Greenhouse Manager Responsibilities

Weeding and Pruning
Sick Bay
Open Potting

by: Carolyn Barrett
edited by: Toskhan J. M. Cooper S.

Last Revision: April 3, 2005

            The greenhouse managers have a 5 week rotation system, plus they offer open potting at least once a week.  The 5 managers spend 1 week on each task:  watering, weeding/pruning, sickbay, cleaning, and an off-week.  During the off-week you are not required to do any specific tasks in the greenhouse, but you are still free to come in and help on your own.  The managers are encouraged to frequently check the greenhouse webmail account to answer any emails they can (see Darcy L. Blankenhorn for the password).  The 4 jobs and open potting are each explained in some detail below.  Each guideline gives an approximation of how long each job should take; however, you are always free to spend more time working.


Days per week:  Daily

Hours per week: 3-7 (about 40-60 minutes a day)

            It is your job to water each individual plant as needed.  If it is a hot day, you may need to come twice a day to mist dryer areas.  Not every plant needs to be watered daily.  Consistent over-watering is just as bad as under-watering.  As a general rule, a plant should be watered if the soil is dry about one inch below the surface (to about your first knuckle).  Yes, this means that you MUST determine soil dampness by sticking your finger in the soil until you learn each plant's watering patterns.  If you over-water the plants they will rot, drown, etc..  Any plant growing moss or mold on the surface of the soil is being watered too much unless this plant loves water (ex. Peace Lily and Wandering Jew).  The person on watering is responsible for the following rooms:  main, student room, and cactus room.  You are not responsible for sick bay or the student research room unless specifically asked/requested by a faculty member.  Both the cactus and the orchid beds need to be misted once a day.  DO NOT over water these plants.  There are hoses located in each room of the greenhouse.  After use, be sure to relieve the pressure in the hose and move out of the way to prevent tripping.  At the end of the week, you are responsible for lightly fertilizing plants in the greenhouse.  This is a task that can go quickly with a group of managers during open potting.

NOTE:  Please water carefully so that soil does not fly out of the pots and onto the floor.  This makes the cleaning job more difficult.  To help prevent this, pot plants with soil 1-2 inches (depending on size of pot) from the pot's rim.


Days per week: 2-3

Hours per week: 2-3 (very flexible)

            Cleaning is the one job that does not deal with plants.  You are expecting to clean the greenhouse and adjacent areas, including the student research room, but excluding sickbay.  Here is an example of several tasks that should done in order of importance:

            It is not necessary to complete all these tasks.  Sometimes the greenhouse stays fairly clean and requires little maintenance.  The ease of the job is dependent on the person who worked the week before you.  Please be courteous and do not all the work to pile up on one person.  It is most important that you do the first 4 items and everyone will be happy.  Cleaning is one of the most flexible jobs in the greenhouse.

NOTE:  The person on watering can make your job more difficult as well.  Carelessness in watering can cause soil to spill out of the pots and onto the floor.  However, some soil may also be from the drainage holes in the pot.

Weeding and Pruning

Days per week: 2-3

Hours per week: 2-3 (flexible)

    Grab an extra pot (to dispose of weeds and pruned leaves as you move along) and a pair of clippers to begin your job.  Ideally you should visit each pot in the collection at least once to check each plant for signs of sickness/infestation (move to the sickbay doors, but do not enter sickbay), weeds (make sure to remove the roots too), dead/dying leaves or flowers (remove with clippers).  Moss can be left unless it is creating a problem, i.e. competing with host plant, harboring bugs, etc.  Be careful not to pull out offshoots while pulling out weeds.  These extra offshoots can be repotted during open-potting if they begin to crowd the pot.  When pruning dead leaves, remove the entire leaf down to the stem/branch.  If a leaf is just browning at the edges or at the tip, cut off the browning or dead areas, leaving the rest of the leaf alone.  When removing part of a branch, cut it off right above the next good looking leaf or branch.  When removing the entire stem, cut it all the way to the stem.  Once you have done everything you can to make the plant look its best, you should move on to the next plant.

    It is best to examine all plants during you week, but if you fall short of the mark, be sure to email the person weeding next so that she/he will know where to start.

