When Dennis and Danielle McClung purchased a foreclosed home in Mesa, Ariz., they found themselves with an empty, run-down swimming pool. But rather than sink money into filling it in or restoring it, they transformed the backyard hazard into a desert greenhouse.
Their 480-square-foot, 15-foot-tall Garden Pool (GP) is the first step in the family’s quest toward self-sustainability. After covering the in-ground concrete pool with an anti-UV treated tarp draped over flexible PVC rods, they created an experimental farm that utilizes solar power, permaculture, organic farming, hydroponics, aquaponics, and biofiltration.
At the pool’s deep end is a 6,703-gallon pond teeming with edible tilapia fish. Pumps supply unfiltered pond water to the GP’s fruits and vegetables — blackberries, eggplant, broccoli, and spinach — grown in buckets, rain gutters, kiddie pools, and on trellises.
Filtered by the garden plants, the water then trickles back to the fishpond. The GP’s chickens lay fresh eggs daily, and their waste fertilizes the garden plants and the algae that grows on the bottom of the pond as fish food.
The McClungs’ invention generates enough food to feed their family of four, and the entire natural process pretty much cares for itself.
“I go out in the morning and make sure the chickens are fine,” says Dennis. “I check on the flow of the pumps and see how the solar battery bank is doing. I don’t have to weed, water, or compost.”
To assist budding pool gardeners, Dennis, a web designer, documents the GP online and offers tours. Despite its unusual appearance (picture a makeshift bio-research lab), the neighbors seem to love it. “Some have come over during our tours and are just blown away,” he says. “They think it’s great.”
More GP Photos: gardenpool.org