A few weeks ago, just for fun, I started wondering what extremes people will go to to garden. You hear of soldiers in Iraq having little garden plots, and I’ve seen my share of photos of fire escape gardens in Manhattan, but for some reason, I wanted to go a little more extreme. So I did a little digging, sent out a few emails, and hit a jackpot. Behold, the garden at Australia’s Davis Station in ANTARCTICA. That’s right, Antarctica. Those are the lengths I go to for you people. Because I love you.
The following words and photos are from the source: “Hi, I’m Darryl Seidel, one of the plumbers and manager of the hydroponics this year (2012) at the Australian Antarctic Division’s Davis Station, Antarctica. The role of the hydroponics manager is just one of many community jobs on station. I had never done any hydroponics until I got a job in Antarctica, my experience with gardening really only consists of small vegetable and flower patches at home in Adelaide, Australia. The challenge it poses is one of the main reasons I wanted to take it on.
“Our hydroponics set up consists of two lined shipping containers joined together to form 3 rooms. Our goal with hydroponics is primarily hobby and morale based, as we don’t grow enough produce to feed the entire station. The station population over summer can be over 100, and in winter anywhere from 16 to 25 people. This season we have 21 staying over winter (April – November), 14 of these are in our hydroponics crew. Hydroponics at Davis has a real nice community feel about it, if there is a problem, there is always more than enough people on hand to help fix it!
“The winter temperatures at Davis vary greatly over winter depending on the weather outside. Clear days can bring temps of -30 degrees Celsius (-22F) and winds up to 100 knots (185 kmh or 115 mph), with an average temperature around -20 deg C (-4F). This certainly eliminates trying to grow anything outdoors!
“We are only allowed to grow edible produce due to quarantine and space restrictions, which this season includes iceberg and cos lettuce, varieties of tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers, capsicums (bell peppers) and a range of herbs. We try to spend as much time in ‘the garden’ as we can because it is usually 27 degrees (80F) and 60% humidity!
“We roster two people on per week to monitor the plants twice daily and also have two crew members who look after seeding and propagation. Every season our crops are removed and incinerated, including the media in which the crops are grown, to help prevent the spread of disease and so we don’t introduce any non-native species into the Antarctic environment.
“Keeping the water and building from freezing is our main challenge, being hydroponic and in Antarctica there aren’t many (if any) diseases to affect the plants. Around mid June we had a ‘door malfunction’, which let the heat out and the cold in for 12 hours. Most of our crop was lost due to extreme cases of frost, amazingly the majority of the herbs and lettuce survived! But we’ve started again and have bounced back stronger than before! In the 8 months that we have been running hydroponics we have harvested over 60 kg (132 pounds) of fresh produce.”
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