The Garwood’s Double Dome Story

Bob & Kate Garwood’s Growing Dome Greenhouses sit at about 8,200ft elevation below the picturesque Collegiate Peaks in Buena Vista, Colorado. Their Growing Dome journey, or might we say journeys began in 2014, not long after Kate’s retirement, when they stumbled upon Growing Spaces at the Chaffee County Garden and Home Show. Kate stated that before retirement, she “was never really a gardener.” It was impossible to find the time in her 60-hour workweek.

The Garwood’s 18 & 26′ Growing Dome Greenhouses

You might ask yourself how someone who was “never really was a gardener” found herself with not one but two greenhouses. Well, according to Kate, the answer was simple, “peas.” They didn’t have enough room to grow all of the peas they wanted (10 pea plants) and other varieties of fruits and vegetables to eat.

“If someone is interested in buying a Growing Dome, they should first think about how much they want to grow. In most cases, it would be worth it to just go for the bigger one.” – Kate.

In Bob and Kate’s case, they started with an 18′ greenhouse and added a 26-foot dome in 2016, just two short years after getting the first.

Gardening In the Rocky Mountains

Bob & Kate Garwood with their dog Sweetie in their 26′ Growing Dome

In the past seven years of year-round gardening, Kate said they “have never heated either of their greenhouses,” On one occasion, they heated their above-ground pond with a cattle tank heater. Kate said one December, they came back from a trip to MN to find the door open and their above-ground pond frozen 6 inches deep. Even after all of that, her cold-hardy plants made a full recovery. Even her pond plants survived the great freeze.

Kate said one of the ways they can go heat-free all winter is by providing their plants with an extra bit of protection. On the days when they predict the inside of their Dome will drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, she covers the plants with Agribon, removing it in the mornings and replacing it when the sun goes down.

Pesky Finch Problems

Hardware cloth in the vents

Every greenhouse gardener experiences some pest problems at some point in their gardening adventure. For Bob & Kate, it wasn’t just aphids and pill bugs. She struggled with a protected species of bird called a house finch. House finches aren’t your average small birds. They are loud, and the females like to keep the same nest for several years. Once they make a home somewhere, they stay there for as long as possible, sometimes longer than ten years. The worst part is that they use their excrement to build their nests poop
where they live, and they wanted to live in the Garwood Growing Domes.

“They are the worst and the dirtiest problem. I would rather have raised beds full of bugs.” – Kate.

Luckily they have some advice for anyone else who has, or may have, finch problems. The first was to install hardware cloth over all of your vents to prevent the finches from getting into the domes, where the finches build their nests behind the hubs or in the vents. The second thing was a tip from a fellow dome owner who recommended hanging CDs or some reflective disks in the open vents and aiming your fans at them so the CDs rotate frequently. It annoys the finches and forces them to retreat.

Advice from the Infrastructure and Maintenance Man

The Infrastructure & Maintenance Man – Bob Garwood

If you haven’t guessed it up to this point, Kate does all of the gardening, but that is not to say Bob isn’t an integral part of their Growing Domes, as well. He plays a critical role as the “Infrastructure and Maintenance Man.”

Bob has made many additions to their Growing Dome. To name just a few, he has added a chain he extended from hub to hub that Kate uses to hang flower baskets or gardening knick-knacks and the cucumbers use to climb. He has also built nifty fan mounts to hang their oscillating electric fans. Bob also figured out an easy way to install “fence walls” in the beds for supporting those peas and other climbing plants, using two stakes, some left-over fencing, and some wire to secure the fencing to the stakes.

“It is really handy having an infrastructure and maintenance guy. We try to maintain our Dome the way we maintain our home. It is absolutely worth the effort.” – Kate. 

If something is going on in the greenhouse, Bob is the first one on it. His advice for fellow infrastructure and maintenance folks and Dome owners in general is:

“The key to keeping a Dome running smoothly is preventative maintenance. If a fan starts making noise, oil it before it fails. If the tank starts getting dirty, roll up your sleeves and clean it before it becomes impossible to clean.”

For emptying the tank

Bob and Kate clean their above-ground pond about once a year. They use a small hole he created at one end of the tank to feed hosing to the tank quicker and more efficiently. Then the hole is capped with a cover when not being used. This trick was taught to him by one of “The Aphids,” Lee Schilling, who also provided the Garwoods with the tip about hanging the CDs to repel the finches.

The Aphids

Our main story in this month’s newsletter was about community, so it is only fitting that we share a bit of the community that Bob and Kate have found through Growing Spaces. They are part of a small group with two other couples: Lee & Carolyn Schilling and Ken & Cheryl Eigisti, and they call themselves “The Aphids.”

They help each other in all sorts of ways. They order seeds and products from the Pond Guy ( together to save on shipping costs. Carolyn, Cheryl, and Kate do the same when ordering water plants for the above-ground tanks. When someone goes out of town, they watch each other’s greenhouses and help to water the plants. They share ideas and advice. Kate said, “All of the Aphids had their Growing Domes built by the same guy, but they are all unique on the inside.”

A Life-Changing Experience

Having the Growing Domes was Kate’s saving grace during the pandemic. In general, the greenhouses have changed their lives. In a place where they are so isolated, they can’t always get access to the food they want, and now they can just grow it.

“If you want to do your share for our environmental concerns, the Growing Dome is the way to go. Everything we grow is organic, and we started everything, except our huge grapevines, from seed. Instead of going to the grocery store for basil and only using half of it while the other half turns to green goo in the refrigerator, we just take what we need out of the Domes. Now we don’t waste food! Growing Domes are wonderful, and we can’t say enough good things about them.” – Kate.

You can find all of our Featured Growing Dome’s highlighted in our monthly newsletter “The Happy Grower,” on our social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), and in our blog. At the end of the year, we create an annual calendar that includes every Dome of the Month. We send them to all Dome of the Month participants, along with a gift of Growing Spaces gardening goodies! Apply here.

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