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Horticulture students learn the value of the drip in every drop

Staff writer

Warrior Soil is a well-appointed greenhouse operated by Peabody-Burns High School students enrolled in Ann Leppke’s horticulture classes.

Students go through the process of raising seeds to full-grown plants. They select what they want to grow in the fall, order seeds, prepare soil and containers, plant seeds and care for the plants until it is time to sell them and start over.

“The greenhouse is a great teaching tool,” Leppke said. “We are fortunate to have it. However, one issue of inconvenience has been keeping plants watered regularly. Whether it is a holiday break, summer vacation, or just a stretch hot sunny weather, the watering always needs to be done.

“Students frequently volunteer to do it, but when there is no one else, it becomes my job,” she added. “I do business with Serenity Gardens at Hillsboro and have admired their overhead drip irrigation system. When Gretchen Berns took over the vocational agriculture program here at the high school, she and her students were looking for projects to work on.

“I asked them if they would be willing to work on a drip irrigation system and they agreed to look into it.”

Berns said her Plant and Animal Science class was interested last year. They started working on it second semester.

“We talked about greenhouse management and they thought building a drip system for Warrior Soil was something they could tackle,” Berns said.

The students figured out what tools and supplies they would probably need.

“We went to Serenity Gardens and the owners were helpful, showing the kids how it worked and explaining how they had built theirs,” Berns said. “Ann and her students had been doing all the watering at PBHS by hand and my class could see right off how much the drip system would help. They were enthusiastic about it.”

Berns said her students figured out what parts and supplies they would need, measured everything, and created a shopping list.

“I contacted a company in Topeka, hoping to get the project started. We ordered what we needed, but they couldn’t get it shipped until summer,” she said. “I had wanted those students to get the hands-on experience of putting it together, but it didn’t happen.”

Berns said she also got some advice from PBHS custodian Rich Holm.

“He thought we could save money by using irrigation tubing instead of PVC,” she said.

The students have constructed the system and are getting ready to figure how much water pressure will be needed to keep the plants hydrated, but not drowning.

“There will be some trial and error,” Berns said. “They have plugged lines to the drippers. Now they have to figure the volume of the drip. Horticulture students will have to learn that too.

“By the end of the first quarter, it will be ready to use and the kids will understand how it works,” she said. “We don’t have any additional projects now, so we will step back and do classroom work. We’ll get into animal science next semester.”

Last modified Sept. 10, 2015

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