Rye High School English teacher George Krycha hadn’t planned on becoming “Chief Horticulturist” at the school, but the location of his classroom provided an unexpected bonus.
By Sarah Varney
Rye High School English teacher George Krycha hadn’t planned on becoming “Chief Horticulturist” at the school, but the location of his classroom provided an unexpected bonus. Next door is a storage space that once served as the school’s greenhouse, and it happens that Krycha is a passionate home gardener.
In this instance, passion and opportunity came together, but the greenhouse was in tough shape. “First we had to clean out all the stuff that was being stored in the space and find other places for it,” said Krycha. “I thought it would be an awful shame to let this space go to waste. The glass roof had partitioned panes along with an ancient crankshaft but the waterproof flooring was gone.”
That rusted crankshaft is still in place, while Krycha and club members search for someone who might be able to fix it. The flooring is the main obstacle right now. “We need waterproof flooring to make it a real working space. Right now, if we opened the roof, the water would leak down into the art room and they’d be very unhappy,” he said.
A variety of hydroponic growing pans filled with lettuces, herbs, and peas currently enjoy the sunny environment of the greenhouse. Hydroponic farming, or growing plants without soil saves space and water and it speeds growth.
Going Green enthusiast Alexander Reifsnyder, who is a senior, has invented a number of ways to keep the plants fed using reclaimed water that drains from each pan. “We’re on the cutting edge of hydroponics and aeroponics,” he said. “It’s all about trying to introduce the right mix of air and water,” he added. His newest prototype aerosolizes the water into mist. “This way, the roots don’t have to do any work because the moisture passes directly into the root cells,” he explained. One system he created uses air stones to create bubbles; another uses a built-in sprinkler with continuous water reclamation.
Currently, the growing space in the greenhouse is limited to one row of shelves closest to the windows overlooking a pristine winter view. For Krycha, the greenhouse renovation may also help sow the seeds of capitalism. “We’re going to raise the money to fix the floor and the roof the old-fashioned way. We’re going to earn it,” he noted. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the Going Green club will offer 200 pea seedlings and 400 lettuce seedlings for sale. Krycha also informed us that the club will “winter” household plants from Rye residents once the greenhouse is in full working order.
Krycha and his crew would welcome the donation of old grow lights and unused grow shelving for the greenhouse. The club, which is in its first year, will provide an overall benefit in terms of gardening experience for students coming up through the system. “What’s really nice is that we’re continuing the gardening work being done in the elementary and middle schools, so students can be exposed to gardening in grades K-12,” he said.