A sunny September day in the school garden.
Did you know that the Jacoby Creek School Garden Program started in September, 2009? The garden was once part of the ranchland that is now leased to the school from the Cty of Arcata. The garden’s founders: Eric Grantz (JCS Superintendent then), Greg King, Tara Cooper, Keith Hamm and Randy Wilson raised the funds and organized volunteers to fence the 10,000 square feet of field. Parents and children dug deep holes, added soil and planted sapling fruit trees. A gate was situated leading into the ranchland, and then the foundations for a shed were laid, but later moved. (Not an easy task since they sank into the ground with part of the structure in place.) The above photograph of planter boxes and crops is very different from that first year, when the classes and after school program participants dug and planted to get the garden growing.
We are often asked why there are so many planter boxes in the garden. It’s a great question, and there’s one simple answer: gophers. In our first year the gophers destroyed three long rows of garlic by pulling it down through the soil, which then destabilized the remaining furrows. The only solution was to change the initial plan and immediately design and construct planter boxes. Parents donated wood, and the garden committee purchased more, along with rolls of hard cloth (steel wire with small holes in it) to line the boxes, and weedmat to block the tenacious weeds and grasses. Volunteers constructed the first ten boxes by hand in the garden. Eight years later there are at least thirty planters of differing sizes and functions. (Maybe someone can count exactly how many.)
Later the shed foundations were moved by Danco one dark and wet morning using a vehicle and chains. Randy Wilson worked on the transported shed until Pete Nichols offered to lead the project. He got to work, and within a few months (in spite of the weather) a shed with all of our garden needs was ready to use. Our tools were safe, the lawnmower could be stored on site, and we had a corrugated roof for the rain to run off. A couple of years later Mr. Jim (Moore) installed guttering on the roof, then developed a complex rainwater collection system. This now includes two interconnected rainwater collection tanks, with a further 14 modified pickle barrels situated around the garden. We now collect and store 2200 gallons of rainwater throughout the rainy season so that we rarely use any piped in water. This winter we will add a further 200 gallons of storage to serve the new flower boxes. Our goal is to be 100% rainwater reliant. A goal we met for two years, but didn’t quite make it this year.
Each year the established trees and native shrubs mature, whilst perennial flowers continue to flourish. Unfortunately we lose plants to gophers (they chew the roots), as well as to harmful weather conditions. In addition to replacing losses, new features are installed each year. Watch for an area to be altered to provide additional planting spaces, with trellises to act as a support for vines, and buffer the impact of the winds that come in from the ocean. Our garden is very exposed to the natural elements, and we hope that the planned changes will serve both aesthetic and protective functions.
Established areas of the garden are constantly maintained, an example being the native plant garden adjacent to the willows. Additional native shrubs are interspersed throughout the garden to attract and support native insects. Peas, beans, summer and winter squash (many varieties), and lemon cucumbers are our staple, most productive annual crops. Apples, plums and strawberries our reliable perennial crops, although the quantity and flavor are influenced by the weather conditions.
Put simply, Citizen Science occurs when non-scientists participate in science projects. Counting birds on a feeder, identifying the species, and then reporting that information to a data collection site is an example of how a person who enjoys watching birds, then learns how to identify them, can provide valuable scientific data for short term and long term research. Improvements in technology have resulted in Citizen Scientists' observations being reported more rapidly, and they are now often accompanied by digital images. High quality digital images coupled with carefully noted observations at the site can provide valuable on disease, for example.
Our school garden is a participant site in the Million Pollinators Challenge: http://millionpollinatorgardens.org. We will be more closely identifying the plants in the garden, and observing how the bees, butterflies and birdsinteract with the plants. Making notes of our observations, and taking photographs will contribute to the national database.
Information about how you can receive a packet of seeds to start your own Million Pollinator Challenge Garden will be included in the upcoming winter JCS Garden newsletter.
Project FeederWatch is an established Citizen Science bird observation program led by Cornell University. This will be our second year as participants, so our baseline data is already on record. We are excited about what might be new this season. Our observations will be entered into an online database that generates graphs to display our results. At Godwit Days 2019 our results will be a component of the JCS Garden exhibit. More information at www.godwitdays.org. This season’s observations will be facilitated by the spotting scope purchased in December, 2017, thanks to a generously supported fund raising event.
If you are interested in participating in ProjectFeederWatch at your home, details are available at www.feederwatch.com. 2018 - 19 observations start in November.