CROTHERSVILLE

After selecting the flowers and vegetables they wanted to grow in the greenhouse, Crothersville High School horticulture students faced some unknowns.

The flowers and plants may look beautiful and healthy once they bloom, or they could turn out dry and droopy.

Trying a new planting system could work great or not turn out as expected.

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And when they sell their items to the public, 500 people could show up or it could only be five.

But through it all, the students know they put in a lot of time and work and learned a lot in the process.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” said sophomore Brady Riley, secretary of Crothersville FFA. “I enjoy the trial and error because you never know, it could go really well or it could just be an epic flop, or you could have five people show up and be stuck with a greenhouse full of plants. You just don’t give up; and if it doesn’t go how you planned, you’ve got to figure out another way to get it done.”

On Saturday, the work of the 21 students in Linda Begley’s horticulture science class will be on display during the annual plant sale in the greenhouse. This is the 28th year for that event.

The sale, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature a wide variety of vegetable plants and flowers with several special offers, all ranging from $1 to $15. The FFA also will sell porkburgers.

“I enjoy talking to the people, what they’re going to do with the plants and how big their garden is going to be this year, what kind of plants they are going to buy,” said sophomore Deven Lemen, FFA vice president.

If you can’t make it to Saturday’s sale, you can stop by the greenhouse from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays to make a purchase. It starts Monday and goes until the end of the school year.

In January, the students looked through a seed catalog to determine what they wanted to grow in the greenhouse. They also took into consideration what the public may like.

Vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, onions, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, okra and more. A popular item at the sale is a pack of five tomatoes, three peppers and a squash.

This year, that includes a white cherry tomato and black krim tomatoes. Riley said he grew black krim tomatoes in the past, and people liked them. While Lemen said he’s not a big fan of them, he’s happy that customers like them and try them out.

“They enjoy the variety we can bring that they can’t find at their local supermarket,” Lemen said.

Begley said it’s good to have people plant their own food and try something different.

“Hopefully, it entices the beginning gardener as well as the more experienced just to be able to try something new and to have bragging rights,” she said. “As an organization, we like to be the ones that hopefully started the ball rolling.”

New this year is a salsa pack, which includes everything you need to make your own salsa.

“It has the Roma tomatoes, three different types of peppers, onions and cilantro in it. Nine plants for five bucks,” Begley said.

Also, the first 50 customers at Saturday’s sale will receive a free garden nine-pack, sponsored by the FFA. It’s a combination of basic plants and new things to try.

“Instead of just giving people food, we’re hoping to supply them with a plant so that they can produce enough food for their family that’s of good quality, plus something they’ve raised,” Begley said. “We’ve hopefully promoted another agriculture product, and it’s something for the whole family to do. Any extra produce they don’t use, maybe they can give it to their neighbor.”

FFA President Madison Isenhower said it’s nice to offer something free to the public.

“If they don’t have enough money to buy a packet of seed or they don’t have the time to start a pack, they can plant it out in their yard or wherever they have their garden area,” she said. “It gives them a kick-start to maybe want to do something with gardening or something like that.”

Some of the tomato plants in the greenhouse are grown through a hydroponic system. They are planted in clay rock instead of soil, and water continually runs through PVC pipes.

That was a new endeavor for the students.

“When we started out, we knew nothing,” said sophomore Gabriella Walters, FFA sentinel.

“We still don’t know anything,” Riley joked.

“It’s like, ‘Boy, those are looking a little droopy. Let’s add some fertilizer to it. Wait, those are looking even more droopy. Maybe we need to cut back the fertilizer next time,’” Lemen added.

Begley said the system is supposed to be in a controlled environment. But they can’t control the sunlight that comes into the greenhouse, and they can’t control the heat and water.

Walters said the class completely changed the design of the system to get it to work right.

“It has been a lot of trial and error, but it has been really cool to see how it has been working,” she said.

The greenhouse also features a variety of bedding and border flowers — wave petunias, impatiens, coleus, dusty miller, petunias, marigolds, zinnias, snapdragons, begonias, gaillardia, alyssum and a few others. Some hanging baskets will be available, too.

The most popular flower seller is petunias, Lemen said.

Selling items in the greenhouse gives the students a good lesson in business, Begley said. They learn public relations by creating signs and getting the word out in the community and on social media. They also order supplies.

Throughout the semester, the students have spent much of their free time they get during the school day in the greenhouse.

“It might not be a great passion to them, but if they learn a little bit, that’s what I get out of it,” Begley said.

Also, with Mother’s Day coming up May 10, Crothersville Elementary School students will visit the greenhouse that week and take home a plant of their own.

If there are any leftover plants at the end of the school year, Begley said, she typically donates them to a local organization.

All proceeds from the sales go to the horticulture department for supplies for next year.

If you go

What: Plant sale

When: Kicks off from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; starting Monday, open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through the end of the school year

Where: Crothersville High School greenhouse on the south side of the school at 109 N. Preston St.

Who: Horticulture students will sell plants and flowers to the public.

Cost: Hanging baskets, $7; three-packs, $1; six-packs, $2; wave petunias, $2.50; specialty tomatoes three-pack, $3; exotic pack, $15; salsa pack, $5

Proceeds: To buy supplies for the school’s horticulture department

Information: 812-793-2051 or facebook.com/chsgreenhouse1

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.