and producing water by working with an arid environment rather than against it.

During the hot hours of the day, hot air is trapped within greenhouse and the temperatures continue to rise. All of the heat causes water to evaporate creates a humid environment within the greenhouse atmosphere, providing an excellent grow environment for the plant life as well as maximizing the dew harvest.

Roots Up greenhouse

From evening until morning when the temperatures drop substantially, the top of the greenhouse can be opened allowing it to cool. Eventually, the greenhouse environment reaches dew point, at which point the atmospheric water vapor condenses into small droplets on the surface of the bio-plastic sheet where they drip into the container below, providing the farmer with clean water for drinking and irrigation.

H/T: The Mind Unleashed

The post This Innovative New Greenhouse Makes It Possible To Grow Crops Even In The Desert appeared first on Walden Labs.

$300 Underground Greenhouse Grows Food Year Round; An Extraordinary Walipini

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From vertical farms to solar-powered “farms from a box,” we’ve seen how farming technology has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. But for those who prefer something a little more rustic, growing food from a hole in the ground is as low-tech as you can get.

A walipini, meaning “place of warmth” from the Amaraya Indian language, is an underground greenhouse with a transparent (usually plastic) covering that stays warm by passively soaking up the sun’s heat and absorbing the earth’s thermal energy.

Underground greenhouse

This underground greenhouse collects the sun’s rays and earth’s heat to grow food Photo credit: schweibenalp.ch

Fruits and vegetables can be grown year-round, making it ideal for communities in colder locations that can’t usually grow their own fresh and local produce during certain parts of the year.

The farming method isn’t exactly new. Walipinis have been used in South and Central America for decades, including one that can grow bananas at 14,000 feet in the Andes.

The technique was notably adopted by The Benson Institute, a worldwide food security program of the Mormon church. According to The Plaid Zebra, the Benson Institute and its team of volunteers built a community-sized 74-feet-by-20-feet walipini in La Paz, Bolivia for around a mere $300.

The institute published a DIY manual on how to build such a structure. It explains:

The Walipini, in simplest terms, is a rectangular hole in the ground 6 to 8 feet deep covered by plastic sheeting. The longest area of the rectangle faces the winter sun—to the north in the Southern Hemisphere and to the south in the Northern Hemisphere. A thick wall of rammed earth at the back of the building and a much lower wall at the front provide the needed angle for the plastic sheet roof. This roof seals the hole, provides an insulating airspace between the two layers of plastic (a sheet on the top and another on the bottom of the roof/poles) and allows the suns rays to penetrate creating a warm, stable environment for plant growth.

Minneapolis-based Seasons Unity Project builds walipinis and says these structures can be constructed in places with surface temperatures as cold as -10 degrees Fahrenheit and as few as four feet below ground level.

Walipini

The walipini can be a low-cost and effective year-round greenhouse. Photo credit: Flickr

“Of course, many climates are too harsh for growing healthy vegetables, fruits, and herbs outside year-round. Rather than stopping at the apparent challenge or obstacle… [the structure] allows its caretaker to harvest, store, and deliver energy without generation or requirement of external energy or active energy input,” the Seasons Unity Project said.

This 4-minute clip features a farmer from the Comanche community in Bolivia. He explains how a walipini helps grow crops, such as potatoes and quinoa, even during the frosty and rainy winter from December to February.

It’s a new system for us. We can rescue the heat, and with that heat we can make a good production and we also save water,” he says. “With a walipini…we can produce not only fodder (for animals), we can produce food for all the people who live here.

A walipini is also great for places like The Netherlands, which also cold weather spells. A volunteer farming group there called Creative Garden Wageningen is working on its own walipini, dubbed the Sunken Greenhouse that will house lemons, strawberries, peppers, and a variety of beans and herbs, as you can see in the video in the beginning of this article.

Impressively, the structure’s inside beam is a living willow tree. Additionally, the grounds outside have plots for plants such as beans, pumpkins, onions and more. The roof covering was made with donated landfill plastic.

“We made it ourselves for very little if no money at all using leftover and donated materials,” uploader Ben Green wrote.

He added that their walipini now has a reciprocal roof, “one of the few in the world to have such a roof.”

Interested in building your own underground greenhouse? Here are 5 things you should know:

Walipini Infographic

Note: Cost of construction is relative.  Supplies required are quite inexpensive. Many off gridders provide their own labor and are extensively resourceful. If you plan to throw money at it and see it built, a $300.00 solution isn’t for you. If you require a backhoe rental to dig, and someone to run it, the costs will be sizeably more. I might suggest an in-between solution.  I was once offered a job as a 16 year old: 50 cents per wheelbarrow full.  The homeowner saved a lot of money, and I made $12 per hour in a time where $4.00 was a typical job for a 16 year old.  I learned a work ethic that carried through my entire life.  Many lessons can be gathered from such a project.

Originally published on Ecowatch.com

The post $300 Underground Greenhouse Grows Food Year Round; An Extraordinary Walipini appeared first on Walden Labs.

Automated Greenhouses!

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Automated Greenhouses!
Brett Bauma “Makers On Acres

GreenhousesOn this broadcast of Makers On Acres Technology, Build, and Grow Show we discuss automated greenhouses and how we can take a simple idea of sheltering plants, and turn it into a year around food producing machine.
Bringing in small technologies like the Arduino micro controllers and other sensors, we can advance our control over the plants and greenhouse environment, therefore increasing our production and freeing up time in our schedules.

