Join the Maplewood community on Saturday morning to refresh our school’s vegetable garden boxes for the spring 2017 growing season, and do some general cleanup of the grounds. Bring your kids, gloves, and garden tools. We’ll have water, snacks, and a truck load of supplies courtesy of the Sustainable Food Center’s resource giveaway on Thursday, including compost, seeds, and seedlings. There are several projects that need tackling, including overgrown flower beds outside portables. Come help us dig in the dirt and beautify the school!
WHEN: Saturday, March 25, 9am–12pm
WHERE: Maplewood Greenhouse
October Garden Work Day at Maplewood. Photos by Jennifer Potter-Miller.
This fall, the Maplewood Elementary PTA Landscaping and Grants committees worked with local nonprofit Urban Patchwork to make plans for a small demonstration food forest at the entrance to the school. Laurie Berman, PTA Grants Chair, submitted an application for a Bright Green Future School Grant from the City of Austin. We hope to receive the $3,000 grant to install the project in Spring 2017.
The proposal is for an edible food forest and rain garden near the main entrance to our school. Our partner on the project, Urban Patchwork, has lots of experience turning underutilized spaces into productive urban gardens and farms and educational spaces, and we were inspired by the Festival Beach Food Forest planned in East Austin. We hope that the Maplewood forest will feed, educate, and inspire our school community and the surrounding neighborhood.
You might be asking what is a food forest? ” A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals make up the lower levels.” (source: Beacon Food Forest). The location we have identified is the triangle to the left of the school’s main entrance. This space is sufficient to host four small varieties of fruit trees as well as eight edible understory plants and lots of rainbed ground plants that will support the fruit trees and soil health, and add seasonal interest to brighten the entry to the school. There will be a focus on educational aspects of the garden with signage and seating. The food forest will provide an engaging outdoor learning space for educators to align math, science, arts, literacy learning objectives with outdoor experiences.
The Bright Green Futures grant is funded by the city’s Office of Sustainability, and is intended to “recognize and support innovative projects that will inspire students to become lifelong environmental stewards.” We hope that we receive the funds and are working on installation next spring!
Design by Urban Patchwork.
On Monday, November 14, PTA volunteers served all 496 Maplewood students melon from our school garden, with reinforcements from the grocery store. Afterward I interviewed Periwinkle Schuster, chair of the Gardening and Landscaping Committee, who organized the event.
How did the melon patch come about?
Last year I volunteered in the garden at Maplewood Elementary School by spending time outside while the kids where at recess. At the end of the year last year I was thinking about what I was going to grow over the summer, and melon tends to do really well. I was going to be unable to come to the school to tend to anything over the summer, so I used permaculture and I hugeled the bed with wood and soil and compost from home. The 4th graders in Mr. Ludlow’s class, which is next to the greenhouse, helped me plant all the seeds, we watered them, and then it was the end of school.
When I came back school was back in session, and our vine had proliferated. It had grown, and grown and grown! It was such a thrill to myself and the kids, who were so excited that our seeds grew. I also had sent the kids home with seeds, but I’m not sure if theirs grew at all. They did feel immense pride and ownership in our melon patch.
And how did you plan today’s lunchtime melon distribution?
Two years ago Dusty Harshman and I did something very similar with kale, where we made kale chips. So I just used what was modeled to me and tried to add to the lunch schedule instead of interrupting it. So thanks to the volunteers that came out to help today (thanks volunteers!) we were able to give every student at the school an opportunity to taste the melon either grown in our garden or supplemented from the grocery store.
Photos by Torie Camp and Jennifer Potter-Miller
Maplewood families and UT volunteers spent the morning of Saturday, October 8 tackling the second half of a mountain of mulch delivered in September by AISD. We moved several cubic yards to the root zone of the 200+ year old oak tree in the school courtyard, and used it to protect several other trees along the interior of the school. We also removed some overgrown agave to make room for more kid-friendly plants, detangled an invasive vine growing all over the courtyard’s rose bushes, trimmed branches hanging low over walkways, and gave two more picnic tables a fresh coat of paint. Thank you to all our great volunteers for another great garden work day!
Maplewood families and community volunteers will meet on campus on Saturday, October 8 9am-12p.m. for another garden work day. Our priorities include:
- moving the giant pile of mulch to our trees, where it can get to work keeping them healthy
- moving the four picnic tables we painted a few weeks ago to the hill behind the Maplewood Playhouse
- painting the four remaining picnic tables needing a facelift
- weeding and repairing 2 or 3 classroom vegetable gardens
We had such a successful work day in September and hope to keep the momentum going cleaning up our campus after the construction that took place over the summer!
By Periwinkle Schuster
The Maplewood Gardens first workday of 2016 was September 17th and it was not only a success but also such fun! Previous to our workday we took time to walk the campus and assess the state of the trees with the AISD forester. After the construction over the summer, many trees were damaged and in an ill state. She aided Mrs. Jacobson and our gardening team in securing many yards of valuable mulch to restore the trees we can.
On our workday many Mustangs and their families enjoyed jumping from the huge mulch pile and hauling it across the campus to protect and restore our lovely trees. We set many goals for the day and accomplished almost every one!
- We cleared overhanging brush and limbs in the walkways, cleared the overgrown grapevines choking out the antique roses in the courtyard and enriched the state of our serene pond.
- The butterfly garden outside the library was freed from the nasty hackberry and chinaberry over-taking and killing the pollinator plants.
- The hedge that was obstructing the school sign on 38th street was trimmed and soon to be mulched.
- The newly painted Peace Path on the north side of the playground was swept clear after being buried in construction dirt and edged to allow the walkway to be safe and peaceful again.
It was a huge team effort of beautiful proportions preparing the raised grading beds for the each classroom. Clearing the weeds, organically waging war on the fire ants and repairing the beds was such a success! The gardening team taught about Hugelkultur and the benefits of permaculture. Last but certainly not least, our students and their siblings painted a new garden sign and butterfly house. Look for it at the greenhouse just north of the blacktop against the main building. It is super Mustang cool! Congratulations Mustangs on a job well done!
The children in each classroom are eager to begin planting seedlings and seeds for their fall edible gardens. Can you help them? Our children’s teachers need volunteers to help plant their raised gardening beds. It’s easy. It takes less than an hour from beginning to end and the rewards just grow and grow! We have resources for you! Seeds, compost, seedlings, tools and books to borrow, gardening advise and more.
There’s always more gardening and grounds work to do! I promised to make a double batch of rice crispy treats for our next workday scheduled for October 8th! Please join us – even if you can not move dirt or pull weeds we welcome your support and encouragement! It really is a fun time, a great way to meet other Maplewood families, help our school and students and meet the principles challenge to volunteer at Maplewood Elementary school. Your invited! Let’s Grow Together!
Photos by Jennifer Potter-Miller