Design

REASON TO LOVE OTTAWA: Because a biodome in Brewer Park is extending our growing season

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

By  MATT HARRISON

Volunteer Marcel Bélanger tends the gardens in the biodome, which is located in Old Ottawa South. Photo by Luther Caverly.
Volunteer Marcel Bélanger tends the gardens in the biodome, which is located in Old Ottawa South. Photo by Luther Caverly.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants more greenhouses in the North — he announced that during his annual summer trip to the Arctic — in order to provide northern communities with fresh, affordable produce. Around the same time, volunteers were hard at work on a geodesic dome in Brewer Park in Old Ottawa South.

The biodome, which is the size of a large play structure, will soon grow food year-round, explains project leader Michael Oster.

Costing about $48,000, most of which came from a City of Ottawa grant, the dome isn’t just a unique greenhouse. Rather, it’s a domed ecosystem, the first of its kind in eastern Canada.

Plans for the biodome include an aquaponics system that will use waste water from a fish tank to water the plants. Solar panels will reduce dependency on energy, while a web of pipes under the floor will circulate heat, moderate temperatures, and prevent frost heave. Gardeners practise companion planting, choosing varieties that help one another by warding off insects or providing nutrients.

“[The dome] shows families and communities that this can be done and should be done,” Oster says, adding that biodomes have many advantages over conventional greenhouses. But the dome is not intended to replace a trip to the grocery store. Rather, as a plaque beside it reads, it is designed to “teach, learn, and inspire.” It is a showcase for what’s possible — even in the Arctic.