256. 5 Garden Herbs for Flu Season | Geodesic Domes and Greenhouses from Growing Spaces | Lem Tingly | Pagosa, Springs, CO

Growing Spaces Domes photos

I start this interview reading an article that Jason Stuck submitted to me to link on my website. I knew listeners would enjoy it and gain value from the article, but I also asked that someone from Growing Spaces come on the show and talk about their awesome Geodesic Dome Greenhouses.

5 Garden Herbs for Flu Season

Look forward to learning how to garden as I go, and learning from customers.

Well, I can relate to that, we have a lot in common that way.

So you guys are in Montana?

Yes, my show is great because I have awesome guests and they are interested in Green jobs and I call them green future growers, because they are interested in learning about 

they’re kind of visionaries and entrepreneurs who can make a green business as much as growing a green planet.

Agents of Change

I think that fits right in with what we are trying to do here. We call them “agents of change” Where we highlighted some of these green businesses that are 

non-profits trying to build a sustainable feature

how they use the products.

More focused on them and how they use the dome. I think that fits in with some of your listeners.

I was curious how many listeners you have.

Well, I guess when it comes to podcasting, I guess it’s a bit difficult to really tell. I know my stats say that I get about 1500 downloads per episode. But how many actually subscribers I have? I don’t know where you get those stats?

But Google Analytics says I get 1000-1500 people going to my website each month, but then they seem to leave right away. Like 60 seconds and they’re gone.  I think they want more video then audio.

So last Christmas my husband and I put together this Free Garden Course last Christmas break and pounded out the first 6 lessons, but I’m kind of stuck on the other 6. But now I’m close. I did actually reach out on the phone and talk to my listeners and I have had several listeners on the show. Often they have more experience then I do, kind of like my husband who’s goal is to grow as much of our produce as he can. 

We are in the same process, we have

  • a lot of words
  • need more videos
  • infographics

I was listening to a show on promoting your website the other day and he was big on infographics. I go back and forth on my show notes, it doesn’t take much more to do the typing while I am editing the audio. Which I like to do my own audio, I feel like that helps me it’s good for me to listen to the interviews multiple times so I can synthesize what my guests say with what we do here in the garden.

How long are they usually?

Well, my ideal is 35 minutes. But because I am on PRN.fm who needs a file of 53-58 minutes. My listeners like longer episodes because they like the content.

Lem Tingley Growing Spaces Owner

 Welcome to the Show today and here’s Lem Tingley from Growing Spaces!

I’m the owner. We’re based in Pagosa Springs. My wife and I bought the company from the owners Puja and Udgar Parsons they developed the growing dome almost 30 years ago after working with Buckminster Fuller and John Denver at the Windstar Ranch out in Aspen Colorado.

It’s a geodesic greenhouse kit that allows you to grow food year round even in extreme locations like Montana or Colorado!

I think someone reached out to me. I know my listeners are definitely interested in extending their season. One thing I have learned is that in some ways it is actually easier to grow in Montana then a lot of other places because we don’t have the bugs but I am chomping at the bit for some greens. 

I generally don’t have to buy produce from August until about November anymore. I finally bought my first bag of produce the other day and what happens they have the romaine recall.

  Janet and I first met Bjorn Oliviusson

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

My mom, got a plot she would take us there and grow our own vegetables. 

not a whole lot. We would bring those vegetables home and eat them ourselves. It was a short growing season out in Mass but it was nice to have that opportunity in the town that I grew up.

Tell us about how you bought the Growing Spaces 

I’m an engineer


48 years old Just kind of always  had that entrepreneurial bug. I realy wanted to do something that helps

something with the

  • environment
  • sustainable living

Looking at companies that

photovoltaic and other sustainable tech


looking to retire

put their business up on the market

The produce being an energy efficient net zero design really attracted me to the product and company to 

help promote a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle through the sale and distribution

Growing Spaces Crew

growing dome sale

That’s where we got really excited and have had lots of fun working with the staff and meeting our customers as we go. With the hope eventually we will have our own domes here in where we live in Golden, Colorado

incredible experience of the past year.

