BROWNSTOWN

A project this fall by Blake Hackman’s horticulture class at Brownstown Central High School holds a special meaning to many of his students.

In recent years, they got off the bus or were dropped off by their parents and walked into Brownstown Central Middle School for classes. While doing that, they would have seen the landscaping outside the school.

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“It was kind of dull. It was just mulch, and there were a lot of dead plants,” sophomore Erica Reynolds said.

“And there was a lot of dead grass,” senior Justice Skaggs added.

But after spending the past month redoing the landscaping around the school building, in the parking lot and around the school sign, the 22 students saw a noticeable difference.

Now, there’s rock instead of mulch, and new bushes, shrubs and flowers are planted. Soon, a retaining wall around the sign will be completed, and a stainless steel sculpture will be added to the north side of the building.

“We made a lot of progress, and it looks really nice. Especially next year when all of the bushes come in and get a lot bigger, it will look really good,” senior Devon Pruett said.

“It’s really nice to see the transformation. We can say we did that.”

Reynolds and Skaggs both said they enjoyed doing the project.

“It means a lot, honestly, because it’s like we’ve done something good for the school. Plus, I went here, so it’s kind of like giving back for all they’ve done for me,” Reynolds said.

“It makes you feel good, and it was a lot of fun. It just gives you a lot of experience, and if you want to landscape your own house, now you can,” Skaggs said.

Each school year, Hackman teaches two horticulture classes — landscape management in the fall and greenhouse management in the spring.

In the fall class, he tries to incorporate at least one project. This year, along with the middle school project, the class will create a raised bed garden at Brownstown Christian Church Day Care.

Hackman said people come to him each year with project ideas. The only stipulation is that they have to be within two miles of the school.

The middle school is only a couple of blocks away, so his students were able to walk over when the weather was nice and work.

Junior Leah Bane said that, before the class started the project a month ago, Hackman told them where items should go around the school, what it should look like and the patterns.

Hackman had a budget of $3,000. He purchased the plant material from Schneider Nursery and had the rock delivered by A Plus Landscaping.

The first step was to clear excess soil, mulch, weeds and grass from the landscaping.

“We had a lot of excessive soil there,” Hackman said. “We hauled out probably eight trailers of soil and mulch just to get it down because it had just been built up so much.”

In all of the beds, they put down landscaping fabric over the dirt to prevent weeds from coming up. They then put rock on top of that and planted more than 60 shrubs, plants and flowers.

“We put stuff in there that’s going to maintain its shape and stay rather small and require trimming maybe once every three years,” Hackman said.

A few trees near the front doors of the school and a few shrubs near the school sign were left alone. Only ones that obstructed the view of exiting the school were removed, Hackman said.

Students will have most of the project done by next week, with the exception of going back the first part of November to place a few trees. Hackman said he and Principal Doug McClure will finish up the retaining wall around the school sign.

In the spring, the sculpture will be placed.

“That hasn’t been designed yet, but it’s in production,” Hackman said. “It’s stainless steel and will be representative of the middle school.”

Once the church figures out its funding, the class will start working on the raised bed garden at the day care. Hackman said that type of garden is raised up and doesn’t involve digging into the ground.

The design is complete and includes a sens- ory garden.

“It takes into account the five senses — sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch — through different types of plant material,” Hackman said. “It’s something that I became familiar with about 10 years ago, and then I did a lesson on it out in Las Vegas.”

This fall, along with doing the work outside, Hackman said the students have learned in the classroom. They drew their own homes, and Hackman gave them drawings of other homes, and they had to come up with landscaping designs for both.

“Basically, the whole purpose of the course is for them to understand later on when they own a home that they can maintain the landscaping around their home and find out the benefits from actually having a landscaped home,” he said.

Pruett said that, between the inside and outside work, he has benefited a lot from the project.

“I learned the placement of bushes and how to make it look very dimensional, how to make it look good,” he said. “Now, if any of us want to go and landscape our own houses, we have the knowledge, and we know how to do it.”

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