Rio Lindo Elementary School Native and Edible Garden Project

Friday February 05, 2010

Located on the windswept Oxnard plains (just south of Ventura), Rio Lindo is one of eight schools within the Rio District.  The school's twenty-two classrooms serve over 500 pre-school and elementary students who all embrace the school's motto:  "The Sky is the Limit".

The school is tucked into a typical California suburban subdivision whose monoculture of lawn and clipped juniper greet the students and staff each day.  Due to budget limitations, the school's grounds are composed of a vast amount of turf, small planter beds, and even smaller amount of plant diversity.  In an education system where many teachers are forced to buy basic supplies for students, surely there is tragically very little to no resources available for improving the exterior character of a school.  So unfortunately, the students currently do not have the opportunity to watch seasonal change, pick fresh tomatoes, or understand the basic compost cycle.

But luckily, Rio Lindo is headed by a visionary principal, Jeff Turner, who demands better for the students.  In turn, he invited Landscape Resource to help plan and organize a much-needed living laboratory that could become an asset to the students education.

The basic direction of the plan is to devote a large, derelict portion of the school yard to a native and edible garden.  With a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning, raised vegetable beds, a fruit orchard, and a plant-community based native garden will provide ample opportunity for teaching and learning.

Landscape Resource will develop a master plan for the school to be used as a fundraising tool.  Because of the school's financial situation, very little funds are currently available for the improvements.  The student council has already raised money towards the construction of the garden but will be holding additional fundraisers and seeking donations to cover installation costs.

Also involved in the project is Harry, head of the grounds department for the District.  His main concerns are funding and maintenance.  To justify the cost of removing the turf currently growing on the project area, we introduced him to Landscape Resource's Water Use Calculator.  We quickly determined that by removing the turf and installing a native garden in the roughly 4,500 sq.ft. area, the District would likely save a minimum of $400/year in water costs and near 100,000 gallons of water/year.  In addition to water and dollars, he calculated that his crew would likely save 12 hours of mowing per year and more on herbicide and fertilizer costs!  Harry quickly realized the value of the Water Use Calculator and plans to make further recommendations to the budgeting committee for removal of turf in other areas in order to conserve resources and money.

Stay tuned to read about the progress of the Rio Lindo School Garden!