The Pocahontas County High School horticulture class has a simple task – to grow plants – but that simple task takes a high level of concentration and dedication to ensure those plants grow up to provide nourishment and beauty for their owners.
While agriculture education teacher Erwin Berry is the one who passes on the knowledge of plants and their needs, for the most part, he takes the backseat to the students when working in the greenhouse.
Each student has an assigned area or task, and they work together to bring seeds to life.
For starters, freshman Drake Paulowski plants the seeds in seed trays. Once the seeds begin to sprout, Paulowski, sophomores Michael Long and Trace McKenney, and others join forces to transplant the sprouts into individuals packs.
“I plant the seeds,” Paulowski said. “This tray is probably about 1,000 plants. I also help transplant them.”
Once the sprouts are transplanted, students are assigned plants to care for and monitor.
“I do the tomatoes,” sophomore Sallie Arbogast said. “I take care of them, water them and get whatever they need. It’s pretty simple. I like this part because they are easier to look at to see if they’re dead and see if I need to remove them to put in new ones.”
While Arbogast prefers working with vegetables, other students are interested in both vegetables and flowers because they plan to have their own gardens or go into landscaping.
“I’m learning a lot about how to take care of plants,” junior Kenny Queen said. “I want to go into landscaping. I’m going to work with my dad.”
“I’m getting ready to have a farm so I want to grow stuff up there,” sophomore Kasey Rider said. “I took this class because I thought it would be the easiest way to learn.”
Queen takes care of the begonias, while Rider is in charge of the portulaca, dahlias and marigolds.
Along with taking care of the plants, the students are also in charge of keeping the temperature level up in the radiant flooring.
“The heating system is by the wood stove,” McKenney said. “The water comes through hoses into the concrete slab. The forestry students cut up the wood for us to use in the stove.”
The greenhouse is more than a learning experience – it’s a job. All the plants the students grow are for sale. The greenhouse is open Monday through Friday, 1:45 to 4 p.m. and, beginning in May, Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to noon.
“We’ve had about five or six customers, so far,” Berry said. “We sold cabbage to Southern States. I talked to [Roger Pritt] in Buckeye, he’s interested in buying from us. We’re real careful. We don’t undercut anybody. We don’t want to hurt any businesses. We’d like to supply them.”
Berry is proud of the work his students have put into the greenhouse. The students faced a lot of adversity in simply getting the greenhouse ready for plants and now things have flourished.
“They had to fix the heating system, they had to fix the ventilation system,” Berry said. “Ten days ago, you couldn’t even see the plants coming up in the hanging baskets. I told them in another ten days, you won’t even see the pots.”
The greenhouse is continuing to grow and the students are in the process of setting up a hydroponic system.
“They’ve worked on it, and it’s about ready to go,” Berry said. “We’ll grow lettuce in this system and eventually we’ll have a system to grow tomatoes.”
Whatever Berry has in store for the students, they are up for the task. It is apparent when walking into the greenhouse that the students enjoy their work and are proud of the fruits of their labor.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Arbogast said. “I really want to persuade the freshmen next year to take this class. It’s a good class to have.”
The greenhouse has four inch pots, six inch pots, hanging baskets, four packs, six packs and flats for sale.
Plants available are: ageratum, alyssum, begonias, bonfire begonias, flat dutch cabbage, celosia, coleus, dahlia, dianthus, dichondra, dusty miller, fucshia, geraniums, impatiens, lantana, lobelia, marigolds, melampo- dium, million bells, bell peppers, Hungarian wax peppers, jalapeno peppers, petunias, portulaca, pumpkins, salvia, beefsteak tomatoes, jet star tomatoes, roma tomatoes, WV 63 tomatoes and verbena.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org