Disney’s Land Pavilion (EPCOT, Disney World, Orlando) offers two different presentations of the greenhouse. Both are entertaining and informative, although one is theatrically dramatic, even deceptive, to illustrate a point.
The boat tour takes you through the tropical greenhouse of rice, sugar cane, peanuts, cacao, bananas and a 59-foot peach palm
"Living with the Land" boat tour
The first is the “Living with the Land” boat tour through the greenhouse. The gist is educating about innovative growing techniques - hydroponics, vertical growing, specialized irrigation, aeroponics and aquacell growing of aquatic animals for food. The “visuals” – 9-pound lemons, massive cucumbers, immense pumpkins and more – without explanation, achieve this magical, mystical, fascinating, awe-inspiring trip into the future of vegetable gardening.
Vertical growing saves on space. These rotate in a circle in order to get proper amounts of light all around.
"Behind the Seeds" walking tour
This walking tour through the greenhouses, lasting about 45 minutes, gets into more detail. The tour is totally worth it, starting out in the entomology laboratory with a quick lesson (with gross visuals), on harmful & beneficial insects. The maintenance of the gardens are handled as organically as humanly possible, although, only as a very last resort, they will use any man-made materials to eradicate disease or pests. They do have a lot invested in these greenhouses.
They also let us know that they have some pollinators, but depend on pollinating by hand in this controlled environment. Pollination by soft-bristled brushes by hand seems labor intensive, but it beats having to deal with the bugs plants usually depend on for pollination. Can you imagine pollinating your yard by hand?
The tour explains hydroponics in depth and introduces you to the record-setting Chinese 32,000-tomato tomato tree. The greatest benefit of hydroponics being the excelerated rate of growth. You get to see the creation of Mickey-shaped cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins. There’s a quiz on spices by scent (only one other lady and I could identify Allspice – it is a spice and not a collection of other spices – that’s what most others thought).
The 32,000-tomato tomato tree.
Our guide happened to be an intern specializing in fisheries, so she was most comfortable talking about the growth and care of the alligators, catfish, tilapia, sunshine bass and American eel, which are all production “crops” in this context.
They are working on bonafide research for organizations such as the USDA, as well. The one experiment they would talk about was the work on growing more disease-resistant, shorter citrus trees.
This special tour cost is $14 for guests 10 and over, and $10 for guests 3-9. Same day reservations can be made at the tour desk on the lower level of The Land or you can book a tour in advance – 407-939-8687.
9-pound lemons? Nope. 9-pound pummelos, which is an average size for a pummelo (they have a nearly 2-inch peel.
The deceptive part is the difference between the two tours
On the boat tour, they don’t tell you that the 9-pound lemon is actually not a lemon that size because of their growing techniques or special blend of nutrients. It’s a pummelo (Hirado buntan) a large lemon-looking fruit native to southeastern Asia and an ancestor of the grapefruit.
The substrate for much of the hydroponics at Disney is rock wool, a mineral fiber, similar to perlite.
The huge cucumber-looking plants suspended from above are not cucumbers, but Winter Melon (Benincasa hispada), a gourd with not much flavor on its own.
This is aeroponics – the spraying of nutrients onto plant roots not grown in soil or any medium at all. This is the preferred method for all gardeners in outer space.
The 100-pound pumpkins (shown in the photo at top) are a special variety known to grow large under just the right conditions. The pumpkins here will never get as large as the record-breaking pumpkins grown up north because they need a greater differential in temperature from day to night than the greenhouse can accommodate.
Hydroponic lettuce growth makes for fast growing lettuce with quick crop turnover. Look, they slipped us a mickey!
All vegetables grown in the greenhouses, as well as much of the fishery livestock, is served in the Land Pavilion restaurants – now THAT’s locavoristic - they don’t even leave the building!
Nutrient-laden water is fed at the top of this spiral garden, gravity provides the water distribution with all left over water coming out the bottom being sent back to the top with no loss of water at all.