Space Gardening 101
Did you know that the astronauts who work and live in space stations orbiting the earth are also into growing their own organic veg? I must admit I was a bit confused when I heard this. Did they transport tons of soil to a room in the space station? Where do they get sunlight from?
Well, apparently I was right, it is quite complicated
The space gardeners started out by using things called ‘grow bags’ or ‘plant pillows’ and LED grow lights. These had limited success; only around half their attempts produced vegetables. But luckily, instead of just exploring the final frontier, NASA also started exploring ways to grow fruit and veg in space, and figured it all out. They now use soil-less hydroponic growth methods, and although not always successful, it is doing pretty well considering the problems space gardeners have to deal with – like drainage in zero gravity and how plants will know which way is up, so they know which way to grow. On earth they have the sun as reference point. In space, who knows what’s up or down? Space gardeners also had to worry about whether there are pathogens or microbes unknown to earth gardeners in the crops, so they had to freeze their produce and take it to earth the first few times, just to make sure it’s okay to eat.
It’s not all scientific
Whether you are growing organic produce hydroponically on earth or beyond the atmosphere, a lot of it does come down to science these days. No matter where you are, growing hydroponic produce requires specially constructed lights, carefully researched nutrients, controlled temperatures and atmospheric conditions, and meticulous tending. It is half technology, and half DIY – with a whole lot of heart thrown in.
In space, or on mother earth
The very important lesson of the day is that if the space gardeners can grow healthy and delicious veg all the way in outer space, despite obvious challenges, then surely you can grow a few things in your backyard.