Naropa University Greenhouse Conducts Valuable Research

Vines, Fig, and Lemon Grass growing in a Growing Dome greenhouse

We recently received an update from Jason Gerhardt at Naropa University Greenhouse in Boulder, CO on the current projects going on in their 22′ Growing Dome named the William D. Jones Community Greenhouse and… we were stunned that so many amazing things were going on in their greenhouse! Not only are the projects prolific, but they are unique, specialized and culturally and ecologically significant. Congratulations to the community at Naropa University. Lovely work:

As of 2012 the primary users of the Naropa University Greenhouse are the permaculture students. Due to growing interest in permaculture under the instruction of Jason Gerhardt Naropa now has two sections of the Introduction to Permaculture class each year and one section of Permaculture Design. Students who successfully complete these classes receive a Permaculture Design Course Certificate from Permaculture Institute USA.

The Naropa University Greenhouse is the living, learning laboratory for the students in these classes to gain practical experience maintaining, designing, and participating in the operations of a small-scale ecological agriculture system. With that said, the main yield from this system is educational quality. Small quantities of food are also given to the Naropa Café, especially in the spring, and we are growing medicinal herbs, namely passionflowers, for sale to Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary in downtown Boulder. The goals with this small income generation are twofold, the income helps with the upkeep of the greenhouse itself, and it gives the students experience in sustainably producing items for sale from soil, water, and care.

We are also using the greenhouse as a space to conduct valuable research. The Naropa Greenhouse is host to the Boulder Fruit and Nut Preservation Regis-Tree, a project that seeks to identify, document, research, and preserve the heritage perennial food plants of Boulder, Colorado. We are actively preserving heritage fruit tree varieties of Boulder County and have an ever-growing nursery at the greenhouse. Students gain experience raising fruit trees via grafting, as well as participating in a community research project to preserve agricultural biodiversity.

Additionally we are performing research on ancient forms of irrigation for small spaces. Unglazed clay ollas (closed bottom pots) are used as primary irrigation for half of the greenhouse and we have established a cross-curricular relationship with the pottery class at Naropa for the pottery students to build these simple irrigation devices for the greenhouse as class projects.

Students conducting research in a Growing Dome greenhouse

Aside from all this and a few other active research projects (comparative greenhouse design research with local greenhouse company via indoor climate monitoring, and compost tea research), the greenhouse serves as a thriving example of ecological food production that students interact with on a weekly basis. We have a subtropical food forest thriving in the greenhouse and 65 species of edible and medicinal plants grown inside throughout the year. In short, it’s a wonderful space to behold!

Perennial species grown: Fig, Lemon, Kumquat, Pomegranate, Pineapple Guava, Passionfruit, Passionflower, Tea, Spineless Nopales, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Perennial Tulsi, White Sage, Ginger, Gotu Kola, Chinese Water Chestnut, Arrowhead, Watercress, Water Celery, Aquatic Mint, Azolla, Taro, Sacred Lotus, Strawberry, Yacón, Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Pineapple Sage, French Sorrel, Wood Sorrel, Society Garlic, Sweet Potato, and Shiitake Mushroom.

Visit the William D. Jones Community Greenhouse:
 William D. Jones Community Greenhouse

Learn more about Naropa University:

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author avatar
Kyle joined the Growing Spaces team in 2015, and enjoys being involved in all the exciting projects and developments happening around here!I graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 2009 and moved to Gunnison, Colorado to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies. After graduating from Western State Colorado University, I moved back to my home town Pagosa Springs. Since moving back home in 2013, I have been working to develop a farm in Arboles. In my spare time, one may find me backpacking in the wilderness, cruising on a mountain bike, slacklining in the park, or skiing Wolf Creek. I also enjoy creating art when I am not outdoors. The mediums that I enjoy working with are yarn, canvas and paint, and clay. I have been experimenting with aquapoinics and am always excited to share knowledge on the subject with others. I joined the Growing Spaces team in 2015, and enjoy being involved in all the exciting projects and developments happening around here!

1 Comment

  • Great work! The information about the plants and the green house provided here is extensive. Researches on ancient form of irrigation can be very helpful. Growing herbs for small income is incredible process to upkeep the green house.

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