Environmental Additions


Pictures Courtesy of Michael Nolette

Vegetables grown by math instructor Michael Nolette.

AP Statistics and Geometry instructor Michael Nolette has been working on his backyard garden for a decade. Every day, he works over the red and purple fruits in an effort to help the environment while making great food for family and friends.
“I am interested in all environmental issues, but I enjoy gardening and horticulture the most,” Nolette said. “So, I focus my interest in applying environmentally friendly techniques in my yard, such as using only organic gardening methods.”
Nolette said he works on his gardens almost every day.
“I’m usually doing something,” Nolette said. “I have bird feeders, so I try and keep up with that.”
Nolette said he has a big section of raspberries and blackberries, along with black and red currants. Along with fruits, Nolette also has many vegetable patches.
“I also have vegetables, like your standard tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, asparagus, and garlic, along with an herb garden,” Nolette said.
Nolette said he’s looking to add some new fruit patches to his gardens, such as strawberry patches and more blackberries. He also said his inspiration for his gardening came from going to his uncle’s house over the summer as a child.
“He had a huge garden,” Nolette said. “I used to love working in it. He didn’t use any chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers either. It was very satisfying to see the fruits of our labor at harvest time.”
Last summer, Nolette and his son planted a large pollinator garden. This type of garden produces large amounts of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects, such as butterflies and bees.
“Almost immediately, we had three to five species of butterflies in the pollinator garden, even some monarch butterflies,” Nolette said. “Also, many bee species visited as well, such as Italian honey bees. As I researched different ideas, I learned more about pollinators and what flowers attract them … It really isn’t as difficult as I thought.”
Nolette said that composting helps a lot with his gardening.
“I compost all organic waste, such as vegetable peelings, leaves, coffee grounds and eggshells, among other things,” Nolette said. “Composting produces excellent soil for the garden and reduces my waste stream.”
Another way Nolette said he helps the environment is by cutting down on his personal consumption.
“Even here at school, there are opportunities to reduce consumption, such as creating less food waste and using less paper,” Nolette said. “All the little changes we make add up to help better conserve the natural world.”
Nolette shares a passion for gardening with Special education instructor Michael Jernigan
“Mr. Nolette is a huge gardener,” Jernigan said. “[He gardens] both vegetables and flowers. He and I co-taught last year, so we had lots of discussions on that. We trade ideas all the time.”
Jernigan said his passion for gardening came about in a similar way to Nolette’s.
“My grandma, years ago, lived in a small town, and her whole backyard was a huge garden,” Jernigan said. “So, I don’t know if [my passion] came through her spiritually or whatever it was.”
According to Jernigan, he doesn’t plant anything extravagant, just things he and his family will eat. Jernigan said he works on his garden a couple of times a week, but when the torrential rains and floods hit Omaha, he had to work harder to keep his plants alive.
If students are looking to start their own garden or help the environment, Jernigan and Nolette both recommended starting at a basic level. Nolette said students can also do their part to reduce at home and school.
“I think if we all do our part each day to reduce our personal consumption, recycle and reuse materials, collectively it will make a huge positive environmental difference,” Nolette said.
Jernigan said that using simple plants will help first-time gardeners.
“Start with the easy plants, like peppers and tomatoes,” Jernigan said. “Learn as much as you can about the soil use and what goes into the soil to make your plants healthy. Do simple plants that you know will thrive, even if you’re not good at keeping plants alive.”
Nolette said that the best thing to do is to go to the library.
“Pick up a book on gardening in this area of Nebraska,” Nolette said. “Our soil here tends to [have a lot of] clay, so I use a lot of raised bed gardening. You can go to Lowe’s and get some inexpensive lumber, grab some soil and get started.”