The Scottsbluff High School (SHS) horticulture curriculum program offers students the opportunity to get their hands dirty and spark an interest in plants. The curriculum includes a greenhouse classroom where students experience both growing plants by separation and from seeds to sale.
The greenhouse opens on May 10 for nine days, with students selling flowers, vegetables and a few unique plants in individual and hanging pots. Alan Held, one of the agriscience teachers at SHS, said the greenhouse essentially operates as its own business. Sales from the fall poinsettias grown by the plant science class and spring garden sales fund the operation of the greenhouse and provide a learning experience for about 30 students enrolled in the horticulture curriculum each semester.
“The plant sales go back into our curriculum money that we use to buy the plants, the potting soils, the containers and so forth,” Held said. “It really works nice because we’ve grown enough that this essentially is a self-funded project for the kids to learn.”
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During the greenhouse sale, the students will offer their traditional geranium varieties that are cuttings from the parent geraniums. New to the sale will be the popular citronella geranium known to ward off mosquitoes.
“We had really good luck with the citronella one,” Held said. “It is actually from an asexual reproduction project that the plant science class did last fall.”
In addition to the single pot flowers that will be for sale, new this year are hanging-themed 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 are working to create the landscape for the project house that the SHS construction class is going to be remodeling.
“Since the kids learned about floral design, we had them go ahead and take their own pick of the different plants,” he said. “They basically created their own hanging baskets utilizing their floral design skills.”
Students have also potted a variety of annual grasses zoned for this area that will be for sale in addition to other annual bedding plants.
Over four varieties of tomatoes, including the popular beef steak and roma varieties, are ready for purchase. Held said the class has had a streak of bad luck with bell pepper seeds but there will be a handful for sale. Pepper plants ranging from spicy to mild take over nearly an entire table in the greenhouse.
“We have a corno di toro, a mild chili pepper, they’re really good,” Held said. “I’ll take some of these and when they get long, split them in half, put crab or shrimp with a cheese mixture. Wrap them in bacon and put them on the grill, they’re amazing.”
Mixed amongst the individual pots for sale are parent plants including giant geraniums that Held has had between six to eight years. Standing out is his Blue Agave that came from Chadron State College when its greenhouse closed nearly 15 years ago. Held explained how the students can separate young shoots from the parent plant to sale in individual pots.
“It’s called separation, which is a form of asexual reproduction,” Held said. “This is Shane’s aloe plant and we’ve done the same separation with that, those will be for sale.”
Shane Talkington, an SHS agriscience teacher, explained the roughly 36 students that went through the plant science and horticulture curriculum can continue on in agronomy classes the following year. eventually selecting to pursue horticulture or agronomy science.
In addition to the greenhouse, students learn hydroponics and aquaponics. Talkington said that the hydroponic system is used for many different things.
“We’ve worked with the zoo,” Talkington said. “When it’s (lettuce) is ready to harvest, we’ll contact them and they’ll get it for some of their chimps. We’ve taken some to the food service department, too.”
Talkington said SHS has offered a horticulture class since he was employed 33 years ago as the lone agriscience teacher. Over time and with the addition of Held, the curriculum has grown. The teachers explained that with the current greenhouse, plant sales are more easily accessible and they are able to have longer growing periods.
“What has really helped, in this new greenhouse, is our cooling pad,” Talkington said. “We had just a real simple greenhouse before this one. With this cooling pad, in the late spring when it starts warming up, we can still grow. It really helps for poinsettias, we get those in August when it’s really hot, that cooling pad will really help.”
The spring greenhouse sale begins on May 10 and runs 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 plant sale preparation
Nicole Heldt is a reporter with the Star-Herald, covering agriculture. She can be reached at 308-632-9044 or by email at email@example.com.