By December 14, 2013 Read More →

Surviving Underground: Planting Your Own Secret Underground Garden

Written by: Philip Masterson

underground gardenWith the worsening economy, coupled with the changing climate, it is very difficult to keep a family alive. Also, the looming danger of terrorism and the collapse of government, will give anyone a nightmare. I, for one, will not be waiting for the disasters to approach before I prepare my family for the inevitable. With a wife and two kids, I have to plan carefully how the family can sustain itself with or without disaster. An underground garden or an indoor garden is one way to start living off the earth. It can also serve as a small private place if planted with various fast growing indoor trees, maybe Ruby Red Grapefruits? I started mine years ago and by reading gardening books and many trial and error, I found out the advantages and disadvantages of growing such gardens. However, the possibility of feeding my family from my own efforts, and saving a lot of money at the same time, is more than enough to persuade me that the garden is worth pursuing. Here are a few things I did for my garden.

Underground Greenhouse

We have a large basement that can hold a decent-sized indoor garden. However, I worried about the structure of the house and if it can take the regular flow of water on the soil. So, instead of using the basement, I decided to use the backyard as my location for the underground garden called walipini.

Developed 20 years ago in South America, a walipini is an affordable and effective alternative to glass greenhouse. It was developed so that growers can maintain a garden even through winter. The walipini takes advantage of the principles of passive solar heating with earth-sheltered building.

According to Tree Hugger, a walipini is, “a rectangular hole in the ground 6’ to 8’ deep, covered by plastic sheeting.”

To capture the heat coming from the sun, an angled, two-layer plastic roof must be built with a thick wall of rammed earth at the back of the building and a lower wall at the front. By building the greenhouse using the earth as walls, it taps into the thermal mass of the earth. It requires much less energy to heat the interior of walipini. The whole structure only costs around $300 and is functional the whole year.


Watering the Underground Garden

People think that underground gardens are difficult to irrigate. Most gardeners use hydroponics systems to save time in watering their plants. There are kits available online and I found detailed instructions in building hydroponics gardens.

However, there is a much simpler way to water plants without shunning off soil all together. Using PVC pipes and careful planning, I built an underground sprinkler system for my underground garden!

First, I dug trenches just a few inches deep through the garden. I also have plants on pots and large containers. I just drilled holes on their sides just enough to fit the pipes and hoses through them. The trenches are connected to a single trench that runs along on end of the garden.

I laid 3/4 inch PVC pipe on the trenches. For the plants on pots and containers, I inserted soaker hoses through the holes to provide a little bit of flexibility. I connected these with three-way pipe connectors, using rubber cement to glue the pipes to the connectors. For the soaker hoses, I used two-way hose splitters. I closed the holes on the posts with rubber cement to prevent leakage. Note that it is not recommended to connect more than 100 feet of hose or pipe together. Drip irrigation loses pressure when it is too long. End caps are then placed on the ends of the pipes and hoses.

I drilled 1/16 holes into the pipes and hoses to drip water. The spacing varies with each plant. But, groups of holes should be three to five feet apart to keep the integrity of the pipes and hoses. Of course, the sprinkler system should be automatic. I connected a backflow preventer to the faucet and placed a timer over it. I installed a pressure regulator on the timer and attached a garden hose to the pressure regulator. The garden hose then connects my faucet to the irrigation system. It’s just a matter of setting the timer to turn the sprinkler on and off.



Before building my underground garden, I already had plants and herbs in mind. The goal of my garden is to feed my family with organic produce so that was my priority. Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are really easy to plant in lighted areas. I placed them in the sunny part of my garden. I typically use fluorescent bulbs during winter when the sunlight is not enough. I was careful about planting root crops as they root deep and they can ruin the walipini by softening the ground. However, radishes do not root very deeply and I was still able to plant some in boxes above the ground. I also planted potatoes in buckets. The key to planting root crops is to provide them with a steady supply of compost.

A friend also said mushrooms are great especially if the garden has dark and moist corners. Since mine is mostly lit throughout the year, I did not consider planting them. I added dwarf French beans early in the winter so they can soak in the sun during spring.

Of course, organic food need not be bland. Herbs are surprisingly easy to grow in underground or indoor gardens. During spring, I plant lots of basil as it likes the sun. I also add oregano if I have time. I’ve also planted parsley in the past springs. During summer, I have the most success with chervil. During winter, I was able to grow tarragon taken from my outdoor garden. Just recently, I planted bay as it grows easily regardless of the season.

Starting the underground garden was a challenge for me as I did everything on my own, with the occasional help from the family. As the garden grows, I slowly learned about the value of food and how easy it is to grow with enough effort. Prepper or not, I believe having a garden helps a lot, not only with food and preparedness, but also as a productive hobby. I gave my two kids their own little spots in the garden so they can plant whatever they want. My wife also helps a lot since she seems to have the green thumb. Gardening relaxes me a lot, especially after work. It sure beats sitting in front of the TV drinking beer!




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9 Comments on "Surviving Underground: Planting Your Own Secret Underground Garden"

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  1. Salty Dawg says:

    I would like to know more specifics about the ground. What type of soil was the green house dug in to?
    Or a more broad and general question would be what general location was this produced. I am curious about collapse and sturdiness of walls for retention. If the author would want to answer some questions he can contact me directly or go through Tom at APN.
    Thank you for the article it has set things in motion.

  2. MARGARET says:

    I was a little surprised that there was no illustrations, or pictures showing your intent- Am I to believe you just dig a hole in your yard and cover it with plastic wrap, for children and pets to fall into? I see some dimensions, and descriptive use for pvc, but not much else. For the di-it-yourselfer, this all seems a bit vague…

  3. Planting Your Own Secret Underground Garden. Looks like a great article to expand on.

  4. 20five says:

    Also, I’m thinking that the author does not live in the northern tier of the US, or, at least, anyplace where the frost line is deeper than 10″ – 12 “. In many places along the northern tier (including N NE, N IA, N IL, N IN, N OH, N PA, etc, at the southern end, and every place north of those places, the historic frost line is measured in feet. The author should have addressed this issue.

  5. LESTER A. MEADE says:

    I would like to supervise the building of a very large prepper site in NORTHERN MONTANA. I would put 2000 VETS to
    work from 5 to 20 years. I would like to build a PREPPER CITY! Cost $200 million. It would rival the FORTS of Europe.
    Top security, Airport, 4 space needals, 20 miles of GREENHOUSE, a
    central aboveground FORT , and underground FORT, 9 helocopter ports,
    full hospital, full dental, 3 schools. 2000 homes, 5 levels of security. Full underground sewage disposal, water purification plant.
    Work Building for all trades including a very large Blacksmith shop. 4 very large armories with thousands of Ancient Wepons. Ammunition and guns will be obsolite after 50 years of civilization decline. A full college library with over a million books. The internet and cell phone era will not exist in the future! A 10 year supply of food for 20,000 people. Secure area for livestock + 10 year supply of food for them. 2 year supple of propaine, 10 year supple of coal. 1000 lg solar panals. 1 million gallons of secure water. 1000 humves,2000 trailbikes, 2000 4 wheelers. 2 year supply of gasolene and deisal. 400 horse pulled wagons. 600 horses, 2000 chickens, 500 milk cows. Enough feed for them for 10 years.

  6. Survival Pro says:

    This is a great idea. I have read a few articles about underground gardening. If you want to know more about this, you can search for videos on the internet. Great post. Thank you for posting this up.

  7. Loura says:

    What a great idea! I had not heard about this before.