The Legacy of Chelsea: It IS Rocket Science!
I was pleased to see science had a strong showing at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, with 2 amazing gold-winning show gardens in the Fresh category which took the subject outside of the Great Pavilion for a change.
However, it was an exhibit inside which I really liked as it chimed with the experimental side of my gardening. The picture shows part of the Rocket Science exhibit which told the story of how man will have to find ways of growing food in space if our exploration is to go to Mars and beyond.
I've left the cast on my photograph as it illustrates the special LED lighting needed to maximise plant growth. There's also a special hydroponic system set up to squeeze as many plants as possible in a small space and to ensure they have all the nutrients and water they need within the closed growing system.
What made this exhibit most exciting for me is it's tied in with an inspirational experiment schools are invited to join. 2 kilos of rocket seed are set to be sent to the International Space Station for six months, where they will whizz above the earth at 17,000 kilometres per hour.
They will then be brought back to earth by British astronaut Tim Peake and distributed to participating schools. They will grow their seeds alongside a batch which stayed earth-bound for the duration, to see if there are any differences between the two.
As someone whose first attempt at growing involved radishes and insecticides, I'm envious of the half a million or so schoolchildren who will be taking part. The project starts in earnest at the start of the next school year in September, but you can register now on the Rocket Science page on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website.
My thanks to Jonathan Ward, who was involved in designing and staging the exhibit and was my guide at the show. He also tells me that had it been eligible for judging (RHS sponsored exhibits are excluded), it would have garnered a well-deserved gold.
Update: A special welcome to everyone who's come over from How Does Your Garden Grow at Mammasaurus. I've had some great comments from you thanks, and I hope it leads to more schools signing up for this exciting project.
Update January 2016: The Rocket Science experiment is getting plenty of publicity now Tim Peake is at the International Space Station. This news from NASA shows they're growing flowers too.
Update November 2016: The results of the Rocket Science experiment are revealed. There was a slight effect on the seeds flown in space compared to those which stayed earth bound.