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 then dug the holes 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.) 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, and in the process 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 lots of hard cloth (steel wire with small holes in it) to line the boxes. Volunteers then constructed the first ten boxes by hand, in the garden. Eight years later have at least thirty 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 and 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.
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.
Project FeederWatch is a long term Citizen Science bird counting and observation program led by Cornell University. This is our first year as participants, and it's been very exciting to learn how many birds live in and around the school garden. All of our data is entered online into a database that generates graphs to display our bird observation results. At Godwit Days 2017, our results will be a component of the JCS Garden exhibit on April 21st - 23rd. More information is available at www.godwitdays.org. Braden O'Brien and Camden Narwold are our student scientists this year. They will be presenting their accounts of our pilot project at Godwit Days.
A week ago, two expert birders led our obervations in the garden, as well as identifying and recording birds in the adjacent fields, and the wetland pond. Rob Fowler posted the results at ebird.org. It was the fourth occasion in the past month that I've seen a bald eagle near the garden, so keep your eyes open.
Put simply, Citizen Science occurs when non-scientists participate in science projects. Counting birds on a feeder is an example of how a person who enjoys watching birds, and 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 often accompanied by digital images. Project FeederWatch organizes outr data into graphs.
Our school garden is now a participating 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 Spring, 2017 JCS Garden newsletter.