Astrogardening, the pound shop and life on Mars


So in the pound shop the other day I bought a tomato planter pack of cherry tomato seeds, compost and a ‘mini-greenhouse’. The whole thing was the size of an egg-box, and I did wonder how they had managed to squeeze in a greenhouse. Even a mini one.

For some days I didn’t open the planter pack, just left it sitting in the kitchen surrounded by hammers and screwdrivers, sandpaper and coffee debris. Anticipation was replaced by realism. There’s a certain pressure in planting green things. Over time I’ve learnt I stand the best chance of success with plants that withstand extreme environmental fluctuation, and I get the feeling tomato plants are not in this category. The instructions do not reassure: ‘Add some water but not too much’. Couldn’t they be more precise?

After two sunny days in a row, I open it up and find the ‘mini-greenhouse’ is in fact the plastic bubble that everything was wrapped in. OK. Should have seen that one coming. There’s also a black plastic tray, and a small plastic bag with dirt in it. I follow the instructions until I come to the bit about scattering the sachet of seeds. I look for a sachet. Can’t see it. I turn over the bits of plastic, empty the dirt into the tray and sift it. No. Definitely. No seeds.

In a way, this is a relief. I got my moneysworth walking home from the pound shop imagining the amazing cherry tomatoes I would grow. Thanks to the missing seeds, I’ve avoided the awful moment when the seeds hatch out and die, or even worse grow for a dizzy few weeks, then die.

Towering above my lowly attempt to grow cherry tomatoes is the ambitious plan of ‘astrogardeners’ Louisa Preston and Vanessa Harden, who are saving up to start life on Mars. They have researched the kinds of plants that might grow there, and aim to mine and melt frozen underground water to sustain them. Sadly their greenhouse is also plastic, if rather fancier than one from pound shop: it is modelled on the geodesic dome at HI-SEAS in Hawaii. But best of all Louisa and Vanessa will not face the trauma of watering the plants themselves, a gardening Mars Rover will do it for them. The bill to send their package of seeds and Rover to the red planet comes rather more than a quid, and to support it they have a fundraiser which you can read about here. It’s a fascinating project, and I hope they get there — or at least, that the gardening Mars Rover gets there. A transferable side effect, perhaps: will Garden Rovers one day help water your back garden? It could make growing your own more popular, and more fun! Perhaps I’ll wait until the pound shop throws in a mini-Rover, then give this one another go.

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3 thoughts on “Astrogardening, the pound shop and life on Mars

  1. Maybe we should build such structure on artica, before we will do it on Mars. So can we learn how to operate in an isolated community with high tech equipment, without unnecessary risking people’s lives.


    • Actually I had an email from the scientist, and it’s possible the funding is more for an earth-based taster-project at this stage – but if you look at, they seem pretty serious about doing this kind of stuff long term. Presumably with unpeopled missions though, at least for a bit…


  2. Pingback: Under a dome of plastic, sparklers and cherry belles | ecrecipe

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