Green Thumbs

After noting the success of their garden efforts, staff at Plymouth High School are hoping to add a greenhouse to the campus. - Submitted photo. After noting the success of their garden efforts, staff at Plymouth High School are hoping to add a greenhouse to the campus. - Submitted photo. Plymouth High School is hoping to build on the success of its new garden by adding a new greenhouse campus.

Like the garden, the greenhouse will allow the school to grow food for itself and for the community, while serving as an extension of the classroom.

“The best case scenario is that our kids learn where their food comes from and also are part of watching something grow from a seed,” said Jessica Mella, district nutrition and wellness coordinator. “Nutrition and food should be the center of our lives, because it’s the one thing we all need.”

A contingent from the school toured area greenhouses, including one at Denmark High School. They then created a vision statement of what a greenhouse complex could do for the community.

That vision includes an intergenerational partnership between school and community that will develop and support a greenhouse complex dedicated to nutritional well-being, educational opportunities, wellness and stewardship of the natural environment.

“We hope the greenhouse will expand our school and community class offerings, teaching real-life skills and hands-on practice in the growing agricultural field for both college- and non-college-bound students,” Mrs. Mella said.

The school formed an advisory council with representatives from the community, landscaping businesses, St. Vincent de Paul, health leaders and other interested nonprofit organizations.

A phased project is in the process of being designed for green space north of the baseball diamond, between the high school and McDonald’s parking lot.

The campus eventually would include a bigger place to grow plants as students do now, plus a classroom and a kitchen. It also would feature hydroponics, where plants are grown in water rather than dirt, and a sheltered in-the-ground planting area.

Construction could begin as early as fall. Estimates are not yet available, but the effort got a major boost with the donation of $100,000 from an anonymous donor.

Grew out of garden effort

About a year ago, PHS added a garden, which was designed and built by students. The initial plantings were handled by botany students in the spring, and community families signed up to tend the garden during the summer.

The student designers included an underground automatic watering system, so the garden weathered the very dry summer well, Mrs. Mella said.

The garden featured an herb garden plot, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and many types of vegetables. Students planted radish seeds around tomato plants, for example, so there was variety through the rows.

Produce from the garden and the existing greenhouse were used by others in the school. The culinary arts program used herbs in treats for the annual Back-to-School Night. Cherry and grape tomatoes from the garden were used in school lunches in the fall, and four crops of salad greens from the greenhouse were used throughout the year.

The school hopes to use even more produce next year, including tomatoes, snap peas, beans, potatoes and squash. Staff will pick the vegetables this summer and freeze them for use in the fall.

Mrs. Mella started a garden at Horizon Elementary School in 2009, which is used by classroom teachers for various projects.

Efforts are under way to add a garden at Riverview Middle School, which would be tended by participants of the Plymouth Youth Center.

How you can help

Additional donations are being sought for the PHS greenhouse campus. Donations of money, plants, materials and time are welcome toward any of the projects, Mrs. Mella said.

The need for perennials, bulbs, mulch and compost is ongoing. Families are invited to sign up to weed the gardens in the summer, in exchange for fresh produce.

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