Growing Facilities Use Policy

Growing Facilities Use Policy
University of Pennsylvania, Biology Department

(Updated March 2021)

I. Growing Facility Bench Space Allocation

  • Bench space within the Greenhouse is allocated on a first come first served basis.
  • Individuals and groups must request space by filling out the Greenhouse User Request Form online
  • Requests should include the following information:
    • Reason for use e.g. course name(s) or research project description
    • Amount of space required
    • Types of plant material to be maintained
    • Will any outside material be brought in?
    • Duration of the project
    • Specific maintenance requirements e.g. special watering instructions, additional light requirements, special fertilizer needs, pesticide limitations, etc. (See below: VIII. Note About Pesticide Use).
    • Account information for billing
  • All plants and material must be cleaned off the bench within one week after the project end date stated on the request form. For class material, all plants and material must be cleared from the bench by the end of the semester. If more time is required, a new request form must be filled out.

II. Growing Facilities Management

  • Lighting:
  • The greenhouse uses supplemental HID lighting above the benches.
    • Lights in room A are on for 16 hours per day.
    • Lights in room C are on for 12 hours per day.
    • Additional lighting, provided by the user, can be plugged into a timer if required
  • Fertilization
    • Plants are fertilized once per week with 400 ppm N.
    • The fertilizer contains all macro and micro elements in the proper proportions for optimal plant growth.
    • Plants are watered for 2 weeks using a 21-7-7 acid special fertilizer than 1 week using a 15-5-15 cal-mg special fertilizer.
    • For projects scheduled to last over 3 months, slow release fertilizer may be added to the pots if requested by the user.
    • If plants are not to be fertilized the greenhouse user must indicate this on their user form, and clearly communicate with the greenhouse staff.

III.Growing Facilities Maintenance Responsibilities

  • Responsibilities of the Greenhouse Staff, unless otherwise stated on the user form:
    • Water using a regimen of a balanced fertilizer and clear water.
    • Scout for pests and disease, especially during the winter months.
    • Treat for pests and disease based on plant value and other thresholds.
  • If there are other tasks required of Greenhouse Staff please indicate them on the request form.

IV. Responsibilities of Individuals and Groups Utilizing Facilities

  • Send the following information to Greenhouse Staff for plant labels or supply your own labels (the greenhouse will no longer be supplying blank tags), written in pencil, with the following information:
    • Plant name –please use the full Genus and specific epithet on at least one plant per crop.
    • Lab or project it is associated with.
    • Any other necessary information.
    • Labels printed by the Greenhouse Staff will be charged at $0.05 per label. Each pot needs a label, trays may be labeled with one tag per species in the tray.
  • Check plants for pests before giving them to Greenhouse Staff, including insects, mites, pathogens and weeds.
  • Coordinate with Greenhouse Staff to maintain plants in appropriately-sized pots. 
    • Oversized pots leave extra space for weeds to grow, and leave small plants prone to fungal diseases.
    • Undersized pots make it harder to prevent drought stress.
  • Remove plant material promptly that is no longer needed in order to help reduce watering time, host plants for pests and growing area for weeds.
  • Notify greenhouse staff promptly if there are any changes to your project, such as to the timeline or protocol.

V. Use of the Head House or Other Facilities for Research or Instruction

  • General Rules:
    • Use only assigned materials.
    • Brush off potting bench after work is complete using broom labeled for countertop use only. 
    • Sweep floors using designated floor brooms.
    • Tools must be cleaned and put away in their proper locations.
    • The sink under the cabinets by room C is for hand and dishwashing only
    • The large sink between rooms B and C is used for washing pots:
      • Do not leave pots in the sink
      • Dirty pots should be stacked and placed in the trash cans next to the sink
      • When washing pots, use the mesh strainer to prevent large soil particles from going down the drain.
      • Soil and other debris should be removed from the sink and thrown in the trash upon completion.
    • If you fill the trash can, please empty it in the trash compactor at the loading dock and replace the bag.
  • Access:
    • The greenhouse will be open from 8:00am-4:00pm Monday to Friday.
    • If you require a key for access outside normal hours, please contact facilities.
  • Tools:
    • Tools in the red cabinet and on the green shelves are available for use by all greenhouse users.
    • Tools must be cleaned and put away in their proper locations
    • Additional tools are available by request from the Kaskey Park equipment room.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be required when using certain tools and is available in the Head House (safety glasses, dust masks, latex and nitrile gloves, ear plugs, fabric and leather gloves).

