Submitted by: Robert Hodgdon
The Richmond Hill Schools Field Studies Program with the help of several area businesses recent completed a 5000 sq. ft. agricultural research garden on the Richmond Hill Middle School campus. The garden consists of a 720 sq. ft. greenhouse, forty-four framed, raised beds and container gardens, both of which are suitable models for home gardening. The research garden may be one of the largest school-based research gardens in the state of Georgia.
Students will conduct research on fertilizers, prevention and treatment of plant disease and infestation, and on which varieties of certain crops (e.g., tomato) are most successful in our hot, humid climate, etc. Data and observations will be shared with community stakeholders to encourage families to grow some of their own produce in small home gardens.
The $19,000 cost for the garden has been funded entirely through grants fundraising by the Field Studies Program and through donations from local area businesses.
The greenhouse and growing trays were purchased with funds provided by TerraPointe, LLC. The extensive work to assemble the greenhouse was done by members of the Bryan County School District Facilities crew. Funds to construct the raised beds were provided by the Richmond Hill Rotary Club, Lowes (Toolbox for Education grant), and the National Environmental Education Foundation.
The raised beds were constructed by Preferred Materials Inc. which is owned by parent company Oldcastle. The crew from Preferred Materials assembled the forty-four boxes which extend the beds 6 in. above the ground, brought in excavating equipment to dig down 12 in. into the gravel base, and filled each box with 18 inches of topsoil.
A truck load of large nursery containers was donated by Savannah Quarters Country Club. Vegetable and herb seeds were donated by The Georgia Southern University Sustainability Center, Gurney’s, Johnny’s Select Seeds, W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., American Seed Co., Park Seeds, and several Richmond Hill residents. Additional gardening tools were donated by Michael and Dana Letson of Richmond Hill.
The research garden also contains a number of native wildflower trial beds that will support the vegetable garden but are also part of a larger pollinator habitat restoration project. Guidance, seeds, and plants for the pollinator project have come from the Georgia Natural Resources Department, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Coastal Wildscapes, Thompson Gardens, and Southern Native Plantings.
The Field Studies Program recently received a grant from the Coastal Electric Cooperative to plant a native highbush blueberry and muscadine grape orchard behind the research garden.
Students with the work crew from Preferred Materials Inc.
Student members of the Field Studies Program (Anthony Marsan, Bayla Osden, Layla Murray, Porter Fettes.
Richmond Hill Middle School Principal Dr. William McGrath cuts the ribbon during the Research Garden ceremony. Pictured behind Dr. McGrath from left to right are Rich Delong and Brad Brookshire (current President) representing the Richmond Hill Rotary Club and Ronnie Strickland (heavy equipment operator) and Robert Royal (VP/GM for GA/SC Region) from Preferred Materials, Inc.
Picture of greenhouse which was purchased with funds from TerraPointe, LLC., a division of Rayonier.
8th grade Field Studies student Anthony Marsan planting native wildflowers in the Research Garden.
An aerial view of the garden. Students in the Field Studies Program are seen planting some fall crops in October.