Lab blog series #3: I need help with growing plants. Where do I start?

Let’s face it, at some point of your research you will have to grow some plants. It might seem overwhelming at first, especially deciding on where and which facilities you should grow them in. Here is a small guide on what is available.


There are two main research greenhouses on campus: Horticulture greenhouse and south campus research greenhouse.

               Questions to think about before selecting which greenhouse:

  1. Is it indoor or outdoor?
  2. How much security does my project require?
  3. Easy access from campus?
  4. What kind of environmental manipulation does you need? Water, nutrient, lights, CO2?
  5. How worry are you regarding pest? Preference on pest control?
  6. Does it require special treatment? Fertilizer schedule?
  7. Are you allergic to cats?
  8. What is the minimum and maximum temperature I will need?

Horticulture greenhouse

  • On campus, ~ 5 minutes walk from BRC
  • Glass greenhouse
  • Each compartment has its own irrigation tank (compartment specific irrigation program possible)
  • Open roof vents (not screened)
  • Card access into building; alarm code for off hour access
  • No CO2 manipulation (not equipped with CO2 emission)
  • Field site: totem field, ~ 5 minutes walk from horticulture greenhouse
  • Has cats

South Campus Research Greenhouse

  • Near South campus ~ 30-minute walk, close to bus stop
  • Isolated and gated facility
  • Key access
  • Closed roof vents (screened)
  • CO2 manipulation possible
  • Field site by the greenhouse
  • General irrigation (whole greenhouse irrigation; no room specific tanks)
  • Polycarbonate greenhouse

Growth chamber

  • Bioscience building
  • Key access
  • Custom photoperiod, temperature. Humidity cannot be modified
  • Limited walk-in chambers for tall plants (4 in total)
  • More for growing low plants (Arabidopsis)
  • Need regular upkeep, measure light level before starting your experiment
  • Internal space is limited
  • Limited pest control
  • Limited temperature range: from 15-40 degree. The manual will tell you up to 45 but the wires used to maintain the growth chambers can only tolerate 40 degrees.
  • Other departments have growth chambers that can go down to low temperature (Forestry department).

Growth racks (in the lab)

  • For seedlings, or smaller plants. Not full size sunflowers.
  • No temperature, humidity changes
  • Each rack has its own light. Photo period can be adjusted using timers.
  • Limited space available
  • Perfect for Arabidopsis

I’ve decided on the space. Now what?

Once you’ve figured out where you want to grow your plants. Here is the person to contact depending on what you want to use:

Okay. I’ve got this figure out. Is there a cheat sheet?

  1. Rent space
  2. Germinate seed (3+ seeds for each plant, scarify + hormone treatment if necessary)
  3. Transplant seedlings (either to pots or jiffy pots)
  4. check periodically (watering, pest and disease free, nutrient level, etc)
  5. transplant if necessary
  6. gather data (prep tubes for collection, liquid nitrogen? Dry ice?)
  7. input data
  8. analyze
  9. write