Last year Dorchester County Career and Technology Center students joined other community groups planting native grasses they had grown to aid in the restoration of Cambridge Creek at Cannery Park. (Photo courtesy Dorchester County Career and Technology Center Greenhouse)

So, how did it go — that grand plan of yours to start seeds indoors over the winter to save money for spring planting?
If you never quite got to it, the 11th and 12th graders in Terry Nuwer’s Agricultural Science program have your back.
They’ve been working hard nurturing a bevy of bedding plants at the Dorchester County Career and Technology Center’s Greenhouse. The students are prepping for the Annual Plant Sale coming up in April. Proceeds from the sale, featuring budget friendly pricing, helps raise funds for students to participate in FFA training, competition, and other events. Along the way, the youngsters harvest knowledge designed to help them reap rewards out in the real world.
A self-proclaimed crazy plant lady, Nuwer excitedly scours seed catalogs up to a year in advance to peruse possible greenhouse offerings. This year she and her students posted a questionnaire asking people to select the types of plants they were looking for (those responding would be eligible to win free bedding plants). Based on the feedback, the students planted a lot more perennials, going from about half of their total offering to almost 70 percent. The popular “basketball” geranium hanging baskets will be back — “fewer, but bigger,” she said. And be sure and search under the nearly wall-to-wall display tables to find lots of shade varietals, including four types of Hosta, Nuwer mentioned.
In case you’re unsure what would work best in your garden, she is ready to answer your questions. And informative easy to read signs denoting each plant’s properties and growing needs are posted throughout the Greenhouse display area.
Because most of the program’s students have little to no agriculture background, Nuwer begins instructing them in the basics, including how to easily tell if a plant needs water. (“Lift up the plant, if its heavy, it’s had enough,” she explained.) She also alerts them to finger check every plant’s soil, catching any that have been missed.
The greenhouse’s automated drip and shower systems help ensure a regular supply of moisture. A control panel and sensors keep track of other fundamentals including light, heat, fertilizer, and temperature, kept at an optimal 80 degrees F.
The program’s spring sale and open house event remains a focal point activity. This year it will feature a “plant” based bingo game with gardener friendly prizes to win. A “bee hotel” workshop is also in the works, Nuwer said.
Additional innovations have been expanding the greenhouse’s growing season even more. Outside, several raised beds now help grow native grasses and pollinators, and there’s talk of adding a fall sale for them. Nuwer also mentioned wanting to use floating hoop covers over the beds to facilitate growing in colder weather.
Throughout the year, the enterprising students also raise money creating floral and greenery arrangements to mark Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day. Over the winter, the group coordinated fresh bulk strawberry orders from Florida.
Summer school students have groundskeeping internships maintaining their own mini landscaping business.
This year, some students will have the opportunity to care for baby goats coming to the Agricultural Science Department in mid-Spring for the first time.
The greenhouse students have also partnered with area businesses and organizations.
During February, the group provided “tree sitting” services for Cambridge restaurant Snappers.
The students are assigned daily watering of an impressive stand of potted trees.
And last year the students joined other community groups planting native grasses they had grown to aid in the restoration of Cambridge Creek at Cannery Park.
In 2019 the students grew and installed 8,000 plants, according to Nuwer.
Composting is another aspect of growing the students glean at the greenhouse. Nuwer tasks each one with saving vegetable scraps to bring in and “feed” the two large circular black composting bins which will create good growing soil. They also learn the vital roles played in the gardening process by working with ladybugs, centipedes and worms.
Beyond green thumb basics, Nuwer said the students are also guided in acquiring skills required by real world gardening business operations, including creating a plant catalog (developing a template, taking photos, writing), and developing a business plan involving learning about sourcing, pricing, and researching the current market to determine what will sell.
Though teaching for 21 years, Nuwer’s roots began in real world agriculture.
Raised working on every aspect of her family’s chicken farm, her first job was in the agribusiness sector. She later taught agriculture education and agronomy for five years in Delaware, before joining DCTC’s Agricultural Science program, a job she didn’t plan on but said she loves.
The horticulture-based greenhouse provides one aspect of the Agricultural Science program, which introduces high school juniors and seniors to the plant, animal and food sciences.
She credits her “great network” of contacts from beyond education with bringing valuable insight into the curriculum.
“All of us teaching here have worked outside education, and it definitely helps,” Nuwer said.
Her biggest reward? “That ‘Aha’ moment when a student’s face lights up,” she said.
To play a role in helping someone find joy they can channel into a livelihood, to find passion in something that helps pay the bills, is awesome, Nuwer said.
To learn more, visit or the group’s Facebook page at