An update from Eileen Weinsteiger the Shumei Natural Agriculture Garden Manager
“Seven years ago when the Shumei/Rodale Team was designing the new Shumei Natural Agriculture Demonstration Garden to showcase a small homestead and Shumei Natural Agriculture principles it was imperative to include a unique greenhouse. We wanted a greenhouse that supported sustainability, efficiency, art, beauty, the Rodale mission and the Shumei Natural Agriculture philosophy. Growing Spaces geodesic domes fulfilled our mission, greenhouse needs and provided an educational element for visitors to our demonstration gardens. The dome design is new to many visitors so they have the opportunity to see first hand the wonderful attributes of the Growing Dome. The 22’ Growing Dome that we purchased seven years ago has proven that extreme outdoor temperatures are buffered by the quality of the efficient components. This was a very cold year for our area here in Pennsylvania, we experienced temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit in January and February 2014, our lows in the greenhouse were just below freezing. Although we lost some of our sensitive warm loving plants, hardy greens and herbs did not succumb to the harsh winter tundra-like conditions. Because this is an un-heated greenhouse we winterize the greenhouse and keep plants cozy during the extreme cold conditions, by mulching the plants and the perimeter glazing at soil level of the Growing Dome in the growing beds with thick layers of straw. Next winter straw bales will be placed on the exterior walls of the Growing Dome to provide additional insulation. The greenhouse is used to start plants for the Shumei Natural Agriculture gardens, hold tender plants and grow hardy greens during the winter months.
For me the Growing Dome in winter is my way to connect with the natural world, a place of solace where I can feel and smell the vibrancy of the living soil. To grow food in the winter is a way to enhance my connectedness and appreciate my link and love for the beauty of the environment. The added bonus is supplementing my diet with greens grown in pure soil, a gateway to health both physically and mentally. Most of our organic vegetables that we consume in the winter months are shipped in from California, Mexico, and Florida so growing greens in the Growing Dome is very important on many levels to Shumei Natural Agriculture. By growing hardy greens we have the satisfaction that we are contributing to a more sustainable life style and helping to minimize the pollution problem. I feel that the Seasonal Affective Disorder that plagues so many in the winter months may be minimized by working with plants, water and the soil in a beautiful structure such as the Growing Dome greenhouse. Working in the soil, feeling its energy has a very positive and healing effect on the senses.”