GreenhousesBasic technologies like the Arduino micro controller and other systems of similar designs are an affordable solution that allows anyone the ability to develop their own systems and create a solution tailored to their unique situation. Many of these systems are open source and there are vast communities and forums available to help the new users on how to program and design their systems.

One very important factor in the design and build of our automated greenhouse is planning and purposing space correctly so that we can maximize every square inch of the greenhouse. Currently aquaponics is on the rise, and rightfully so as it is a wonderful system, but we must also plan in other systems as well. The old saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a great one for greenhouse design on a homestead or farm. If you are building a system to provide food for you and your family, you must “Hedge your bets” and diversify your growing systems. Relying solely on one system can be disastrous if that system fails. Creating multiple systems can not only provide different results, but also provide opportunity for different crops and a more vast selection of food for you and your family.

We will dive into different systems, technologies, plants, building techniques and more. We hope you will tune in and join our discussion as we dive into the world of greenhouse food production.
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A Cheap and Easy Way to Extend Your Growing Season

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Want to eat fresh home grown greens all winter long? This video shows a cheap and easy method for extending your growing season into the winter months.

This simple structure is a low tunnel. Low tunnels are called by different names in different regions. I’ve heard them referred to as a hoop houses, cloches, and cold frames. Those terms get the point across, but each each of them technically refers to something else. So for the sake of clarity, we’ll call this a low tunnel.

Components of a Low Tunnel

The structure is a simple series of hoops. I’ve seen people use PVC pipe, PVC electrical conduit, steel rebar, cattle panel, and flexible fiberglass rods (like tent poles). In my opinion, the best option is PVC – unless you have one of the other materials on hand already. A 10 foot length of 1/2 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe typically sells for under $1.50 – so it’s affordable. PVC electrical conduit is about the same cost, and it should last longer out in the elements.

My favorite method for securing the posts is driving a piece of rebar into the ground and fitting the PVC over the rebar, as is demonstrated in this video. (It’s comical to think that you could drive rebar 2 feet into the ground in my area – solid rock down there – we use pieces that are about 1 foot long, and we can usually get them about 8 inches deep.) I have also seen many people use pipe straps, screwed into the sides of their raised beds. I think the rebar method is better – especially if your beds are a few years old and the wood has started to break down. And, the rebar method can be done on any bed or row, even if there is no frame.

The final element is the cover, and this is where I’ve heard a lot of debate about which material is best…

Plastic versus Cloth as a Low Tunnel Cover

There are two common options: plastic or cloth.

Plastic sheeting allows light in to the plants, but it doesn’t allow for any air circulation or water penetration. Water may not be an issue if you’re protecting a bed that has drip irrigation installed. But because there is no air circulation – plastic is prone to overheating the tunnel on sunny winter days. If you use plastic, you need to remove or ventilate the tunnel appropriately to avoid smothering your plants with hot, humid air.

Cloth is a better option for air circulation, and water penetration. Floating row cover is a cloth material made of woven synthetic fibers that allows hot air out and allows water in – while providing insulation and light penetration similar to that of plastic film. In my relatively warm and dry climate, cloth row covers work very well for low tunnels. Be careful about using old sheets and blankets in wet weather – those can absorb water and they can actually cool the air as that water evaporates.

A couple of tips and pointers:

Climate: Take your climate into consideration when choosing the material you use to cover the tunnel. Where I live, I need to take advantage of every drop of rain that I get – so I use cloth instead of plastic. If you have abundant winter rains and you need to regulate the soil moisture – plastic might be a better option for you.
Integrity: If your low tunnel is very long, or if your garden gets a lot of wind in the winter – consider using an additional length of pipe across the top, length-wise, for structural integrity. Fix it to the hoops using twine or zip-ties – not pipe fittings.
Staples: In the video above, they staple the plastic to the raised bed frame. I would skip that step, and use rocks or bricks to weigh the plastic down instead. You’ll extend the life of the cover and make it easier to ventilate on warm days by avoiding the staples.
Lights: You can use a string of Christmas lights inside the tunnel for added warmth. If you do this, you will want to use the old school incandescent lights. The newer LEDs are more efficient, but they don’t offer much warmth. In this case, you want less efficient bulbs that use more energy, and generate more heat.
Survival Blankets: You can add a survival blanket on top of your cover for extra insulation on very cold nights. Face the shiny, aluminized side down – and remove the blanket to let the sun warm the soil again on the following day.

Check out this PDF from the Colorado Master Gardener Program and the Colorado State University Extension. They tested a low tunnel with 4-mil plastic sheeting, a survival blanket, and a 25 light string of C-7 Christmas lights. With all three of these measures in place, they consistently raised the temperature inside the tunnel between 18 to 30 degrees. You can read or download the PDF here: Frost Protection and Extending the Growing Season.

To see some more creative ways to add heat inside a structure during the winter, read these two great articles from our writing contest. This one is technical: Mad Scientist Works For Greenhouse Heating Independence Down To -25F, and this one is practical: Saving Heat in a Small Winter Hoop House.

If you want to eat fresh home grown greens this winter, but you don’t want to build a structure… Here’s a much smaller scale solution that you can put into place right on your kitchen counter: Grow Sprouts and Microgreens Indoors All Winter Long.


Thanks to Natalie Donnelly, John Garlisch, and Nissa Patterson of the New Mexico State University – Bernalillo County Extension Service, for the nice video.

Thanks to David Whiting, Carol O’Meara, and Carl Wilson of the Colorado State University Extension for the PDF Frost Protection and Extending the Growing Season. Their original post can be viewed here: CMG GardenNotes.