So many things I could ask there, and my husband was born in Colorado. We’ve been down there several times, he lived outside of Aspen in a little town called Basalt. Of course I’m thinking is your business booming for growing cannabis.

people do use our domes to grow cannabis

Doesn’t really apply to commercial growers of cannabis because of the dome shape but it’s perfect if you are going to grow your own

market to the home gardener

Those plants are very happy in our dome.

Speaking of backyard gardeners, since listeners can’t see the website do you want to tell listeners about the kids.

We sell the dome in 6 different sizes

all the way from 15 feet in diameter to 42 feet so it depends on your application.

If you’re just growing food for a family of 2-3 you could probably grow it in the 15′ diameter dome. Which is about 150 sq foot of gardening space for organic fruits and vegetables.

The 42 foot dome we usually sell to schools and community gardens and it will feed 15 or more people out of that dome. It’s a pretty large structure at that point. 4 different sizes in between.

6 different sizes

  • 15 feet in diameter
  • 42 feet in diameter


Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership

in Downtown Pagosa Springs.

  • Education dome

They’re doing some exciting things with those domes one geared toward education

local school kids to do classes in that dome. 

  • There’s another more of the community dome

rent beds

community groups

3rd dome

  • innovation domes

farm to table

local growers come in to do more innovation with aquaponics and hydroponics.

Back to your other question what do they look like.

These are geodesic shaped invented by Buckminster Fuller. 

It’s made out of

  • glazing pannel
  • cut into triangles to form the geodesic shape
  • doug fir and lumber


  • 2 foot wall structural wall at the bottom to form the circular foundation
  • Then we put insulation
  • weather resistant siding around the base as well

Now do you install them, or it’s a kit people put together themselves?

Either way.

We ship all over the world

You can install yourself, you just have to be handy with a saw or a socket wrench or you can hire us to install it. We mostly installs here in CO but we’ll go anywhere in the world. 

We can help you find a contractor locally.

Can take 3-6 days depending on the size.

All the instructions online and helpful videos on our website that show you how to install. You can always call us to help guide you through it.

What’s the base made out of? It seemed like they had some rock bases?  Are they all the same?

All the bases are the same that we ship. It’s just a lumber structure 2 foot high but a lot of owners will customize the siding. 

That may be important if you have an

  • HOA
  • want to match the decor of your house

encourage people to customize the siding

But behind that siding the structure is the same. 

landscaping material

simple lumber structure. 

I’m sure people are curious, can you give us a ballpark price range?

15 basic kit for kit without shipping would be $7800

prices go up from there

22 foot starts at $12k

42 foot dome $39k


That’s really just for the kit itself, then you work with a product specialist about where you are

  • located
  • shipped
  • installation options

owner supplied items

  • insulation
  • sheet metal
  • costs of those

You can purchase those at your local box store before installation.

So, how cold can it get? I know when Mike builds plastic covers etc he figures he can get down to about 27º and then after that it’s just not gonna work. How cold can it get and can you get a heater?

We do recommend heaters for the colder climates where you are not getting so much sun. Like up in Canada you might want some external heat.

You can typically grow year round here without external heat and that’s because there is an indoor pond


During the day it will radiate the heat during the night

It stays typically 25º inside the dome then it is outside the dome even in the dead of night so you can really plan around that and make sure those vegetables are warm and cozy in there during the night.

If you are going to have a long period of time without sun you might need some external heat

We have had experiences where people can grow tomatoes year round

frost hearty plants leafy kale etc you might want to make sure you are optimized for the winter.

That could really pay off if you were not having to be buying produce. I bet you could have fresh tomatoes from June through November which would be awesome for us. I was looking at this house the other day that someone was moving into, that had a giant glassed in porch and I was thinking it would be so nice to sit there at a kitchen table in the winter! 

yoga studios

party spaces in there to have a table

lots of different uses of the dome then just growing food

people get into the spiritual environment of being with the plants.

The other thing I like about it, this was always a big struggle with me with the schools is that when the majority of the work in the garden is going on is during the summer when kids are not in school.


We work with a lot of schools

There are great curriculums not just around growing food but also

  • engineering
  • STEM
  • thermodynamics
  • how to be used for different applications
  • experiments
  • project based learning

fun to visit the schools in the area and see what types of curriculum they are using

Now is there something about that design that makes it more heat efficient and then of course I am more curious about the pond? Did you say there is a pond in all of them?