VI. Supplies and Materials

  • Many materials including 4, 6, and 9”pots, flats with and without holes, and 32 and 72 cell inserts are used from a common greenhouse supply, without cost to the researcher, except in the following cases:
    • A size container or type of amendment is required that the Greenhouse Staff does not usually stock.
    • The quantity of a product required for the duration of a project is more than half of the minimum quantity that must be purchased.
    • In this case, the cost of the requested materials will be allocated to the research project.
    • Minimum purchase: 4”pots -900, 6” pots -440, 9” pots -50.
    • Minimum quantity purchased for 32 and 72 cell inserts is 100.
  • Requesting Supplies and Materials:
    • Courses or labs requiring plant material must provide 8 weeks prior notice to allow for propagation or procurement.
    • If material is needed for a project that is not normally stocked on site please let the Greenhouse Staff know of the need as soon as possible.
  • Common Greenhouse Supplies:
    • Common supplies are supplies used throughout the greenhouse as part of normal greenhouse operation. These include:
      • Beneficial insects
      • Fertilizer
      • Cleaning solution and tools
      • Pesticides 
      • Plant health supplements

VII. Billing

  • When requesting bench space, a billing code for the project is required.
  • When products are purchased for the greenhouse that are common use, such as beneficial insects, pesticide or fertilizer, each account will be charged a portion of the cost based on the amount of greenhouse space they are using.
  • Percentage of greenhouse space used by a person or group will be determined on the first of each month.
  • Copies of purchases can be provided upon request.
  • The cost of printing tags will be billed when new tags are ordered, approximately every 6 months. 
  • Potting medium will be stocked by the Greenhouse Staff and will be billed on a per use basis.
  • Labs will be charged when stock is replenished; approximately every 6 months.
  • Growing facilities users must record and submit how much potting medium is used, to the best of their ability, each time an item is potted and when substrate is removed from the soil bunker. A soil use log is located on the cabinet next to the emergency shower.

VIII. Note About Pesticide Use

  • The Greenhouse Staff employs an integrated pest management strategy to handle pest issues.
  • Beneficial insects and other biological controls are used to control pests as much as possible, usually applied or released multiple times throughout the year to keep pest populations in check.
  • If biological control cannot be used for a certain pest or has not been effective,  horticultural oil or soap will be used next in order to cause the least amount of harm to our beneficial insect population.
  • If other less harmful methods are not successful, traditional pesticides will be used.
  • The Greenhouse Staff uses pesticides on plants within the growing facilities on an as-needed basis throughout the year, though pest pressure in the indoor facilities is usually highest during the winter months. 
  • Unless pest pressure is determined to be high enough to warrant broader application, these are targeted to individual crops or groupings. Given the open layout of our facilities, there can be no expectation of a completely pesticide-free environment.
  • Requests to limit pesticide use on particular crops should be made as part of the initial space allocation request. 
    • If limitations are required and control is not possible with reasonable alternative chemicals or methods, the Greenhouse Staff may require that a plant or crop be removed from the indoor growing facility to prevent further spread of the pest.
  • A record of all pesticide use for the growing areas and gardens is kept in the Head House, as required by law. If you require additional information about a particular product, a binder containing the labels for products in the Chemical Storage Room is also kept in the Head House.

* Please note that all University of Pennsylvania COVID-19 safety protocols ( must be adhered to, including wearing a mask and social distancing.