Ag students give back

Students from Tropical Horticulture class spent a day revitalizing and beautifying potted plants and ornamental gardens at a local church.

By Kyle Jackson, Student, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Horticulture Track.

Students in covered area working on plants.
Hort 262 students reviving ornamentals at Malia Puka O Kalani Church.

Each semester, students of Introduction to Tropical Horticulture (HORT 262) engage in community service. On February 15, 2018, our class of 14 students set out to help Malia Puka O Kalani Church revive their ornamental garden.

The church is located in Keaukaha, Hilo, where almost half of the resident population is Native Hawaiian and 292 acres are devoted to Hawaiian Home Lands. The garden was initially started by a few parishioners of Malia Puka O Kalani in 2016 when Fr. Oliver Ortega was the parish priest. Different tropical ornamental plants such as bougainvilla, anthuriums, hibiscus and many others adorned the church on weekend services and then were returned to the garden for care and maintenance.

However, since Fr. Ortega left and the composition of the parishioners changed, most of the plants were left unattended with half of the potted plants dead and half badly needing repotting, pruning, watering and fertilizing.

We were given instructions on our mission for the day: beautify the church area by moving plants and shelves to a new area. Another part of our goal for the day was to improve the general appeal and health of the plants.

Initially we worked as a class removing all the plants, then all the shelving materials to a central area. We were then given a brief workshop on how to rehabilitate a plant that is not doing so well. Some of the plants were past the point of saving and we were instructed to get rid of these fallen soldiers.

The class then split up into different groups to accomplish these goals. Some of the students worked on aligning and “installing” the shelving material that the plants would sit on in the new area. Another group began methodically selecting plants that needed some TLC and removing dead areas, weeds, and topping them off with fresh soil so that new root development could occur.  After removing some of the dead plants from their pots we rinsed the pots out so that they wouldn’t be moldy or dirty for the next use.

The class came together for the end of the period and finished cleaning out the plants, setting the revitalized plants close together in two rows. Once we started winding down, we got the pleasant surprise of an auntie from the church community bringing us freshly homemade malasadas! For a group of dirty, hungry students this was one of the best surprises we could have hoped for. After eating our snacks, socializing a bit, and cleaning up we headed out for the day.

Through this lab our class learned the value and importance of working together to contribute to your community. The fact that we had such a large group made it so that we were able to make a big change in a short amount of time without overworking anyone.

I think it is important to do events like these for many reasons. It connects you with different areas of the community in a positive way and gives a true feeling of compassion/happiness to see others benefit from your donated time. It also can give different groups (whether students or other organizations) a good place to bond and build relationships with each other because you are all doing something to make a positive change.

This article was originally published in the Feb 2018 CAFNRM/Agriculture Club Newsletter.