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Connie Vandermay/FOCUS The New York Mills School greenhouse operations are well on their way, with 100 hostas and 200 lilies started last week, and more varieties coming soon. The annual plant sale will be in May.

New York Mills ag students dig into planting season

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Despite budget cuts, New York Mills High School will have well stocked greenhouses this year, in time for their May plant sales.

During the school district's April 2011 school board meeting, the board agreed to cut greenhouse costs by at least $2,500 by increasing efficiency, choosing plants wisely and lowering heat costs.

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In an effort to increase efficiency, NY Mills' agriculture teacher, Luke Becker, and his class spent the first part of the year making upgrades to the doors and insulation on the backside of the greenhouse. Becker said the temperature increased by 15 degrees after the changes.

Superintendent Todd Cameron said the plants will be chosen carefully this year so there won't be extras after the spring plant sale. To help offset costs, plant prices may be increased at this year's sale.

Cameron said the greenhouse startup was delayed to lower the cost of heating. In the past, the greenhouse began operating in January, while this year it was held off until the beginning of March.

Cameron said the district will not know until later in the year if the cost reduction goals have been met.

Greenhouse knowhow

In an interview last week, Becker said the trick with greenhouses is keeping the temperature between 66-80 degrees. On some cold, windy days when there's not much sun, a heat source is necessary, but on sunny days the temperatures can soar to more than 100 degrees pretty quickly.

To cool down the greenhouse, louvers (vent-like windows) open to let heat out. Currently, the NY Mills louvers are not automatic, which means Becker has to manually regulate temperature. Becker is applying for a grant to update the louvers.

Growing for community

In stable environments, the greenhouses will have flower and vegetable starters available for community gardens.

Becker said the agriculture class just brought in 100 hostas and 200 lilies, and the students are filling hanging baskets.

The NY Mills greenhouse supplies plants for the community garden as well as area residents. Plant sales will be held in mid-May; proceeds will be split between the Future Farmers of America chapter and the school.

NY Mills FFA students help out in the greenhouse by running the sale and watering and transplanting plants.

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