Students in North Lake College’s introductory biology class, BIOL 1406, don’t just learn about plant life from a textbook. They get an introduction to gardening, too.
On the second floor of NLC’s C building, two hydroponics tables house an ever-growing collection of vegetables and herbs. The tables are tended by BIOL 1406 students in the Green Club, with help from science lab assistant Katelyn Miller and Green Club sponsors Amanda Mello and Jordan Sloop.
Every semester students grow a different crop of produce. Right now they’re tending rosemary, Italian and Thai basil, several kinds of mint, Swiss chard, kale, and even cabbage.
How does hydroponics work?
Hydroponics is a means of growing plants without using soil. Instead of dirt beds, the plants live on enclosed tables in small pools of nutrient-rich water. This technique is used to harvest produce in unfriendly climates, and NASA has even explored using hydroponics in space or on the moon.
On North Lake’s tables, pumps add water every few hours, and strong yellow Sun System grow lights simulate natural daylight. The plants are held upright in their water basins by chemically neutral clay pellets, and Green Club students tend to their growth and trim them before they grow too big for their tables. As the herbs and veggies grow larger, students are allowed to take home trimmings.
Around the corner from the hydroponics tables, a tall rolling cart with a transparent slipcover acts as a homemade greenhouse. Here new seedlings and cuttings grow until they’re big enough to join the main collection.
How to get involved
Faculty and staff can help in a way that’s just as fun. Several times a year, the plants are all changed out for new ones to prevent mature root systems from clogging up the hydroponics tables. If the plants don’t all find homes with Green Club students, club sponsors Mello and Sloop offer them to NLC employees. Email them directly to learn more.