Scottsbluff High School’s (SHS) horticulture curriculum offers students the opportunity to get their hands dirty and spark an interest in plants. The program includes a greenhouse classroom where students experience both growing plants by separation and from seed to sale.
The greenhouse opens May 10 for nine days, with students selling flowers, vegetables and a few unique plants in individual, hanging pots. Alan Held, one of the professors of agricultural science at SHS, said the greenhouse essentially operated as its own business. Sales of fall poinsettias grown by the plant science class and spring garden sales fund the operation of the greenhouse and provide a learning experience for approximately 30 students enrolled in the horticulture program each semester.
“Plant sales go back into our education program money that we use to buy the plants, potting soils, containers, etc.,” Held said. “It works really well because we’ve grown enough that it’s basically a self-funded project for kids to learn.”
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During the sale in the greenhouse, the students will offer their traditional varieties of geraniums which are cuttings of the parent geraniums. New for sale will be the popular citronella geranium known to repel mosquitoes.
“We got really lucky with lemongrass,” Held said. “It’s actually from an asexual reproduction project that the plant science class did last fall.”
In addition to the unique potted flowers that will be on sale, new this year are themed hanging baskets created in the floral design portion of the horticulture curriculum. Held explained that the class has now moved on to the landscape design section where the students work to create the landscape for the project house that the SHS construction class will remodel.
“Since the kids learned about flower design, we asked them to go ahead and choose the different plants themselves,” he said. “They basically created their own hanging baskets using their floral design skills.”
The students also potted a variety of annual grasses zoned for this zone that will be for sale in addition to other annual bedding plants.
More than four tomato varieties, including the popular beefsteak and roma varieties, are ready for purchase. Held said the class had had a bad streak with pepper seeds, but there would be a handful for sale. Pepper plants ranging from hot to sweet occupy almost an entire table in the greenhouse.
“We have a corno di toro, a sweet pepper, they’re really good,” Held said. “I’ll take a few and when they get long, cut them in half, put crab or shrimp with a mixture of cheese. Wrap them in bacon and put them on the grill, they are amazing.
Among the individual pots for sale are mother plants, including giant geraniums, which Held had between six and eight years old. Standing out is her Blue Agave which came from Chadron State College when her greenhouse closed nearly 15 years ago. Held explained how students can separate young shoots from the mother plant to sell in individual pots.
“It’s called separation, which is a form of asexual reproduction,” Held said. “It’s Shane’s aloe plant and we’ve done the same parting with that, these will be for sale.”
Shane Talkington, professor of agrosciences at SHS, explained that the approximately 36 students who have completed the plant science and horticulture program can continue in agronomy courses the following year. eventually choose to pursue studies in horticulture or agronomy.
In addition to the greenhouse, students learn hydroponics and aquaponics. Talkington said the hydroponic system is used for many different things.
“We worked with the zoo,” Talkington said. “When (the lettuce) is ready to harvest, we will contact them and they will get it for some of their chimpanzees. We also brought some to the food service.
Talkington said SHS has been offering a horticulture course since he was employed 33 years ago as the only agroscience teacher. Over time and with the addition of Held, the program has expanded. The teachers explained that with the current greenhouse, plant sales are more readily available and they can have longer growing periods.
“What really helped, in this new greenhouse, was our cooling pad,” Talkington said. “We only had a real simple greenhouse before this one. With this cooling cushion, at the end of spring, when it begins to warm up, we can still grow. This really helps with the poinsettias, we get them in August when it’s really hot, this cooling pad will really help.
The Spring Greenhouse Sale begins May 10 and lasts for nine days. Held said the department does not advertise, but anyone interested can check the Scottsbluff Public Schools webpage for details.
PHOTO GALLERY: SHS Horticulture preparing to sell plants
Nicole Heldt is a reporter for the Star-Herald and covers agriculture. She can be reached at 308-632-9044 or by email at [email protected]