The day UNH held our annual Greenhouse Open House it was cloudy, damp and muddy. The kind of day you would expect in New England during early Spring, but that wouldn’t stop the abundance of bright faces from touring our beloved greenhouses.
Upon entering, you’re welcomed by a wave of warm air, the faint smell of peat moss and greenery at every stage of growth, from seedlings to full-fledged succulents. Bursting with life, plants encompassing the resilient pansy (contrary to its name), to the delicate yet hardy crocus, lilies, tulips and daffodils.
I had a chance to speak with the manager, Jonathan Ebba, about the open house and also hear what is currently underway at the Macfarlane Research Greenhouses.
One-hundred percent of the proceeds earned from the annual Spring open house go towards projects and research carried out by students in the Thompson School. Currently they are working on installing fertilizer injectors. This not only feeds the plants more efficiently, but will extend greater accuracy and even distribution of nutrients among the plants. Along with investing in a drip irrigation system, students are learning how to successfully propagate young plants, which is a process of producing new plants from its originator. Jonathan also mentioned they are gradually shifting from conventional geoponic means of cultivation to hydroponics, a way of growing plants solely in nutrient rich solutions. The last, and what I found most fascinating part of my tour was seeing the fish tank. The by-product of koi is broken down by bacteria that is then used to feed plants through a process known as aquaponics.
Until touring the greenhouses, I had close to no knowledge of what hydroponics or fertilizer injectors were. Doing so, I learned it’s not as simple as putting a plant in sun and soil to see if it will grow. Through research, we’ve made positive strides in coming up with techniques to reduce energy while trying to maintain the same turnout.
The students and staff who run the greenhouses are more than happy to answer any of your green thumb questions, and encourage you to stop by and explore the greenhouses yourself!
Head over to their Facebook page to find out about future events going on at the greenhouses.