Here at Growing Spaces we often talk about how we have Growing Domes at over 100 schools around the world. Our founder, Udgar Parsons, grew up in England and has spent the later part of his life in the US. His multi-national background makes him naturally excited to now own an international company.
When Growing Spaces founder and co-owner Udgar Parsons moved to Colorado over 25 years ago, he was challenged trying to garden outdoors and the glass greenhouses he knew in his youth didn’t improve matters much. That’s how he came to discover and produce geodesic dome greenhouses. Now, all this time later, his invention is becoming popular in his homeland.
We’re so excited to tell the story of Real Food Wythenshawe and The Manchester College and all the wonderful work they are doing. And we admit, there’s a little bit of synchronicity in this story that makes it even more fun and personal for us.
Over the last 12 months The Manchester College in Manchester, England has been working with Real Food Wythenshawe to construct a fabulous resource for the people of Wythenshawe. They’ve coined their 26ft. diameter Growing Dome greenhouse the ‘Geodome’ which is being filled with innovative sustainable food systems to supply healthy organic food to the college.
The community Growing Dome is also an educational resource, providing rich learning experiences for children and the community. The mission of Real Food Wythenshawe is to “revive this heritage to encourage and enable Wythenshawe residents to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Low-cost and low-input sustainable growing methods are encouraged, as these will benefit not only running costs but also the environment.”
Real Food Wythenshawe’s website states that:
“The system will showcase modern indoor growing techniques, provide an example of a fully integrated high quality food producing ecosystem and demonstrate what sustainable food production can mean in an urban setting…
Students and Real Food Wythenshawe ambassadors will be involved in this exciting learning resource for schools, families and communities, demonstrating how this technology has minimal environmental impact and can produce good healthy nutritious food. Schools will be invited to encourage learning outside the classroom, through visits and workshops that inspire and intrigue pupils for the world around them. Activities will link directly to topics that are taught in the classroom and can span many subject areas such as biology, to maths, geography and art.”
So far over 35 students have been involved with the construction of the 26′ Growing Dome greenhouse and surrounding landscape as part of their Horticulture qualification.
“It’s great, … the construction and plumbing teams have been helping with the design and build of the external shell, horticultural students have been planting the nut trees and the premises officers have been helping maintain the fruit and vegetables growing in the dome. All in all nearly 50 students have been involved and we have had a visiting class of Urban Geographers from the University of Salford come and see our progress”
“I’m now working with the Youth team, gardening club and catering staff to help maintain the dome as well as use the produce. There is still a way to go but the project is really starting to gather momentum with everyone pulling together, recognising this exciting opportunity for current college students and students of the future”.
– Rachel , Food Education & Skills Coordinator
The community greenhouse has a two ring growing system (outside and interior). In the center space of the Growing Dome they have very high vertical growing structures (10′) to utilize the space. They also have a bean trellis and a hanging aquaponics growing space. The Growing Dome has a two 600 liter aquaponics specific tanks with plans for a third. There is heating under the whole floor.
Real Food Wythenshawe is working to grow food for the restaurant at the Manchester College and create their own fertilizers as well. There will be vermicomposting with the worm castings utilized as plant food, and another big nutrient source will be the waste from the fish tanks in the aquaponics system. The fish produce nitrogen rich waste which feeds all the fruits and vegetables. In addition, mushroom trays will produce carbon dioxide for the plants and provide another great food source.
Once the entire project is complete Real Food Wythenshaw shares that “Apart from the obvious food growing, the Geodome will be used as a resource to enhance awareness of connections between food, health and climate change, ‘a living classroom’. Students from local schools will come to the campus to experience the natural world around them and get involved with outdoor learning activities, such as grow your own picnic, aqua and hydroponics, food cycles, wormeries etc. Local volunteers will help to maintain the Geodome and community organisations will come to the college for a sustainability tour.”