By Disney Bride Diva
According to my calendar, it is now officially Spring. Although when I look out the window of my home in Ontario, Canada, it sure doesn’t look or feel like Spring! Many of you who live in the Northeastern United States will agree with me!
Spring is one of my favourite seasons to visit Walt Disney World. For the past few years we have flown down for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I love to garden, and I am totally inspired walking around the Festival admiring the beautiful gardens and topiaries.
I have always enjoyed the Living with the Land boat ride inside The Land Pavilion at Epcot. This boat ride takes you inside the four greenhouses and fish farm and gives you a glimpse at the hydroponic growing techniques used by Disney. This is where fruits, vegetables and seafood are produced for consumption in Epcot restaurants such as the Garden Grill and Sunshine Seasons and around the Walt Disney World Property. Every time I ride this boat, I see groups of people walking around with their tour guide and I think to myself one day I will book that tour.
The tour is called Behind the Seeds, and this past year I finally signed up. I was eager to learn all I could about hydroponics. At only $25.00 per adult and $20.00 for children, this is an affordable family tour.
DIVA Tip: Discounts are usually available for Annual Passholders, DVC Members and Disney Visa cardmembers so remember to inquire when you book.
This tour runs every forty-five minutes daily from 10:30am until 4:30pm. I called 407- WDW-TOUR ahead of time to reserve a spot, but it is also possible to go to the check-in desk located just outside the entrance to Soarin’ and sign up the day of.
Tip: If you are at the Festival this year, make sure to pick up your complementary 2018 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival Passport. You will see this tour listed on Page 12.
Behind the Seeds is a one hour walking tour, (ours was about an hour and ten minutes). There is a stop halfway through where guests can have a seat on a bench and enjoy a cup of water. This tour elaborates on the growing techniques which are discussed during the Living with the Land boat ride.
DIVA Tip: Be on the lookout for the many Hidden Mickey’s throughout the tour!
Our guide was a university intern studying entomology. Coincidentally, the first stop on this tour is the pest management lab. This room contains various insects housed in glass containers. This part of the tour educates guests on the three types of pest management ; biological control, chemical control and mechanical control. The pest management lab contains containers of Leaf Minor larvae and Parasitoid wasps. The wasps are introduced into the greenhouse as a biological control to eradicate the destructive Leaf Minor larvae which feeds on the leaves of plants. Who would have thought insects could be this interesting?
I’ve read many reviews where guests have been able to release lady bugs into the greenhouse, but that was not the case with our tour. I believe there are slight differences with each tour depending on the needs of the greenhouse. Remember, this is a working eco system.
We then headed out to the greenhouses. Theses are the same greenhouses the boat ride travels through. We learned all about hydroponic growing techniques. The first section is Disney’s aeroponic systems. These are conveyor belts that suspend plants while misters spray the roots of these plants with nutrient rich solutions. We were able to get right up close and look down to watch the sprayers.
We then moved on to the string greenhouse. Plants in this section are held up by strings. The tomato plants here are grown to a certain height vertically, and then wrapped around itself horizontally making harvesting very easy. This way of growing we were told yields a higher crop rate.
We were shown the molds that cucumbers and pumpkins grow in to make that famous Mickey shape. I need one of these for my home garden and I think Disney is losing out on a money making souvenir here by not selling these molds!! At this point, guests were able to taste a slice of these cucumbers – delicious!
Along the way we were introduced to the various plants grown throughout the green house. One special plant is “Stanley”. He is a mimosa pudica and has a fun defence response when he is touched. I’ll let you see for yourself what he does when you book the tour! He is the only plant that guests are able to touch on this tour.
I was very interested in the lettuce production. The technique used to grow the lettuce is unique to Epcot. A whole head of lettuce is produced in only four weeks. Disney is able to grow 27,000 heads of lettuce a year!!
The final stop on the tour was the spice garden. We were each given a ground spice and asked to try and identify it only by the smell. All you cooks out there will rock this challenge. I, however, need to start using more fresh spices in my cooking LOL! It was a friendly competition between the guests. We had a great group so this was good fun. Once the game was over guests could leave, or feel free to walk around the last greenhouse and ask any outstanding questions. There is also a nice photo op at the end of the tour.
Disney does an excellent job with this tour. There is a lot of information provided, but it is presented in such a way that it is very interesting as opposed to dry or dull. Questions could be asked at any time and we were free to explore certain areas and take as many pictures as we wanted. I would recommend this tour to anyone who has an interest in science, or gardening. It is very well laid out and an hour is the perfect amount of time.
At the end of the tour everyone is given information to create their own hydroponic gardening system using a ten gallon fish tank. My goal is to have this up and running in my basement over the winter. I left the tour very excited to try and grow some vegetables using this technique over the winter while my beautiful outdoor vegetable garden is covered in snow!