September 27, 2012

East Omak Elementary School Garden

In 2012, Okanogan Community Action has participated in school garden enrichment for East Omak Elementary.

The objective was to round out the educational experience of the existing school garden to include a more ecological component. A 'wild' area was constructed, in order to explore the possibilities of some basic permacultural concepts that were discovered in the book, Gaia's Garden.

There are plants that fix nitrogen and plants that provide forage food for birds, predatory insects, and pollinators. Many of the perennial plants were natives that were picked up through the Okanogan Conservation District Plant sale earlier in the year. Some of these plants are more drought resistant, and others are more riparian.

The ground is formed with swales, and heavily mulched in an attempt to conserve water, and provide a long term release of nutrients for plants.

The perennials will take some time to mature, and in the meanwhile, annual, self-seeding flowers have been planted by the students of an after school gardening program. The students learned how to sow from seed, transplant, and a bit about pollinators and decomposers.

Much of the garden is a mystery to the students, but the depth and possibility will increase annually, as the garden grows larger and larger. The hope is that a small ecosystem will be demonstrated -- fungi, fallen leaves, insects, healthy soil, birds, food, water conservation and beauty.

Some of the challenges have been slow decomposition of the sheet mulch. The bed was prepared spring '12, immediately before the planting of the native perennials. The result of this will be a slower process of maturity over several years -- which means that 3 or 5 years down the road, the garden will be more wild than ever.

Here are some photos:

We are approaching the end of our gardening season, and there are a few photos that Okanogan Community Action would like to share which describe the end of the season projects.

Ten gardens were distributed throughout Okanogan County to families with children under 10. Many of these families had never gardened at all prior to the program, so it was a learning opportunity, and a chance to feel encouraged and successful in gardening. Each of these families now has a 8'x4' raised bed garden, some vegetables and seeds to harvest, and a little more experience for next year.

The objective of the Square Foot Garden Program is to introduce gardening concepts to people in a way that is accessible and basic. Concepts like, "how much can you fit in a square", and "plant for harvest", make gardening about how useful it can be for basic family use. The raised beds look organized, and are not intimidating for new gardeners. Plants grow, and people learn; and that's what OCCAC is interested in providing Okanogan County.

Square Foot Garden Outreach: