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Rainfall Showers Make Research & Development Park Greenhouse Flowers

by Jenifer Chiodo

In the early days of January, professional horticulture technician Ann Petterson receives her first shipment of seeds for the new year. One by one, Ann and the Campus Operations & Maintenance staff start planting the tiny seedlings in small cells, watering and tending to them gently to ensure they will become the beautiful flowers that will adorn Stony Brook University's public spaces in the coming spring.

Petterson and Campus Operations & Maintenance staff manage the Research & Development Park Greenhouse, which is located at the Stony Brook University's Research & Development Park. Each spring, they grow thousands of plants for the SBU Planting Program and outdoor beautification effort. The flowers and plants grown range from small to large annuals and perennials, and both inside and outside of the three year old 60' x 25' Greenhouse rows of pots line the walls and ceilings in an impressive display.

The Greenhouse itself is sustainable in a variety of ways and flowers grown in the facility are more cost effective when compared to buying them at retail locations. When grown in the greenhouse, flowers and plants cost approximately $0.75 each and such an arrangement eliminates the need for multiple suppliers and mitigates transportation related environmental impact. Each year, original plants that Ann and her staff tend to become what she calls "mother plants" - plants that she splices and then roots to make daughter plants. The SBU Planting Program relies on the flowers and plants grown at the Research & Development Park Greenhouse and the facility serves as an important incubator for beautification vegetation.

The Greenhouse also reuses wood debris and mulch that are products from the University's composting efforts. Greenhouse infant seedlings are initially grown with University mulch, and when the flowers and plants are transferred outdoors to University grounds, they are planted in flowerbeds which are also comprised of the same compost. "Approximately 80% of the flower beds on campus are bedded with recycled compost and soil," says Ann. "The campus flowerbeds are then typically topped with woodchips, which are also from our wood debris/compost recycling operation." There are several sources of viable healthy soil made from different processes around campus. The Research & Development Park Greenhouse has the largest quantity of viable compost, comprised of leaves, twigs and grass clippings collected from campus landscaping. The Roth Cafe kitchen composter is also another location for composting, which is an aerobic composting process that creates compost from various food wastes produced by campus dining halls. Lastly, there is the wood debris mulching and composting being performed in South P Lot, which produces high quality wood chips, soil aggregate and mulch, which is used for operations on campus grounds. Together, it is estimated these recycling programs have saved the University over $200,000.00 in avoided disposal costs.

In order to increase sustainability, the Research & Development Park Greenhouse also uses both well water and collected rainwater as its sources for irrigation. The rainwater is collected in large 50-gallon containers which are located under the flower and plant benches and is specifically used for growing organic plants. A rain gutter system and piping serves to collect and divert rain water from the exterior into the 50-gallon storage containers.

In addition to spring growing and planting efforts, Greenhouse grown flowers and plants are also planted along pathways, walkways and parking lots for commencement, which is held in May. "I love seeing all of our hard work make the campus look so beautiful," she said. To view more information on Stony Brook University plantings, please visit Ann's "What's Growin On Stony Brook" blog.

To see the Research & Development Park Greenhouse in action, click here.

For more information on this initiative, please contact:
Stony Brook University
Office of Sustainability
E-Mail: sustainability@stonybrook.edu

A Closer Look: The Research & Development Park Greenhouse

Created by Application Support for Administration
Sustainability @ Stony Brook University