Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students in the Garden Elective course have once again taken great care of the raised bed gardens on our campus, growing all kinds of fall greens, lettuce, kale, and herbs.
The group took on an additional gardening initiative this trimester to create a native plant garden. "We wanted to create something sustainable the students could see for years to come, knowing they did the work." said elective teacher, Laura Fackler. "The vegetable gardens are planted, cared for, and harvested. This native plant garden will be a permanant beautiful spot on our campus."
Elective students were guided through the process with help from Leslie and Dick Pierpont, who are Ortega neighbors and grandparents of a Pre-K II student. Leslie founded Native & Uncommon Plants, a local business which provides landscape design and installation.
The couple worked with our students to find a location, draw up a plan, and to teach them about each plant's name and why it does so well in our Northeast Florida climate. The group selected a spot outside of the first grade classrooms which had several overgrown boxwoods. They uprooted the boxwoods to be transplanted elsewhere on campus and planted the native plants in a bed of pine straw.
Students learned firsthand from Mrs. Pierpont about the importance of native plants. Here are some highlights:
- Plants are considered native if they were here before the Europeans arrived on the scene.
- Native plants provide food for birds, bees, and insects.
- They provide habitats for birds.
- They help conserve water.
- Native plants don’t need lots of fertilizer, pesticides, and insecticides.
- Native plants increase biodiversity.
The new plants have lots of berries for birds and will require less upkeep from our maintenance team.
The new bed includes Purple Beautyberry, Dwarf Yaupon Holly, Coontie Palms, and native Lantana. The bed is mulched with pine straw which is native (and not artificially colored or harvested from wetlands) and infuses soil with valuable nutrients as it decomposes.
Many plants that grow well in Florida are not native plants.
Native milkweed dies back around or before Thanksgiving. Tropical milkweeds continue to bloom and look wonderful. The problem? Monarchs aren’t finishing their fall migration because milkweed is available. The solution? Cut back tropical milkweed around Thanksgiving to encourage them to move on.