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Live! Inside the TCC greenhouse and Horticulture lab

Derrick Broadous

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during COVID-19.

While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, many are in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

Take a look inside a Horticulture program lab

Chesapeake Campus is home to the college’s Horticulture program and a new state-of-the-art greenhouse. When you enter the open-air space, your senses savor the sights and smells of hundreds of flowers and ornamental plants.

During the Greenhouse Crop Production lab, students learn to cultivate flowering and ornamental plants for gardens and floristry. They check soil levels, water, prune and master growing techniques. The course covers commercial best practices for growing flowering crops and considers production requirements, environmental control and management.

During this lab, students also practiced the pour-through technique, a tool used to determine if the crops are thriving. Students pour water through the plants and then collect the water residue. From there, they test the sample to measure the pH and electrical conductivity of the plants.

In addition, students prepared fall pansies for delivery to a community event for the Community Feed at TCC, a program that provides meals, fresh foods and hygiene items for students in need. The Community Feed is a partnership program among TCC, the Foodbank and TowneBank.

Emily Gonzales in the TCC greenhouse.

Student voices

“I’d like to own my own nursery, and these propagation skills are a must. There’s no question that we have to complete these classes to get jobs in this field.” – Bryce Pate

“I’m learning the skills I need to be head grower in a greenhouse. The on-campus learning and greenhouse experience is invaluable.” – Derrick Broadous

“This material is challenging to learn online. You get so much more out of the labs by working in the greenhouse. And it’s nice to go somewhere during the pandemic!” – Emily Gonzales

About the instructor

Zach Nissen with the Foodbank and professor Tomlin.
Zach Nissen with the Foodbank and Professor Tomlin

Professor Andrea Tomlin, the Horticulture department head, has more than 20 years of experience in the field with an emphasis in greenhouse operations and production, landscape design and maintenance. She joined TCC in 2016, after serving as the Virginia Cooperative Horticulture Extension Agent with the City of Norfolk. She also held teaching positions with Virginia Beach and Chesapeake public schools.

The TCC alumna earned her Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture. Tomlin continued at Virginia Tech where she earned a bachelor’s in horticulture education and therapy and master’s in vocational and technical education, with a concentration in agricultural education.

Good to know

The horticulture program at TCC can help you grow your passion into a career. Horticulture requires an understanding of science and business, and TCC’s program emphasizes both. The curriculum provides a range of instruction from growing plants to designing and managing landscapes.

Students working with flowers
Students grew a variety of pansies including red violas, matrix purple, as well as matrix white, yellow and red.

More information

Learn about TCC’s Horticulture degree and certificate programs here or contact Professor Tomlin at or