Students gain hands-on experience managing garden

August 13, 2013

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MPSC Garden

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A garden outside of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Markee Pioneer Student Center not only serves the purpose of aesthetic appeal, but also provides vegetables for dining services and hands-on experience for students in the School of Agriculture.

The garden, found on the south side of the MPSC — directly across from the pond — is filled with plants and flowers all grown in the Pioneer Greenhouse. Under the direction of Dawn Lee, manager of the greenhouse, student workers — beginning in the spring semester and continuing into summer — sowed the seeds in the greenhouse and later transplanted the plants and flowers to the MPSC garden. They collaborated closely with Steve Cullen and the UW-Platteville grounds maintenance department, who helped provide mulch and other equipment needed to manage the garden.

Included in this garden are four experimental flower varieties. Lee was contacted by a national seed supplier company, Harris Seeds, and asked to test the performance and growth of four new varieties of coleus, Gazania, Petunia and Zinnia seeds — all of which, Lee noted, performed fairly well.

The garden also serves a functional purpose, with the inclusion of rosemary, as well as flowering kale and cabbage, which will be used by dining services to garnish the platters used in catering events and dining functions. While the Pioneer Greenhouse collaborates with dining services every year to provide cherry tomatoes and herbs, this is the first year they have planted vegetables and rosemary directly outside of the MPSC. Lee noted that this was done partially because of the convenience of the location — so dining services can easily access the plants when they are ready to harvest  –  and also to beautify the area. Flowering kale and cabbage typically bloom into various shades of pink, purples and red. 

“This gives students a well-rounded experience,” said Lee. “It starts with sowing the seeds and continues with taking them from the plugs and transplanting them into four-packs or six packs. The students are then in charge of watering and fertilizing them, and once they grow to a certain height, putting them into the landscape. They oversee the entire process.”

The experience allows students to practice, daily, the concepts they are learning in class.

“It has been a lot of fun,” said Lynn Schambow, a senior ornamental horticulture major from Rewey, Wis. “I have enjoyed helping to design the space, and the hands-on experience pruning the plants.”

“I learn so much being in the greenhouse and experiencing what I am learning in class on a day-to-day basis,” added Kevin Seng, a junior reclamation, environment and conservation major from Cassville, Wis. “It’s nice working by the student center because I’m outside, and I get to hear the nice comments from people about the work we do there.”

Contact: Dawn Lee, Pioneer Greenhouse manager, (608) 342-1616, leedaw@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Alison Parkins, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1526, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu

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