It comes standard with the pond to act as the thermal mass

We do have customers who use

  • geothermal
  • other types of thermal mass

The pond is a really nice feature because not only does it act as a thermal mass but you can grow fish in there

  • harvest fish
  • decorative fish
  • use the fish waste for aquaponics
  • kids go crazy over the fish as well

aquaponics system

harvesting fish

Key is passive solar design

  • polycarbonate panels
  • can diffuse the light
  • right types of light that plants love

bathes the plants in the light as well as warming the greenhouse

solar powered fans

photovoltaic panels that power some of the fans as well as the water fountain in the dome to circulate the air as well as there is an undersoil fan that keeps the soil warm and humid in the winter time that runs off solar panel


net zero design

don’t need external power unless you want grow lights etc.

Self sufficient without external power or heat sources.

As someone who has looked at a lot of career websites, teaching kids engineer skills is huge and Steve Jobs was always complaining we don’t have enough engineers in the US. One thing I was looking at it looks like they have ventilation on top? Is there a panel that opens on top or do they all open?

bringing into the dome

certain panels that open

depending on the size of the dome some will be on the bottom or top.


vent openers

green house store

They are actually controlled by a beeswax that expands and contracts with the heat

as the beeswax warms and expands

creates a chimney effect as cooler air escapes out the top

solar attic fan which increases circulation

PV panel over the top of the dome based on the thermostat is an option people like because it will improve their circulation and good in windy conditions

sudden gust of wind

Is there anything else we haven’t covered?

The customization.

sell the shell of the dome with the indoor pond

up to you to design what you want to do with the design

hydroponics or aquaponics

other types of features in the dome

customizing outside the dome to fit in with your landscaping


What we have found is that once it’s built customers really like designing and building it out

Even if they are not gardeners they have fun learning how to garden in the dome. 

It’s a bit different challenges with bugs and things of that nature so the same things apply like integrated pest management

You can actually use the dome to introduce the beneficial insects

Meeting with our customers around the state and around the country it’s been fun picking up what they’ve learned about growing in the dome and how they adapt to the different ecosystems in the dome.

Also using the

vertical space

vertical aspects of the dome as well.

Lots of fun to see how customers are utilizing and designing the domes.

Cool, well there’s certainly lots of cool pictures of different designs, flowers etc. Probably you could even have bees?

one of our specialists is actually a bee specialist. We usually recommend if you are going to build a hive you do it somewhere away from the dome so as your working in there you don’t interrupt their territory. If you have the hive about 20 feet away from the dome. They can still fly in there and pollinate your plants and do what they need to do but they are not going to interrupt your gardening

We actually have a hive outside the Pagosa springs.

Where is it again? Southern Colorado?

It’s on the west side of wolf creek pass, by Durango

deepest hot springs in the world

encourage you to go visit the Hot Springs and visit our park facility there. Stop in and say hi!

off of 160

8-5 m-f

We are going to look to build more of these demonstration domes so it’s a little more accessible. We are about 5 hours from Denver.

What else?

I encourage people to go to the website  at Growing Spaces 

good content there on the website and in blog posts

Lots of videos on different customer and how the are using their domes

educational resource for any organic gardener

building more content around integrated pest management, soil management, organic gardening here as well over the course of the next year. 

You can always sign up for our newsletter as well to get updates on our blog posts as well as local dome tours


A lot of time our customers will open their domes in the area

Growing Spaces.com

peruse the website and learn about gardening and the growing dome.

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

One of our challenges is shipping. It’s a pretty big kit and so it’s pretty costly to ship across the country and it adds carbon to the environment. So we are gonna start to look at ways to drop ship materials so we can source locally. 

Demonstration domes

Look at installers and sales reps in areas around the country, we have some scattered throughout the country. We are really interested in looking at people, our customers, who already have a dome so they can also use that dome as a demonstration dome who could bring customers in and teach them about it and then be able to provide that advice locally versus coming to Pagosa.

If there are people interested we encourage them to reach out.

more so

we’re really starting to work

  • farm to table
  • indian reservations
  • small business applications for use of the dome

supply food for local communities and food shares out of the dome

commercial applications for the dome throughout different communities

If you are going to grow extra food out of the dome selling even at farmer’s markets.

