The Garden School Foundation would like to let you in on a little secret…
Did you know that the 24th St. Elementary School has more than one hidden gem on its campus? In addition to our Edible/Teaching Garden, we also have a Native Garden that contains plants and trees indigenous to Southern California like Oak and Cottonwood trees, native grapes, flowers and more.
The Native Garden, which was created when the school ripped up much of the asphalt paving the playground, could use some TLC and it has become the focus of GSF’s recent efforts. The kids at 24th Street are so great, we want them to have an even bigger playground, one filled with trees, plants and birds local to California. Our hope is that the Native Garden will not only become an extension of the playground but that it will be utilized by teachers as an outdoor classroom. What better way to allow kids in a neighborhood lacking parks and other green-space to spend their lunchtime in nature and encourage creative re-use?
This past month, in partnership with Big Sunday, a community service organization, we held yet another workday with the goal of cleaning up the Native Garden. During the workday, we removed some of the not-so-native weeds that had begun to penetrate the garden.
At our workday, kids got down and dirty learning how to kill weeds the friendly way using a technique called sheet-mulching. Sheet-mulching consists of covering weeds with cardboard to smother them by taking away their life source: the sun. After that, the cardboard is watered to speed-up decomposition. Then, mulch (chopped up trees and plant matter, which not only creates an attractive ground cover but also hastens the composting process by absorbing the heat) is placed over the cardboard. Kids, parents and volunteers spent the day taking tape off cardboard, laying it down on the ground being sure to overlap the edges so that the weeds can not climb through, watering it, loading tons of mulch into wheel barrows and raking it across the wet cardboard.
Why do we like sheet-mulching here at the garden?
- Weeds are removed using a pesticide-free method.
- Much of the materials used came entirely from the school, contributing to the goal of a closed system in which all of our waste-products are repurposed in the garden.
- The soil structure is enhanced by composting weeds and creating a new layer of topsoil.
- It is a fairly easy way to squash large groups of weeds and is even fun for kids!
When we were done, the native garden went from looking like a brambly thicket to looking like a beautiful park!!