Campus greenhouse to be built by fall semester

Jul 04, 2017

There is one more addition to the Newman campus that students can look forward to this fall — a campus greenhouse.

Mike Rodee, a booster of the Newman Athletics Department, is one of the many individuals helping to provide a greenhouse for the Newman Gardening Club. Rodee donated his labor, money and time to install the base, drainage and concrete work for the beginning stages of the greenhouse.

“He really put us off to a great start,” Director of Athletics Vic Trilli said. “Mike also did my parking lot out here two years ago, for nothing. He just came in, redid the top of it, repainted the entire thing, and then he told me, ‘I don’t want to charge you for that. We’ve got all these teams coming in there and I just want it to look good when they come in.’ And it looks brand new. That’s what you get with Mike. He’s a great friend to the university and a personal friend of mine.”

Trilli said the next step is to put bolts into the concrete that is currently in place, which Rodee has agreed to help with as well. After that, they can officially begin installing the greenhouse.  

“Originally, students had the idea of placing the greenhouse behind Merlini, but there is a lot of construction going on and not only that, but they understood that when they aren’t there, someone needs to take care of it,” Trilli said. “And with it being where it is, it will be right next to Fr. Tom’s personal garden and his house. I love it over there and I think it’s going to be the perfect spot.”

The location of Fr. Tom Welk’s home, which is south of campus on Sheridan Street and just west of the ASC (Adorers of the Blood of Christ) Center on campus, makes it easily accessible to students.

Fr. Tom stands by the concrete slab where the greenhouse will be placed.

Fr. Tom, who donated $3,000 toward building the greenhouse, said the purpose of a greenhouse is to make sure the plants get the maximum amount of light. Greenhouses are typically made up of glass panels all around, but the material that will be used is much stronger in order to withstand strong winds or hail storms.

“The walls and roof are totally open to the sun, and that is the secret,” Fr. Tom said.

In the daytime, plants may not have any problem with sunlight, but at night temperatures can often get cold enough to freeze plants. Fr. Tom wanted to put the greenhouse somewhere with power access so that a space heater could be placed inside during the wintertime. This is another reason why the location of the greenhouse works out well, Trilli said.

“I’m excited about all of it, probably even more excited than the students are,” Fr. Tom said. “I’m very much interested in gardening, and I think it’s a good grounding experience for people to be involved in the soil and nature and all of that. I also really enjoy teaching, so hopefully I can pass on some of the things I’ve learned over the years.”

Fr. Tom shows off a handful of potatoes and a dill plant that he has grown from his personal garden.

Trilli plans to have the greenhouse completed before students return from summer break. He said he is most excited to see the students get in it and to watch what they can make from it.

“The thing about Fr. Tom is he is going to allow them to learn on their own and be there for suggestions, and I think that’s going to be really cool,” Trilli said. “I want to see what the students will do with it. Are they going to grow tomatoes? Onions? Are they going to grow flowers? What’s going to come out of the Gardening Club? There are lots of opportunities that come with that.”

Trilli said he is grateful to the many people who came together to make this happen.

“It was a student’s project and when you bring people together for the betterment of everybody, in this case the students, you can’t lose,” he said. “I think it’s a cool opportunity and just something else to have life on campus.”