Daviess County High School is seeing shades of green this spring. The new horticultural greenhouse is nearing completion, something that has teacher Chad Askins very pleased.
“When the utilities are complete, and the phone line and communication cables are pulled, the greenhouse will have the capability of being monitored by me 24 hours a day,” Askins said. “Currently, and for the past 14 years, I have had to water and check on the greenhouse every single day even on weekends and holidays. The new control system will allow me to water the plants and monitor the temperature and humidity levels of the greenhouse from my laptop or phone.”
For 14 of his 16 years at DCHS, Askins has been teaching horticulture classes. Currently, there are two greenhouse classes and one landscaping class which utilizes the greenhouse. The combined number of students who work in the greenhouse is 92, and those students work from the third week of August when they begin fern production through the second week of May. In December students begin the bedding plant seeding and transplanting, which continues until March.
The new greenhouse, located on the north side of the high school, will have concrete, versus the soil and gravel of the old one, and will cut down on pests. There is also an automatic shade cloth which allows it to open and close according to the temperature and sunlight needs of the plants.
“This new shade system will also greatly reduce gas heating costs in the winter time by up to 40 percent as well as the cooling costs in the spring and summer by up to 30 percent,” Askins said. “The new greenhouse also has an increase of 110 square feet of bench space for plants due to new bench designs.”
The classes have grown 150 ferns that are in the greenhouse. Fifty of these will be used at Apollo and Daviess County’s prom and graduation with the remainder being sold to the public.
Askins said that the students in the classes are completely involved in plant production and care.
“They sow the seeds and transplant all the plugs,” Askins said. “The students completely care for the plants during growth including watering, fertilizing, and pest monitoring. The students are also involved in the manipulation of the plant growth according to the individual plant’s needs. Some may need to be fertilized more, while some may need to be watered and fertilized less. Also, the plants may need more sunlight and heat, while others may require less light and heat.”
Askins said that the design of the curriculum allows the students to identify the plant’s needs and adapt their care and production and students learn not only in-depth information on plant science, but invaluable experience with career information as well as job skills. There is also an emphasis on personnel management and finances.
“They learn about customer relations, customer service and product knowledge to best serve the community in our greenhouse and at their jobs in the future,” Askins said. “They learn about product ordering, inventory, and planning budgets. It truly is a very valuable class.”
Sophomore Ethan Carmon said the class is very interesting because of the topics and the interaction with the products. He said he has learned the proper way to care for plants, learned how to identify disease and parasites in plants and learned plant anatomy.
Askins said that multiple DCHS graduates who took the classes gained employment in the horticultural career field.
“Four students that I can think of have started their own landscaping business, while many others use greenhouse facilities on their farms,” Askins said. “One student was the greenhouse manager for a biotechnology research facility in Owensboro. Most importantly, all students will gain enough knowledge and skill to care for their own plant beds and gardens in the future when they own or rent a home.”
Knowing that the students take ownership of the care for the plants and the hands-on approach is what Askins enjoys most about these classes.
“If you come by the greenhouse, I hope community members will find good product quality with excellent customer service,” Askins said.
Senior Myers Walker said that the experience of selling and marketing to the public provides good workplace experience.
Once the greenhouse opens to the public, Askins said he expects it to sell out in 7 to 10 sale days.
The greenhouse will be open to the public beginning April 18 and continuing weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until all products are sold. The proceeds from plant sales go toward maintenance of the facility as well as scholarships for the students.