We will use our greenhouse mainly for educational purposes, as we are currently doing. We will start plants from seed in our greenhouse and also maintain tropical plants that can’t survive outdoors. We already have a pitcher plant, an apricot from Turkmenistan, three baby papayas, and several tropical plants from Costa Rica. We plan on expanding our range of plants, and we want to acquire tropical plants used to flavor food, such as vanilla orchids, curry bushes, and a cinnamon tree. We have started to catalog the plants in our greenhouse, identifying them to the species or genus level and compiling general facts and growing information about them.
We are currently also maintaining a small garden next to our greenhouse. We work in it every week, and the school kitchen has incorporated our produce into several lunch meals. Our work in the garden, which is in a highly-trafficked portion of our campus, has risen awareness about our efforts and has even convinced several interested people to help us out.
Our main project is to start a new and much larger vegetable garden than the one we currently have. We have already gotten permission from our school’s administration to make a garden by Shah Hall, one of our school’s buildings. Our garden will be located on the south side of Shah Hall in an area with few trees. The garden will receive lots of sun throughout the year, and in the winter the heat radiating off of Shall Hall will deter frost and help our plants grow faster. The garden will have two main components: one 8’ x 8’ raised herb garden, and two 15’ x 4’ raised beds. Raised beds are necessary because the soil of our site is contaminated with lime leftover from the construction of Shah Hall. The wood and soil necessary to make the raise beds will cost around $700, making them the most expensive part of our project. We have had a lot of fun deciding what plants we want to grow in each season. We have already acquired most of the seeds from local nurseries. Our summer plants include: bush beans, pole beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, greens, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and watermelons. Our winter plants include: beets, carrots, cabbage, radish, peas, onions, and lettuce. We intend to plant these herbs: arugula, basil, borage, chives, cilantro, oregano, parsley, sage, strawberry, rosemary, thyme, and watercress. Lastly, we intend to plant these flowers: alyssum, amaranth, cosmos, nasturtium, phlox, sunflower, zinnia, and various flowers for a hummingbird and butterfly garden. All of these varieties of flowers were chosen to attract helpful pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, as well as insects that prey on garden pests. We are counting on our beans, squashes, and tomatoes to be major producers during the summer (the school kitchen operates in the summer to feed summer camp students) and fall. For the spring, we expect to be able to harvest sizable quantities of root plants, lettuce, and peas for the kitchen. The plants in our herb garden, particularly the perennials such as rosemary and oregano, will provide our kitchen with organic herbs to spice up our foods throughout the year. We have already started several flats of plants in our greenhouse so that we can transplant the baby plants into our new vegetable beds as soon as they are constructed. For an irrigation system, we plan to use drip irrigation tape called dripperline, which is laid down among the beds and slowly drips out water to the surrounding vegetables. This will save water by delivering water directly to plants, and it will save us the effort of watering our plants by hand. We are currently using dripperline in our smaller garden with much success. Also, in order to promote eco-friendly ideals and to create quality compost for ourselves, we are planning on buying a composter to compost our school’s vegetable waste. We have identified Costco’s $150 (with membership) “Eco-Composter with Base” as an especially suitable composter for our project, as it is relatively cheap, large, and easy to use. It has a 70-gallon capacity, and it is ball-shaped and placed on a stand with steel rollers so we can turn the compost by rolling it. We will reduce our school’s waste while also making free and healthy compost for use in our garden. Finally, we will invite the art department to display their sculptures in our garden or to decorate stepping-stones to place among our beds. Besides involving non-gardening students with the garden, this will improve our garden’s aesthetics and make it even more attractive for students to visit and admire.
We have already won several grants to help fund our plans. Two of our members won a $1000 Alliance for Climate Education grant, most of which we will use for our garden. Rohan Mahajan acquired a $500 grant by registering his Health Club with YEAH, or Youths Engaged in Advancing Health. Although these grants are a substantial amount of money, we will need even more in order to purchase tropical plants for our greenhouse, gardening tools such as shovels and trowels, dripperline and soil for our vegetable beds, and supplies such as posters and paint to advertise our efforts around school.