This summer, Kellie Mast is looking forward to harvesting grapefruit, limes and maybe even olives and avocados. But she doesn’t live in Spain, she lives in Silver Creek, British Columbia.
Thanks to a funky-looking 33-foot round geodesic dome greenhouse, Mast can grow exotic produce, as well as an array of regular plants, vegetables and flowers.
“It’s not your hobby greenhouse. This is an entirely different dog,” laughs Mast, who admits the learning curve has been steep over the past year. “I’ve learned so much and still am. I don’t think I’ll ever be done.”
For the past year, the five-member Mast family has been growing their own organic produce in their Growing Dome – so far the only one of its type in the Okanagan.
The structure is made of large triangular panels and is equipped with solar power and “thermal mass” heat gathered by a large water tank. Designed by a Colorado company, Growing Spaces, the dome is intended for rugged conditions, including snow.
According to the Growing Spaces website, the geodesic domes – which come in several sizes – are also used as community gardens, educational school projects about “the living earth,” and even for meditation centers, saunas and studios.
The Masts, who moved from Edmonton two years ago, began looking for a greenhouse that would allow them to be self-sufficient. The dome promised growing conditions year-round as well as a small environmental impact.
“We really want to have clean healthy food for as much of the year as we can. We’re mostly vegetarian, so it’s very practical.” Now, the family grows tomatoes, cucumbers, a large variety of herbs, lettuces, greens, and they even have a miniature orange tree and may try bananas. Last summer, they grew melons started in the dome, situated near the Salmon River that flows through the family’s 24-acre property.
The whole family helps with everything from planting and cultivating, to seeding and harvesting. Succession planting – planting new crops on an ongoing basis – said Mast, is also a learning experience. “It’s easy to buy insecticide and spray it. Organic options aren’t as easy to discover but they are often right in your own home once you learn what they are.” Mast is pleased that she’s making connections with other organic growers who are willing to share tips.
The Mast family is thinking of one day selling some organic produce or operating a community garden, as their growing dome is capable of much higher productivity. “We’re only using 30 per cent of the available space now. There’s a lot more to it than putting up the dome. Each person does something different inside their dome. We have perimeter beds, vertical and hanging racks and a mezzanine. There’s still room for a lot more.” For Mast, the rewards are worth the work.
“I really like cutting up the food. There’s a stark difference in taste and freshness. You know there’s no junk in it.”
Published: June 22, 2010 6:00 PM