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Missing Too Many Details of How & What!
on October 16, 2011
I was very excited about getting the Biodome Garden Book. If you buy this be sure to buy the one for $9.95 version as opposed to the one for$19.95) But after having gone through the book several times I am left with many questions and concerns. This book is great for ideas about using water, stone, concrete, and a fiberglass dome to create a space for growing plants and aquatic life. The book assumes that you have solid skills in carpentry, plumbing, excavating, large aquarium management and construction design skills. The author gives the big picture and some details but leaves you or a professional to fill in many gaps and most of the details. I found most of the essential design layouts and photos to be too small and or poor quality. Half of the book is dedicated to organic gardening and to creating a 900 gallon aquarium, also information is redundant. So about half or so of the book addresses what is involved with actual building the Biodome.
The basic crux of this book is to share the idea of creating an approximately 200 square foot, 18.5' high dome greenhouse incorporating raised beds, a partial aquaponics/hydroponic system, compost bin, a worm bin, and a sink, freeaing pipes etc.
The Biodome design discussed in the book is basically building the top of a concrete and fiberglass silo on the ground, with a 900 gallon fish tank in the center. The walls of the Biodome which also serve as the walls of the raised bed and the walls of the fish tank are made of concrete silo staves which have a cable with tension that runs around the outside of these staves to secure them. The water, concrete and other stone, absorb heat during the day and release it night and during cold weather helping to stabilize temperature and humidity.
The perimeter of the Biodome is a 2.5' high raised bed. The fish tank is a 5' high 6' diameter tanks that will hold over 1,000 gallons of water.
The top of the Biodome is a fiberglass dome intended for a silo. There are openings in the bottom of this dome and a wind turbine at the top for airflow and to regulate temperature. The author seems to live in a very temperate part of Oregon. So if you experience extremely cold, snowy, humid and hot, weather you may experience limitations on growing season, and possibly problems with fish tank.
These are the questions I would like answered:
1. There is no mention of putting in a door or how to get in and out! I assume you are supposed to crawl through the ventilation window over a planting bed, or compost pile, or worm bed, or the sink??
2. The cover of the book states no electrical ventilation or humidifying system is needed, but the fish tank does need an electric pump, and no mention is made of running electricity to the Biodome or using solar panels.
3. The fish tank is made water proof by plastering with concrete. On other aquaponics and fish enthusiast forums, they mention needing to coat concrete with epoxy, pond liners, etc, in order for the concrete not to leach contaminants into the water which are possibly bad for the fish and will cause the pH to become more alkaline.
4. No mention is made of the approximate cost or amounts of materials needed for building a Biodome assuming you have the carpentry, plumbing, and excavating skills and equipment to do it all yourself. The concrete silo staves are heavy and would be very expensive to ship, if you do not have local access. the websites provided to get concrete silo staves do not provide any prices, you need to call and to get price and shipping quotes.) Also no idea of how many are needed, I guess a sales person could help you determine, but should have been included. The websites for domes include sites that want to sell you geodesic dome greenhouses for 4-6+ thousand dollars. One website suggested wants to charge you about $50 for information on how to build your own geodesic dome, greenhouse. The reviews I read about this info was that it was very basic information freely available on web with links to poor quality videos. There is one link to fiberglass silo dome manufacturer as used in the book, but again need to call and get price and shipping costs. So no idea if building this Biodome would actually save me any money than buying a prefab one, and then implementing some of the ideas and principles.
5. How much river run rock are needed to fill the grow beds 1'high?
6. Where do you get a 50 gallon fiberglass drum for the "Biofilter"? Seems a used food grade 55 gallon poly (plastic)would be much easier and cheaper to find. Recommend a dark one or paint it to reduce algae growth.
7. There are no plans on how to construct the cedar trays that are meant to fit inside the drum and hold oyster shells to filter the fish tank water. No mention of how much oyster shell is needed or where to get it or how much it costs.
8. There are photos and a small drawing of the cedar trough and hydroponic system that sits on top of the fish tank, but again no plans on how to make it, how much cedar boards to buy etc.
9. The book states that you will use concrete silo staves around the whole perimeter of walls of the growing beds, but somehow, you are to leave some out to put in a large sink with enough space under it to grow mushrooms. In a photo it looks like some sort of open concrete square fills this role, but nothing is mentioned in the book.
10. How many square feet is the walk way, so that I know how much gravel or pavers to buy? How much gravel is need for the foundation?
These are the concerns that I have:
1. The planting beds are 3' feet deep, so unless you are tall with long arms it will be difficult to reach the back of the beds.
2. The walk way for you to get around in is only 2' wide, so maneuvering with large baskets, buckets, etc will be tight fit. Also really no place to relax or sit, unless you replace the fish tank with a hot tub.
3. The hydroponic system that sits on top of the fish tank basically just lets you peer through the slats to see the fish etc. Also it seems to be about 6' across again making it difficult to access the middle of it especially when it is over 5' feet in the air.
4. The fish tank is 5' high (therefore 5' deep) has a very heavy wooden hydroponic system filled with pea gravel sitting on top of it(again how much pea gravel is needed? And what type of screening material is recommended for the bottom?) , how are you supposed to monitor what is happening in the this deep and dark tank, harvest fish to eat, share or sell, or to collect sick ones, etc.?
5. You will need more PVC pipe for the irrigation line from the fish tank to around the perimeter of the grow beds than is stated in the book (20') it will be closer to 50'. No big deal.
6. The author recommends using peat moss as a bedding material for a built in worm bin, which seems at odds with her goals of sustainability. Would be preferable to add leaves, coconut coir, cardboard, newspaper, etc.
7. Seems the windows need to be opened and closed by hand. Greenhouses can heat up very quickly, so if you are not there you could cook your plants. Many greenhouses have windows that have temperature sensitive pistons that open and close the windows automatically without electricity depending on the temperature.
8. The book basically leaves it up to you to figure out how to attach the dome to the silo staves.
So if I buy a book that on the cover states "A step-by-step guide to building.."
I expect to know how much of each component or material is needed and approximate cost to buy and ship.
Should state upfront that you need to be an experienced carpenter, plumber, excavator, and aquarium manager or can hire these in order to build and maintain.
Should have clear drawings of designs that are large enough to decipher easily, and photographs that are crisp and clear and illustrate everything explicitly.
I expect a door with exact design and directions on how to install one! And information on how to leave out silo staves for the sink.
Links to high quality videos showing construction would be very helpful.
Information on how these Biodomes function in other climates.
So some great ideas, but less building specifics than in a good Mother Earth News article on how to build something.