CCBC’s new Sustainable Horticulture program improves students’ job prospects and benefits the environment.
Sustainable…It’s a word that we often hear, but what does it really mean? For CCBC’s long standing Horticulture program, it has meant a new approach that includes eco-friendly principles for landscaping and cultivating plants.
“We haven’t abandoned conventional horticultural methods,” says Bradley Thompson, director of the Sustainable Horticulture program, “We have added sustainability practices as a new way of doing business. One for which you will increasingly see demand.”
Sustainable techniquesThe program emphasizes alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers, resulting in a leaner, more economical approach. For example, rather than using herbicides and pesticides, vinegar is used to kill weeds and insecticidal soap is used to kill pests.
Similarly, compost tea – a liquid made from compost -- is used to fertilize plants. Techniques such as these underscore the new thinking and teaching in the program.
“We try to stay away from petroleum-based products and use organic products, which don’t negatively impact the environment,” said Thompson. Not only are they easier on the environment, but many of these techniques are often less expensive than the traditional techniques.
New learning tools for studentsThe college has constructed models of a green roof and a green wall as learning tools for students, thanks in part to a grant from the USDA. Such structures, covered with vegetation, have multiple advantages over conventional ones, such as absorbing rainwater run-off, reducing heating and cooling costs and creating a habitat for wildlife. Green roofs can also last longer because they don’t have to be replaced.
In addition, a rain harvesting system has been installed on the current greenhouse. This system collects rainwater that previously would have added to the water running off the campus and ultimately ending up in the Chesapeake Bay.
The sustainable advantageAccording to Thompson, experience with these and other sustainable methods will give students an advantage in the job market, which reflects the growing concern associated with old fashion gardening and the use of fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers and dangerous and persistent chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
“Sustainable horticulture is a leaner, cleaner, and greener horticulture,” said Thompson. “We’re basically giving students a broader understanding by adding new approaches to horticultural practices. Approaches that will give them a head start in the field and provide enormous benefit to the environment.”