Nadia´s Hope Garden Opens on a Beautiful Day in November
On a beautiful November day many gardening enthusiasts gathered at Ocean View Farms to hear Charming Evelyn, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Water Committee, talk about water wise gardening. She spoke about Sierra Club’s mission of conservation, and how this fits in with her experiences as a youngster in the Caribbean. Conservation was a way of life there, due to limited space and resources. It became a passion for Charming when she got her hands on a copy of the Sierra Magazine.
Charming invited her young friend Nadia to come and talk about the sustainable garden she created for her school, Vintage Magnet Elementary. Nadia W., a 4th grade student guided by Grades of Green Eco Leadership and helped by her family, built the Hope Garden, a sustainable, drought resistant green space. It replaced the long standing packed dirt patch in the 1st grade yard.
This is what Nadia said about her garden:
“The Hope Garden is more than a garden. It is a place that encourages kids to wonder and learn about nature.”
It is changing the area from a place where kids walk by to a place where kids stop and observe. One of the things that kids were learning about was the benefits of xeriscaping.
Xeriscaping is gardening with drought tolerant, low water usage plants. The plants provide beauty with very little care. They also provide an environment that allows other organisms, like birds and insects to find food and a home. They create a natural ecosystem.
At the official Hope Garden opening, which took place April 13th, 2018, Nadia described the project:
“I chose that area because it was sunny, it was close to the vegetable garden and it had unpaved dirt. We had planted small fruiting trees over there in the previous year, but they did not grow much. I am hoping the trees will grow bigger.
I was counting on using drought resistant plants from my mom’s yard at home. I was also hoping to get donations of plants from friends.
After I discussed the plan with my Grades of Green advisor, Ms. Robyn Murphy, the plan was presented to Principal Mrs. Mourao, who agreed with the plan. I made sure the plants we were using were on the list of approved plants. Mrs. Mourao helped us get the proper project approval from the LAUSD Northwest.
We started the project in November 2017 by tilling the area. My dad and mom helped me with that. The soil was very hard.
Then we started planting aloes, and other succulent plants that do not have thorns. I also put seeds of golden poppy, sunflower, and seeds of monarch butterfly feeder plants. We got those seeds from the US Fish and Wildlife event about the Monarch. We also planted milkweed. I noticed that pumpkin grows really big, so I planned to use pumpkin as ground cover.
In December we visited like-minded friends who have a large succulent garden. Jackpot! They gave us a lot of cuttings to establish our garden. We got those planted right away. Thank you Ann Zumwinkle!
We added red bark ground cover to keep the moisture in. A few of the bags were donated by my mom, but then Mrs. Stone helped us get some donated by Home Depot. We also got light colored mulch as a donation to the public from Griffith Park Composting Facility.
The arbor was at the school, unused for years, and sitting by the garbage. We painted it red. We also painted couple of wooden pallets to use for displays of natural materials. During the break we secured the arbor with cement donated from a construction site.
We also made self-watering containers from clear soda bottles. I cut the bottle in half, put a filter from a coffee pot in the neck of the bottle and passed a used paper towel wick through the middle of the filter. Then I put the top of the bottle upside down into the bottom of the bottle. I planted the containers with some succulents but also planted some sweet potato. I wanted to have a clear container, so kids can see the plant growing. I am working on making a vertical garden on those painted pallets.
I also made planters from coconuts, and painted them green, to resemble a Monarch chrysalis. We had some wood from branches cut at home, so we painted giant Monarch caterpillars to decorate the garden. I had a bird house and a butterfly house I made at Home Depot so I gave those new paint and put them in the garden. A hummingbird checked it out but didn’t stay.
I want kids to see my collection of cones and other natural things so I will display them on the display pallets.
Some logs acquired from a neighbor cutting a tree will serve as seats for those wanting to pause and enjoy the garden and the displays on the pallets.
In the meantime I noticed that plants really liked that sunny location. So we added two small vegetable planters and we put tomatoes, pumpkin, lettuce, and the onion that sprouted at home. We relocated the beans that were not wanted in the other garden.
So that is the beginning of Hope Garden at Vintage Magnet Elementary.
I hope the kids stop and wonder, and observe. I hope it makes them curious. I hope it makes them scientist curious. I hope they like it and care for it, and continue the tradition. We hope it creates a movement like Grades of Green wants.
I hope they care about the Earth and they learn to protect it.
For more information about Grades of Green Youth Eco-Leadership program and how you too can get involved in the environmental movement, see Youth Corps Eco Leadership Program - Grades of Green