Winter gardening in the WDC greenhouse
Ed Lewis enjoys working in the WDC Greenhouse on the middle/high school campus, especially on those really cold days.
Inside the greenhouse, it’s nearly 90 degrees with 70-percent humidity – excellent growing conditions for the vegetable plants thriving in raised beds and hanging planters. While Lewis thins out the radish plants, the soft hum of fans force rising heat down. The passive solar heating system captures the day’s warmth into a rock-storage area and releases it at night.
Lewis grabs his clipboard where he’s neatly listed all the vegetables that are soaking up the warmth of the sunlight bursting through the Plexiglass on this cold February day. There are carrots, beets, snap peas, okra, pak choi, Swiss chard, spinach, beets, three varieties of radishes and six varieties of lettuce.
“I delivered three pounds of fresh spinach to the middle/high school cafeteria this morning,” said Lewis, who brings bowls of fresh produce to the cafeteria once a week.
When he’s not tending to the greenhouse plants, Lewis is busy giving informative tours of the greenhouse to groups like the Wadena-Deer Creek ECFE or area FFA chapters. Last week, WDC second-grade teacher Vicki Smith and her class walked over to the greenhouse where they planted radish seeds in small individual pots. “Students had a great time,” said Smith. Lewis emailed a picture to Mrs. Smith this week of the radish plants emerging from the soil. “The kids were excited to see their radishes growing,” added Smith.
Soon, more elementary classes will be arriving almost daily to begin planting marigolds, pumpkins and more in individual containers. Eventually, students will take them home to nurture them in their own gardens or window sills.
The WDC Greenhouse is a busy place for Lewis, a master gardener, who enjoys teaching youth about gardening.
He said he teaches students about plants as whole systems. They learn about such things as pollination, nutrition and relationships between plants and insects. In fact, Lewis has several ladybugs in a butterfly house that feed on aphids and spider mites.
“I love seeing students of all ages come to the greenhouse and learn. That is the purpose of our school greenhouse – it’s another classroom. Plus, we’re getting the benefit of fresh produce in our lunches for students,” said Lewis, as he pops a fresh leaf of lettuce in his mouth with a smile.