How To Build an Earth-Sheltered Greenhouse


I had a dream once. - I am standing in a vast green summer field looking down into the earth. The ground is a large glass roof in the shape of a cross. I can see tropical plants and seedlings flourish in the warm, light flooded space beneath. There is a sacredness to the space that is breathtaking. - I woke up and remembered both the beauty and impossibility of the vivid dream. Plants growing happily underneath the earth? Can't be.

I met my farmer friend Verena a few weeks later and my dream came up during a conversation. She said, “Yeah, it's called an earth-bermed greenhouse. You can build such a thing and it's been done before.” Really? Well then, I thought, let's make a dream come true.

It took me a while to find the person who was willing to embark on the adventure with me. My friend Jesse, a natural builder who is always on the lookout for new territories to explore, gave in to the calling.

What was supposed to take a couple of months at the most turned into a year long journey, as he ended up not only building a practical and functioning earth-sheltered greenhouse, but a piece of green architecture that feels and looks like the sacred space I dreamed about three years earlier.

We used the basic building plans from Mike Oehler's book The Earth Sheltered Greenhouse for the layout and material list.

An earth-bermed greenhouse is best build into an already existing South facing hill with full sun exposure. We started clearing shrubs and fallen trees from an area close to the house matching these conditions and decided on a 16x16 foot growing space. Oehlers's plans include digging out a 3-4 foot deep “cold sink “ at the South side of the greenhouse. A space that is designed to allow cold air to settle into at night, rather than hovering over your tender seedling that are growing in the work space.

1/7/2015 2:09:11 PM

This is the most effective way to construct a green house north of the Mason/Dixon line. By adding insulation to the walls and footer, you could use it to grow all year long. Or at least cold weather vegetables in far northern climates. Nice article that should be well received by many.

1/7/2015 1:55:31 PM

Hello~ I just wanted to express my gratitude for the wonderful ideas and specific materials used. It's very helpful information, for my creation of an "Earth Womb." Your creation is very beautiful and it truly shows dedication. I really enjoyed the writing style (the voice) in the article. When reaching the end of the article, I was deeply touched/connected by your communication and expression. Thank You. I wanted to reach out and touch the writer, as they have touched me. <3 :)

1/7/2015 11:47:45 AM

Great little read and a wonderful project. Thank you for the article

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