Policy for Use of the Greenhouse and Conservatory | Plant Biology

Southern Illinois University



College of Agriculture, Life and Physical Sciences

Policy for Use of the Greenhouse and Conservatory

General Information

The Greenhouse is multi-functional, thus the plants within are serving various needs. Because of these different functions, space is at a premium. For this reason, if you wish to use the greenhouse for a research project, a Greenhouse Use Request Form must be completed, submitted to, and approved by the Greenhouse Director (Rich Cole). Space is to be requested and will be allocated only for the specific time period required by the project, not for an indefinite period of time. If conflicts occur over space, priority will be given to Plant Biology faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and non-departmental use. For those who request greenhouse space for projects supported by external grants, it is requested that funds be included in such grants to support such projects. Charges for this usage depends upon the resources being utilized (see Greenhouse Director for charge estimations). Smoking is forbidden in the Greenhouses and the headhouse. If you have a Greenhouse key and enter the building after regular hours, please ensure that the door is locked when you leave.

Use of the Greenhouse Collections

Visitors are welcome to view the plant collections during regular hours: generally 9:00-4:30 Monday through Friday, closed weekends. All group activities (classes, tour, etc.) are to be scheduled at least a week in advance.

Under no circumstances should any plant material be removed from the Greenhouse without the permission of the greenhouse staff or the Chair of the Department. If approved, all plants should be listed on the sign-out form, as well as the purpose (use), name, date removed, and date to be returned. During winter months, do not move open (unprotected) plants between the Greenhouse and the Life Sciences buildings as even very short exposure to freezing temperatures can kill many tropical plants. Large plastic bags can be used to cover the plants on your cart for rapid transit to the other building.

Plant Materials for Class and Research Use

If you need plant material for a class, please request this material with sufficient lead time such that they can be ready when needed for the class. For existing potted plants, at least one week is appropriate but for plants that need to be grown from cuttings or seeds, several months are required. If you are aware of the needs for a class early, please communicate this to the Greenhouse staff. Remember that some seeds require many months from sowing to maturation, so allow ample time. Be aware that space under the high intensity lights is limited.

For researchers, all soil, containers, fertilizer, etc. will not be supplied by the Plant Biology Greenhouse and thus must be supplied by the researcher.

Watering and use of Greenhouse Equipment

Unless specifically arranged, all plants in the Greenhouse will be watered and maintained by the Greenhouse staff. Watering takes place on a daily basis, including weekends and holidays. Disease and insect control takes place at regular intervals.

Do not attempt to operate any equipment; check with the Greenhouse staff if you need a particular item. Reasonable amounts of soil, pots and fertilizer can be provided for a project. If your project requires a large amount of these, consult with the Greenhouse Director who can assist you in ordering supplies. Greenhouse tools and equipment are not for personal use or for use in research projects outside the premises.

General Sanitation Procedures

Greenhouse plants are susceptible to numerous pathogens including insects (scale, mealy bugs, whitefly), arachnids (spider mites), slugs, fungi, and viruses. Routine spraying is used to control the insects and mites, however, other diseases are more problematic on seedlings and cuttings. For this reason, these must be kept as clean as possible. Pathogens can be spread from plant to plant in contaminated soil and on instruments such as pruning shears. If possible, pots, flats, tools, etc. are to be autoclaved (clay & metal), or washed and chemically sterilized (plastics) before used in any greenhouse project. Do not mix clean and dirty containers or tools – do not reuse until they have been steamed or washed and chemically sterilized. It is generally a good idea to wash your hands both before and after potting plants, seeds, seedlings, and cuttings. Use steamed soil, not soil that has been on the floor.

Allow the Greenhouse staff to inspect any new plant that is brought into the collection to ensure it is free of diseases or pests. Infected plants can be treated in a separate area and then introduced into the general collection. Be aware of previous applications of insecticides when handling plants. Always wash your hands after coming in contact with such plants.

Our greenhouse has some specific challenges with regard to sanitation. To keep the proper temperatures inside the houses, the ventilators must be kept open during the warm months of the year. Open ventilators, unfortunately, allow undesirable creatures to enter the greenhouse (insects, birds, and even small mammals like squirrels!). In addition, ecological experiments are conducted (particularly in the north house) that use field-collected soil samples to grown out plants from the seed bank. Of course, these soil samples harbor an entire ecosystem of organisms and are the opposite extreme compared to sterile potting media. These problems can only be solved with better greenhouse space.

Staff Support

The Greenhouse staff have many years of experience cultivating plants. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you consult with them about your experimental design. They are also invaluable when it comes to troubleshooting along the way. You are expected to take an active role in maintaining your research plants.

Your Responsibilites as a User

It is your responsibility to follow all Greenhouse policies and guidelines to ensure a successful research project and to minimize interpersonal conflict. The main consideration always is communication. When your project is complete, inform the Greenhouse staff and assist them in removing and properly disposing of all plant material, soil, etc.