That’s interesting because just yesterday as I was working on my garden course and going through an old interview I did with Anastasia Cole Plakais from the Farm on the Roof at the Brooklyn Grange in NY, and they install farms all around and they teach people how to install farms and one of the things she talked about for their bottom line was how building those relationships.

Building Relationships

Talking about the same things your talking about and looking around the community and what other people you can help serve by focusing on what you do best and what they do best and coming out with an overall better outcome and it sounds like you are doing a lot of that working with farm-2-table and Indian reservations. I used to teach on a Reservation so that is something near and dear to my heart and working with community gardens.

I know in Montana one of the challenges for us to come up with something to put in a share from May-August so it might be helpful to people like us, or even for us to just have tomatoes which would be huge.

Superfund Site

We just did a video on someone in Leadville, CO that’s growing at 10k feet. They grow food share and they do that 12 months of the year so that’s a very exciting project and that used to be a superfund site based on the mining industry

Built this community garden where there used to be mining wastes

superfund site


Even over the course of times as the business grows, what we would like to do is to make sure were donating a percentage of profits and donating domes to

  • impoverished neighborhoods 
  • food insecure schools
  • and other non-profits

That don’t have the benefits of having organic food in their community or where it is very expensive because it gives them the ability to grow their own organic food.

We have one in south Chicago, that’s providing local food to their community as well as the far north reaches of Canada where they have 0 access to growing their own food and the sun isn’t shining 6 months out of the year. 

We want to make sure this business is supporting those applications and making sure that people have access to food year round.

EXCELLENT! So, here’s my 

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?


Locally is the key word in my mind! Everything should be sourced locally. Whether it’s energy from the sun or other types of energy you can harvest locally or 


sourcing your food locally or growing your food locally

It not only helps the infrastructure in terms of supporting less greenhouse emissions through less transportation but it also builds community and brings people together around a common cause whether it’s energy or food around sustainable living

There are a lot of charities we support

Denver Urban Gardens

Whole kids Foundation

What Whole Foods is doing for kids around whole earth and what they are doing for more impoverished communities

There’s lots of smaller charities 

Cloud City Conservation Center

Pine River Community Garden out of Bayfield

all these community projects are doing a lot to making local food.


big fan of anybody out there doing locally grown food or energy sources.

Cool, my husband and I are really interested in Geothermal and of course we’re really big on growing local!

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

I get most of my inspiration from my customers. We’ve been out doing tours and capturing their testimonials. They say things like 

eat more vegetables

nothing can compete with growing off the vine

inspirational quotes that inspire me to get me to get my hands in the dirt and grow my own food because I’m not exactly practicing what we preach today because we don’t have one yet in my background.

Another question I came up with is it kind of reminds me of a Yurt, which are movable, is it like that or is it kind of permanent?

It probably isn’t as easy as moving a yurt and if you are in a windy area again we recommend you anchor it with cement piers. I wouldn’t recommend moving it very often but if people move we can help, or recommend.

As far as Tiny homes go, I could probably live in one of these they look so cool and pretty and you have these pictures of these in the snow and I love the whole glass piece. I just love when the sun comes out I used to tell people I’m solar powered on a sunny day you can’t hardly keep me inside, although I’m not a hot weather girl. Give me the sun on cool crisp day!

It is a solar passive design. With the geodesic space the snow kind of just sluffs off the dome. So when it snows and the sun comes out, it just

Nice design for preventing snow, wind, hail. We’ve actually had domes stand huricane force winds that other structures don’t.

Mike has had a couple of times where the weight of the snow, we were shocked that the plastic held and the metal or wood beams actually broke. Several people we know lost several hoop houses last year under the snow!

We’re rated up to in some areas up to 60lbs per square foot of snow. In that Tahoe region, it’s a great design with that heavy amount of snow.

How do we connect with you?

our website is Growing Spaces.com 


to talk to a product specialist to get more info about the dome

go to our website Growing Spaces  has a ton of information.

Encourage you to check out some of the videos or going to the youtube site.

Thanks for taking some time with us today They’re just beautiful and such a great thing to help people extend their season and the sustainability piece is just awesome!

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If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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