Sick Bay

Days per week: Daily

Hours per week: 4-9

When you are assigned to sick bay for the week, you are assigned to cleaning, watering, pruning, weeding, and caring for all plants in this small room.  Your job is to care for the diseased or infested plants by tending to all their basic needs, and ridding them of their diseases or pests.  Do NOT fertilize sick bay, this makes pest problems much worse.

            Upon entering sick bay, for the first time in your week, take note of the white board in the corner, each plant is numbered and accounted for on the board.  The color implies the problem the plant has, date of its last treatment, and a check mark next to the date for each weeks it has been clean of bugs or healthy.  In some cases special directions will be posted for certain plants.  Those directions supersede what is outlined here.  Other information on the board includes the last date that sick bay was sulfur sprayed, cleaned, weeded/pruned, and pepper sprayed.  Every time you complete any of these tasks or clean any plant, mark down what you did on the white board.  Since every manager is only in sick bay once every 5 weeks, communication is the key to stopping infestations and disease.

NOTE:  After spending time in sick bay, check your clothes for bugs and leave the greenhouse quickly without touching any other plants.  This helps to prevent spreading the problem to healthy plants.  Also, the door to sick bay must always remain closed and locked.

            Periodically through your week you might find plants outside the door to sick bay.  Since other managers are not allowed in sick bay when it is not their week, you must take care of these plants.  First, take it into sick bay and decide what this plant suffers from.  Then assign it an appropriate number and table, and treat it on the spot. 


Approximate Number Assignments:

1-25: scales                              Table: South

26-50: mealies/ mold                Table: Middle

51-75: spider mites                   Table: North

76-100: white flies                    Table: North

Plant Care - See Pests, Problems, and Solutions for more detailed descriptions.

Scales: wipe down with alcohol on cotton ball, make sure scale comes off

Mealies: wipe twice with alcohol ball in order to kill them

Spider mites: wipe leaves down with alcohol on cotton ball, spray with pepper sauce on leaves

White Flies: wipe leaves down with alcohol on cotton ball, spray pepper sauce, and spray on leaves mineral oil on leaves

NOTE:  Many bugs prefer to live in flowers so those should be pruned upon arrival in sickbay.

    Chemicals used in sickbay can be very caustic, please wear gloves.  Wearing protective eye gear and/or a lab coat is also recommended if you feel uncomfortable.  Some greenhouse managers opt to wear special sick bay clothes, but this is not necessary.  When inventory (i.e. gloves, alcohol, cotton balls, etc.) in sickbay runs low you are responsible for finding Darcy in the biology department and obtaining new supplies.

    At the end of your week be sure to take out the trash and clean the drains.  At this time be sure you remember to check mark any plants that showed no sings of disease or infestation during the week.  Look at plants that have 3 check marks already, if you also saw no signs of infestation during the week, the plant gets a 4th check mark and can thus be placed back in the collection.  When placing healthy plants back in the collection, erase their information from the white board and return the red tag to the cup of tags.

Open Potting

Days per week: 1

Hours per week: 1-2 as a group Friday afternoon

            Open potting is a time for the entire Kenyon College community to come in the greenhouse to buy plants, ask questions, repot plants, and generally have a time when they know a greenhouse manager will be around to help with any botanical concerns.  Each week, open potting is held once from 3:30-4:30/5.  One greenhouse manager volunteers to head up open potting for the year.  It is this managers responsibility to send out the open potting email to the students and faculty, come early to open potting to ensure early arrivals will be tended to, and set up anything that needs to be done before open potting begins. Afterwards, this manager cleans up and is usually the last to leave after open potting ends.  If this manager is not able to host open potting on a particular Friday, it is their responsibility to find another manager to cover. 

            Anyone that comes to open potting should be treated in a friendly manner.  Their needs should be taken care of as the highest priority.  Place aside anything else you are doing as soon as possible to help a visitor.  However, there are often very few people who show up to open potting and large projects tend to be accomplished during this time.  This is also a great time to catch up with other managers and to make plans for the greenhouse.  Some tasks that might be tackled during an open potting session are organizing the potting room, rearranging the collection, repotting plants, planting seeds, replenishing the plant sale table, fertilizing, or anything else that needs to be done. 

            All the managers are not required to come to open potting, but it is nice if you can make it.  Open potting is generally very relaxed and just a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.  This is a wonderful time to do any pet projects a manager might have or to learn tricks other managers have when working in the greenhouse.


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