Exotic harvests: The Mast family grows grapefruit, limes and many other fruits & vegetables

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

James Murray/observer

Comments

  1. I have been wanting one of these for a couple years…. but I live in Prince George. Do you think it would work here? It’s much colder than where you are.

    • Hello Tammy,

      Thank you so much for your interest in our Growing Domes. We actually have a very happy customer in Prince George that purchased a Dome 3-4 years ago and it is working out very well for them! We also realize that there are a lot of micro-climates in your area so there are many variables to consider. The number of sunny days you have is one thing to keep in mind, as well as night time temperatures and types of plants you are wanting to have in your Dome during the winter season. Check out this helpful information on our site: https://geodesic-greenhouse-kits.com/gardening_winter_growing_cooling.php. As long as you have at least 4 hours of sunlight per day you should not have to use supplemental heat. We can also recommend a heater if that is necessary for your situation. The Growing Dome uses approximately a third less heat then a regular greenhouse. The Dome captures the sun during the day and then slows down the heat loss at night through the use of the insulation. It is an average of 30 degrees warmer inside the dome then oustide at night!

      I hope this helps and we would love to talk to you and answer any additional question you may.

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