Southeast Agriculture Students Find New Opportunities Working with Master Gardeners

Photo of People Working in the Southeast Greenhouse

John Wisdom (right), an agriculture major from Eminence, Mo., works with Carol Wilkinson, a Master Gardener.

 (View larger photo of people working in the greenhouse.)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Feb. 24, 2006 – For the first time, Southeast agriculture students are getting a chance to work with Master Gardeners, and everyone is reaping the benefits.

The Cape County Master Gardeners are working with students at the Charles L. Hutson Agricultural Greenhouse on a nine-week project to grow plants for Gardeners’ annual spring sale.  As a result of the cooperation, the cost of the plants has been divided, allowing students to be exposed to twice as many varieties of plants at half the price.  Student involvement in the project includes everything from filling soil trays to transplanting to watering.

Southeast campus horticulturist Denise Pingel says the opportunities this partnership provides are endless for students going into the horticulture field.

“In the nine years I’ve worked here, we’ve never had this many varieties at the greenhouse,” said Pingel.  “This project gives us an opportunity to educate our students on all sorts of different plants during all stages, from seed to sales.  Students are even getting exposed to the customer relations experience, which is a very important part of working in this field.”

The varieties of plants students will be exposed to include annual bedding plants such as petunias, marigolds and alyssum; perennials; herbs; and vernalized perennials, in which plants are put through a cold treatment in order to speed the growing process.

The combined effort of the two groups is expected to yield more than 75,000 plants.  According to Gayla Gunter, Cape County Master Gardener, the plants will fill all three of the gutter-connected greenhouses that comprise Southeast’s Charles L. Hutson Agricultural Greenhouse.  Plants will have to hang from the rafters and be placed on the floor to make room for the large order.

Gunter says she is excited about the opportunities this project provides for both the Master Gardeners and for Southeast students.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Gunter.  “We are able to help the students learn, giving them the opportunity and exposure to working with different plants so that they may learn production horticulture, and they help us out with the labor required to grow these plants.  Master Gardeners take the learning process a step even further, using the knowledge gained from this project to educate the public.”

Pingel met with Gayla Gunter and Anne Foust of the Cape County Master Gardeners in July of 2005 to discuss the details of a collaborative effort between Southeast and the Master Gardeners.  Orders were placed through a supplier by Nov. 1 for all of the plants needed this year, and new plant varieties have been delivered each week since the first of January.  The workload that these orders require has kept Master Gardeners busy, working every Thursday morning and at night on two separate occasions, transplanting in the head house of the Greenhouse.

The Master Gardeners’ annual spring sale will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. April 7 and from 7 a.m. to noon April 8 at the Arena Park Conservation Shelter in Cape Girardeau. 

The Cape County Master Gardeners have contributed to the experience of Southeast students on other occasions.  According to Gunter, the Master Gardeners have been responsible for more than $7,500 in contributions to the Greenhouse over the last six years, and are holding $1,400 from last year’s sale to purchase a tag-printing machine for the Greenhouse.  The Master Gardeners are members of the 150 Club for the Charles L. Hutson Agricultural Greenhouse, which consists of those who contributed at least $1,000 to the building of the new facility.  Past proceeds from the Master Gardeners’ annual sale have gone towards scholarships to University horticulture students and the Southeast Greenhouse fund, as well as many other organizations and projects in the Cape Girardeau County area.