Fall means the end of the easy, breezy days of summer and vacation time and, for kids, anyway, time to head back to school. In the garden, it usually means time to plant a wide variety of edibles and ornamentals that thrive in the cooler temperatures and (hopefully) rainy fall and winter months. For some lucky students at area schools, it can mean both of these activities. School gardens are springing up all over the country and no less so here in Santa Barbara. The reasons to add gardens to the school experience are many. Connecting kids to the environment at a young age will create caring adults. Growing food crops can educate youth about where their food comes from and provide them healthier eating choices. Many disciplines such as math, science, and even reading can be incorporated into a gardening project. Kids can learn teamwork and cooperation as well as get a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise outside in the garden.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Art From Scrap (artfromscrap.org), that fantastic local resource that melds recycling and reusing into amazing art, also has an Environmental Education component. Their School Gardening Program aims to provide training, tools, and plants and seeds to any teacher or school that requests their help. They conduct in-class gardening and composting lessons, on-site as well as phone consultations, and area gardening and composting workshops in Lompoc, Carpinteria, Goleta, and Santa Barbara for teachers and other community members. Whether a teacher needs simple directions on how to set up a worm bin or build a compost pile or requires hands-on help in getting a gardening program started in their classroom, Art From Scrap will be there, serving any school or teacher in the South County area.
Once a teacher has committed to the program, he or she can rely on additional help from articles on the Web site as well as an email listserve to post questions and share results. Most recently, a Green Schools Garden Network has also been set up on Facebook. Teachers and students can post events and updates on their gardens or share their goals with other participants. Anyone can view the page, but teachers and students who sign up as “fans” will have full access to the shared experience.
Partners with Art From Scrap in this endeavor are some area nurseries that support the program with additional composting workshops. Several also donate plants and seeds to the schools that schedule a garden package with teachers attending the Art From Scrap workshops. Healing Grounds Nursery (healinggroundsnursery.com) organizes these workshops. There is one remaining on their schedule. It will be held at Terra Sol Garden Center (5320 Overpass Rd., 964-7811) on September 12 at 3 p.m., and participants will receive a 20-percent discount on organic vegetable plants. Look for next year’s schedule to appear on the Web site as it is organized.
Although most of the supplies needed to start gardening or composting will be purchased by the individual schools, supplemental funding for the program comes from a variety of other sources. The Garden Club of Santa Barbara has contributed for several years, and recently, environmentalist Jack Johnson has provided support for transporting materials to the schools. Healing Grounds Nursery donates its overstock of seedlings and others provide seeds and tools. Help is always needed, of course, and if you would like to contribute, contact Tahara Ezrahti at 884-0459 x12, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to email@example.com.