MUSCATINE, Iowa–If you step into the greenhouse just behind Muscatine High School, a dazzling array of budding flowers, verdant vegetables, and tasteful hanging baskets will greet you. For the past 12 weeks, students in horticulture classes have carefully tended the young plants to prepare them for the annual FFA plant sale, taking place in April and May. After two years of pandemic protocols, students welcome gardeners to come in and browse their handiwork in person.
For Elijah Leza and Jesus Arceo, both juniors, the last three months of horticulture class have kept them busy preparing for the sale. “This semester, we’ve pretty much been planting all our plants, from petunias to tomatoes and peppers,” shared Elijah.
Along with starting their seeds, the students have worked to get their plants sale ready through daily watering and timely pruning. Along with these basic tasks, Jesus pointed out that students do much of the work to set up for the sale, repotting seedlings into plug containers, organizing them into flats on the sale tables, and filling each of the hanging baskets with showy blooms.
As a first time gardener, Elijah has found it fun, “working with new plants–you learn a lot about different plants and how they grow.”
This year, Elijah and Jesus especially look forward to providing vegetable gardeners with two kinds of popular peppers the FFA greenhouse has never grown before, Carolina Reapers and Ghost Peppers. For flower gardeners, they recommend checking out their Black Mamba petunias, which have a deep black hue with hints of purple, making them a striking contrast to many brightly colored plants.
Horticulture students and FFA members will open the greenhouse to the public for in-person plant sales on several upcoming Fridays, including April 22 and 29 and May 6 and 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. This year, in conjunction with the Race for the Schools’ return to in person races, they will also have a special Saturday shopping time as well May 7 from 8 to 10:30 a.m. All sales will take place in the Muscatine FFA greenhouse, located just behind Muscatine High School at 2705 Cedar Street in Muscatine.
Each year, the Muscatine FFA plant sale gives students an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about growing plants and to share their work with the wider community. Elijah encourages people to buy their plants from the sale because, “it’s a pretty good price to get them at, and they’re locally grown by students and a teacher who’s always willing to help.”
Muscatine High School agriculture teacher Dave Tometich expanded on Elijah’s thoughts, explaining students, “get to know all sorts of new things they never would have done otherwise.”
Commenting on the quality of the plants, Jesus added, “They’re the real deal!”
On top of helping students get to live out the concepts they study in horticulture, the sale also allows horticulture classes to continue into the future, and for FFA students to have opportunities to travel for competitions and earn scholarships. Elijah hoped the sale would do well, “so that horticulture students next year can plant the same things or more than we did the year before.”
Tometich elaborated that, “the money goes back to the students to travel economically and to even go to school economically.”