The lack of students, faculty and staff on campus has affected how certain facilities must be maintained. Although, when a person thinks of facilities, they may not consider the need to maintain campus greenery.
The Texas Tech Horticulture Gardens and Greenhouse Complex houses multiple types of plants used for different classes, research and for basic presentation purposes.
Although, with most people not on campus, the use of this facility has been impacted in different ways.
Vikram Baliga, greenhouse manager, said typically, there would be 10 to 12 people helping to maintain the facility at any given time. In addition, other faculty, staff and students tend to work at the garden for different assignments and research.
In the spring, Baliga said the staff would be working to limit the number of weeds, start to put together a spring garden and work on the vegetable garden.
“It is pretty much just me at the moment,” he said regarding the number of people who currently are maintaining the facility.
Due to university policies regarding only essential staff being present on campus, Baliga said there are restrictions on how long he can be present at the garden at any given time.
“I come in, and I’m getting the greenhouse watered every day as it needs it,” he said. “I’m doing basic maintenance kind of stuff and working with our folks that need things taken care of and that kind of thing.”
Not being able to attend to all the tasks is one challenge, Baliga said he faces when maintaining the two-and-a-half acre garden.
“But in the amount of time I have, we’re kind of just letting the garden do what it does right now,” he said. “As soon as we can, we’ll work on getting it cleaned up and more presentable.”
In addition to the lack of garden staff, Baliga said students and faculty are not able to utilize the garden at the moment.
“We’re an interesting facility here where we are a research facility. You know, lots of graduate students have work here,” he said. “But we’re primarily a teaching facility.”
Before the cancellations on campus, Baliga said about 400 to 500 students will go to the garden every week.
Not being able to access the garden may affect a student’s learning experience or a faculty member’s teaching experience in different ways.
Russell Plowman, Tech instructor of horticulture, said he operates the facility’s trial garden, which consists of plants sent from different companies and suppliers that want to see how their plants grow in the Lubbock area.
“And typically, I have a position available for two to three student workers, and then usually someone that does an internship with it,” he said regarding operations at the trial garden.
This time of year, Plowman said he and the students would be preparing the garden for plants and accepting shipments of seedlings to keep in the greenhouse, which he currently must do by himself. Whether it be planting or recording data about the plants, certain students get a variety of hands-on experience in the greenhouse.
“I think it’s absolutely invaluable,” he said regarding the hands-on experience. “I think for anyone in horticulture that’s going to go on learning how to grow plants, record what’s happening with them, seeing how they’re actually performing is something you just can’t do without.”
It is unfortunate students will not get this hands-on experience for the rest of the semester, Plowman said.
Brianne Swailes, a senior plant and soil science major from Leander, said she would use the gardens as a resource to learn more about certain types of plants.
“Especially in some of our intro to horticulture classes, students are required to be able to identify different types of plants, and they always pull their photos and their exemplars from the horticulture gardens, so a lot of students can be there and try to associate a scientific and common name with a physical plant, so when they get into the exam room, they have a better idea of what to look for.”
Regarding her current classes, Swailes said she has one class that consists of a heavy hands-on lab.
“At this point, we have four experiments running, and we were about to start a fifth before spring break,” she said, “and we have had to terminate every single one of our experiments and just use the data we have.”
Along with this, Swailes said she misses the hands-on experience and simply being at the garden.
Regardless, Swailes said it seems collectively a lot of the students are facing the same issues resulting from campus facilities being closed.
“It’d be nice to actually be on campus,” she said. “Get more fresh air.”