Create your own Martian Garden

By September 30, 2016Season 9, TMRO:Space

We are joined by Mark Cusimano from The Martian Garden — We discuss what Martian Regolith is and how you can use simulated Martian Regolith to create your own Mars garden!

In Space News we have:
* Soyuz MS-02 suffers anomaly with dangerous repairs ahead
* ESA’s Rosetta Will Gently Lithobrake onto Comet 67P
* SpaceX anomaly update
* Wildfires Delay Launch And Threaten Structures at Vandenberg
* ULA announces free cubesat ride winners
* Pluto Probably Has A 100km thick Subsurface Ocean

TMRO:Space is a crowd funded show. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/tmro for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our SpacePod campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/spacepod

About Bencredible

5 Comments

  • looks like a poopin cubesats

  • […] The most recent TMRO.tv program is now available on line: Create your own Martian Garden – TMRO […]

  • Michael Chic**** says:

    First of all, thank you so much Mark and the hosts of TMRO for what you are doing. I am a passionate permaculture gardener and really into sustainability. I love space and the idea of making mars habitable.

    As for the hosts of TMRO, I am sorry for the long wall post. (I copied one of my earlier comments because I thought it was applicable here and added onto it) It may give you a good topic for a future show tho! 

    Something that bothers me about the space community is the brief talk about the greenhouses and food systems we will have on mars. You continually leave out the animals in those systems. Like it is this far off fantasy to incorporate animals into a garden. Take one of the principles from permaculture (The smartest and most resilient system to grow food and provide almost all our basic needs here on earth): nothing is wasted and everything has a purpose. Add an aquaponics system with a fishery in the greenhouse. Filter the water through an area of plant filters to remove the excess nitrogen the fish produce. Add chickens and ducks to that system. Add rabbit hutches above the chicken and duck runs. Utilize fungus and vermicomposting for treating our waste (including human) and the waste of the greenhouse. The entire system grows as sunlight and CO2 continue to be fed into it. Plus the animals are small and are prolific producers.

    The end game of the above system is fish, eggs, meat, protein, feathers, fur hides, recycled water, recycled oxygen, entertainment, pleasant sounds of running water and quacking ducks, waste management, and most importantly; the creation of healthy SOILS! A lot more than just fruits and vegetables in just about the same amount of space! Use all levels of the greenhouse. We have these systems in production already proving their effectiveness.

    The creation of plastics is not out of the question on mars. It will just have to be derived from sources other than fossil fuels. Nor is the creation of paper, textiles, animal fodder, bedding, fiber, oil, building material, etc. out of the question. We have this amazing and underutilized plant known as industrial Hemp. Grown in the greenhouse, we could use it to create the above plus much much more.

    Mark, you are completely right about the common weeds. They are the most resilient plants we could use in establishing new soil. It is actually their function in nature. They restore damaged landscapes. Then other plants find their way once the soil has regained its health. Side benefit of some of the common weeds other than great accumulation of organic matter is some hold the capacity to fix nitrogen into the soil via bacteria on their roots. Clover (which is edible) and other leguminous plants fix nitrogen removing the need to bring fertilizer. Farmers are re-learning the benefits of “cover cropping” to preserve and grow their soils.

    As for the perchlorates, I am not sure but charcoal is pretty good at filtering harmful things out of soil due to its binding capacities. We could heat the above organic matter into creating biochar. Add the biochar to the soil and you may have safer soil. Plus it retains water much better. I am not sure if it binds perchlorates*

    One last note, The mars colonists are going to have to produce their own medicine. So I’m hinting at growing medicinal herbs and start practicing alternative medicine. Many of the herbs are commonly grown in vegetable gardens today. (sending a package of seeds versus sending package of pills – one will run out) I am a Physician Assistant and see the supply chain of medication as a large barrier to a functional colony on mars.

    I also have no idea how fish would do surviving in space on the trip to mars. It would be entertaining for the astronauts to have a little fishtank though. Haha!

  • Michael Chicoine says:

    To further the above point, add pigmy goats to the above system. You now have another source of meat and a new source of dairy. I also forgot to mention fungi and mycelium to help breakdown all types of waste. Who doesn’t like a good mushroom dish?

    When building soils, composting is great… But it is labor intensive. From my studies in regenerative agriculture and permaculture, having plant material pass through a ruminant builds soil at an incredibly higher rate. Plus the animals are excellent at their jobs!

    Back to the harmful Martian soils.. An aquaponics system (fish and plants) can be used to create biomass effectively and feed the population. Once enough biomass has been created, it can be used in several ways to create soil and “dilute” the toxins in the dirt. Along with the creation of charcoal/biochar, the toxins hopefully will be neutralized. The aquaponics system does not come into contact with the Martian soil at all.

    A serious amount of greenhouse infrastructure is needed to sustainably feed the Martian colonists. I think they are going to have to Earth bank the greenhouses to preserve heat energy like people do in walapini greenhouses. They are also probably going to have different climate zones in different greenhouses in order to diversify what they can grow.

    For real life examples, check out the people on doomsday preppers using an old swimming pool as a complete aquaculture food production system. Check out Joel Salatin and how he incorporates the beneficial functions of animals to work symbiotically in order to create absurd amount of topsoil. Topsoil and dirt are entirely different things. These food systems cannot function independently on Mars. Anything that is able to be created cannot be wasted. When growing food, think big picture! [Don’t google this stuff, use Ecosia instead! They plant trees as you search the web!]

  • Hi Michael,

    Sorry for the late reply – you raised a lot of good points and I wanted to come back and give the proper amount of time for a quality reply.

    Firstly – Thank you for watching and interacting with the show! You put a lot of effort into that comment and got me thinking!
    I agree that in due course, animals should be a part of any Martian food production system. The trouble lies in keeping the ecosystem in balance. The first introduction I would make, would be to cultivate insects (mealworms/earthworms/composting worms – then possibly crickets) to be used both as a protein supplement for the crew, to help compost organic wastes, and also to feed my next introduction – fish. An aquaponics system would work wonders, as you have already described – and there are multiple examples of successful systems here on Earth. I’m not sure if the fish should be transported as frozen eggs/embryos or as live specimens but live fish can certainly adapt to microgravity (see https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/984.html)

    While clover would seem like a good option for adding nitrogen to the soil (and being edible) the benefits are all based on the assumption of having large amounts of nitrogen in the atmosphere of the habitat (‘Earth-like’ conditions). In the atmospheric design I propose for a Martian greenhouse (A CO2/O2 mix), there is negligible nitrogen in the atmosphere for nitrogen-fixing bacteria to put into the soil. This will be one of the challenges for plant (and thus, human) nutrition on Mars. An alternative is to use nitrate rich sources of regolith, or extract nitrogen from the native martian atmosphere.

    I definitely want to grow some sort of fungus on Mars too! As a vegetarian I regularly eat mushrooms for all the nutritional benefits they provide. They also represent a critical part in the food chain in the role of decomposer of organic wastes. In fact, I may look into how to grow my own mushrooms at home.. in preparation for Mars!

    Finally, another interesting thing to note – bumblebees can maintain normal activity/flying in as low as 1/2 a bar of atmospheric pressure (half of what we have on Earth today). They can also survive at lower pressures, as long as extra oxygen is pumped into the system. (http://www.gravitationalandspacebiology.org/index.php/journal/article/view/565) Hopefully honey bees also perform in a similar way, and then we’ll have both free pollination and a source of sugars to eat! And beeswax!

    If only I knew of someone who designed a low-pressure Martian greenhouse atmosphere supplemented with extra oxygen… oh wait. I do.. Me.

    Cheers!

Leave a Reply